10/18/14 2:00pm
10/18/2014 2:00 PM
A baby brown bat. (Credit: Courtesy of Organization for Bat Conservation)

A baby brown bat. (Credit: Courtesy of Organization for Bat Conservation)

Don’t be afraid of that dangling bat this Halloween — odds are it’s not real.

Biology experts warn that North American bat populations — including those found on Long Island — are declining, and at an alarming rate due to a newly documented condition known as White Nose Syndrome.

“Bats that are common to the North Fork are some of the most threatened bat species,” said Bill Schutt, a zoologist and professor at LIU Post who is an expert on endangered bats. “The most common here is the little brown bat.”

Mr. Schutt will discuss local bat populations Sunday at a North Fork Audubon Society workshop at Peconic Lane Community Center. The workshop starts at 2 p.m.

Mr. Schutt said bat species don’t get the credit they are owed, overshadowed by myths and the common perception that the flying mammals are just rodents.

“Bats take over the birds’ job at night,” he said, explaining that significant losses to bat populations could mean an increase in insect populations.

“The more insects that are present, the more insecticides will be used, entering in the environment and collecting in the water table,” he said.

One little brown bat consumes thousands of insects each night, eating its body weight in food, according to the nonprofit organization.

A total of nine bat species live in New York, none of which are considered “vampire bats,” which drink blood and likely drive the misconception of bat populations. Those species are found in southern Mexico, Central America, and South America; the bats drink blood of cows, goats, pigs, and chickens, according to the organization.

This time of year, bats will be heading north, to the mines and caves of upstate New York and Pennsylvania, and as far north as Canada, where they go into hibernation. In those caves bats are catching White Nose Syndrome, a white fungus that thrives in cold environments. It grows on a bat and can wake it from hibernation, wasting its precious stored energy and often contributing to its death.

The fungus has killed an estimated 5.7 million bats in eastern North America since it was documented in the 2006-’07 winter, killing 90 to 100 percent of bats in caves affected by the fungus.

“It’s such a horror show,” Mr. Schutt said of entering affected caves.

About 80 percent of deaths in caves he’s researched have been to the little brown bat species, he said.

“There are many other species that are affected, but this one is affected most,” he said.

People can help the local little brown bat population by putting up bat houses and planting wildflower gardens, he said.

Should you find a bat in the attic — especially during hibernation season — let it be, Mr. Schutt said. It will leave come spring, giving homeowners an opportunity to better secure the area.

For more information on bats or White Nose Syndrome visit www.savebats.org.

For more information about Sunday’s event, contact Peggy Lauber at
516-526-9095 or email info@northforkaudubon.org.

(Credit: Courtesy of Organization for Bat Conservation)

(Credit: Courtesy of Organization for Bat Conservation)

10/03/14 4:00pm
10/03/2014 4:00 PM
Riverhead High School students count the different types of species caught in their seine. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Riverhead High School students count the different types of species caught in their seine. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Students immersed chest-high in waders as they worked with fishing nets explored East End shorelines Wednesday morning, learning what “A Day in the Life of the Peconic Estuary” is like.

About 400 middle and high school students ditched their classrooms, rolling up their sleeves to collect data samples from one of 11 different beaches in an endeavor sponsored by over 30 environmental agencies to help inspire younger generations to learn about water quality issues.

(more…)

10/02/14 8:00am
10/02/2014 8:00 AM
One local expert says stink bugs may become more of an annoyance in years to come.  (Dan Gilrein courtesy)

One local expert says stink bugs may become more of an annoyance in years to come. (Dan Gilrein courtesy)

For one thing, they are aptly named.

Residents who casually squash a halyomorpha halys underfoot will be assaulted by a sharp odor coming from the deceased marmorated (marbled) stink bug.

The smelly critters are here, with some people saying their houses are full of them: climbing walls, underfoot (careful) and hanging out in window curtains and drapes. “Everyone’s asking me about stink bugs,” said Wally Ogar of East End Pest Control on Shelter Island. “I’ve got them in my house, too.”

He’s not the only one. Joanne Sherman said she had never seen one until this spring, and there was no trace of them this summer. But just recently they were back. Neighbors, Ms. Sherman said, told her their house is covered with the bugs.

Mr. Ogar said it’s not a new phenomenon, but happens every fall when the bugs, ready to hibernate, make their way into houses.

But Craig Rosenberg of North Shore Exterminating in Southold said stink bugs are relatively new residents of the East End.

Daniel Gilrein, an entomologist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, said “there had been low numbers of stink bugs recorded over the last several years,” but that he and his colleagues “have seen more this year than previously.”

Mr. Gilrein added that he had about 15 in his Riverhead house last week.

Stink bugs might smell bad if roughed up, but they don’t bite and won’t hurt pets or do any structural damage. They’re unsightly and can be a nuisance in large numbers, the entomologist said. Stink bugs are not so benign to farms, orchards or gardens, however, feeding on fruits and leaves.

The jury is still out on getting rid of them, according to Mr. Rosenberg, who is cautious about using insecticides in homes without more information. He’s consulted with Mr. Gilrein and other entomologists and is waiting for upcoming seminars that will address a stink bug solution.

Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Ogar said some insecticides can be put down outside houses near foundation lines, and Mr. Rosenberg has used “fly lights” in attics, which attracts the bugs and then captures them.

They can be vacuumed, Mr. Ogar said, but the bag has to be thrown away immediately. What should you do if you’re sharing quarters with stink bugs?

Mr. Gilrein advised making sure all possible entry points are sealed or screened off, but admitted this could be impossible for older homes.

“Over the next few years the population may be building, so if that’s the case and they become a serious annoyance, you might contact a pest control professional for assistance,” he added.

What shouldn’t you do if you’ve got stink bugs in the house?

“Panic,” Mr. Gilrein said.

 

09/26/14 4:00pm
09/26/2014 4:00 PM
Aaron Virgin, VP of Group for the East End; Jim Dreeben, owner of Peconic Paddler; and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter down by the Peconic River on Friday morning. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Aaron Virgin, VP of Group for the East End; Jim Dreeben, owner of Peconic Paddler; and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter down by the Peconic River on Friday morning. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

All week long, North Fork natives have been raising a glass to the coastlines they call dear, joining water lovers across the nation for the 26th Annual National Estuaries Week — using social media to spread water quality awareness.

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09/19/14 1:41pm
09/19/2014 1:41 PM
Howard Meinke of Laurel, shown in a headshot that appeared with his guest columns in The Suffolk Times, died Thursday night.

Howard Meinke of Laurel, shown in a headshot that appeared with his occasional guest columns in The Suffolk Times and News-Review, died Thursday night.

The North Fork is a better place today thanks to the work of Howard Meinke, fellow environmental advocates and colleagues say.

He was a tenacious champion for the environment and for the quality of life issues affecting his neighbors. He always educated himself on the problems the North Fork faced before backing a solution.

Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper said the North Fork might have become developed like Brookhaven Town had Mr. Meinke not been around.

“The problem with Brookhaven was that they didn’t have Howard Meinke,” Mr. Amper said. ”I don’t believe [the North Fork] would be the wonderful place that it is without him. He is the model, the consummate community advocate and I don’t know what we’re going to do without him.” (more…)

09/17/14 3:09pm
09/17/2014 3:09 PM
The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

County legislators voted overwhelmingly last week to let Suffolk voters decide the fate of a plan that would eventually replenish the Drinking Water Protection Program, which has so far been tapped twice for money to balance the county budget. If approved by voters, the plan would also allow the county to continue dipping into that program for several more years.  (more…)