Tail Tale

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning, which lasted just for a few minutes as the clouds broke and the earth turned. The old adage of a red sky in the morning being a warning – for sailors or shepherds, depending where you’re from, has proved false today with beautiful blue skies, with the occasional streaky cloud, and sullied only by slowly expanding vapor trails. However, the surrounding hills are hazy and its these airborne droplets that spread the bright reds and oranges of the sunrise across the horizon, after the greens and the blues had been scattered by the air molecules and the nano-sized dust particles

The main pond reflects the blue and the water is now clear and sediment-free as the incoming water has been reduced to the flow of a small creek. The sub-ponds are looking uninspiring with black mud and the dead reeds blackening. A group of ten guys are busy planting a dense forest on the banks and islands of the most westerly ponds. It will be interesting to see if these survive.

I’m not sure what the plant species are. They will be native to the Northwest I assume and interesting in their own way. However, probably not as curious as Cytinus visseri, a South African parasitic plant that hides away in its host but produces dark red flowers that need pollinating. Not trusting the insect world to do the job, they recruit our little mammalian friends with mouthwatering scents. The chemicals that they emit are ketones and esters; heptanone and ethyl butyrate are examples. (Think pear drops and your mind will have your nose in the general direction.) The picture of the little mice running around to their candy stores is not the end of the story though as there is a twist in the tale. Honey bee alarm pheromones are also made up of ketones and esters. Typical ones are hexanone, pentyl acetate and butyl acetate. Certainly to my untutored nose, hexanone and heptanone smell the same and I doubt if I could separate the ester mix either. So I worry about the poor mice in search of the sweet life making a decidedly poor life choice.

One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    Scent distinction is a finely tuned thing indeed - reminding me of Coco Chanel coming up with Chanel No. 5 - (best selling perfume for 90 years!) mice and bees would probably find it a breeze. Here's to the super noses of nature!

Leave a Reply