Lying in Wait
There are many ways an insect can meet its doom, but none seem quite as gruesome as slowly decomposing on the basal rosette of a Drosera rotundifolia: the round-leaved sundew. One touch of the sticky gland-tipped hairs lining the leaves of the carnivore, and the bugs are trapped. The fiery crimson foliage hems in its prey and digestive enzymes break it down into nourishing food. The sundew is prevalent in bogs surrounding parts of the University of Michigan Biological Station; they require the sustenance provided by the insects to overcome the acidic, nutrient-poor soils.
On a blistering afternoon in July, students and professors participate in the first “Bioblitz”, taking inventory of all species – plant and animal – on the Biostation’s property.
“This one just caught a mosquito,” a student exclaims referring to a sundew.
“Good, I hate those filthy blood suckers,” another remarks mercilessly. And in an instant, the class swarms the grotesque scene.
The condemned bug instinctively attempts to flee from the sundew’s clutches, but without avail, letting out a feeble “mmzzz,” from its wings. The sticky hairs droop slightly, since at this time of day, the gland secretion is at a maximum. The adhesive slowly coats the insect with each futile effort to escape; it suffocates, and dies. The plant begins its absorption process, each scarlet hair, closing one by one upon its victim. Digestion can persist for days. Upon closer inspection by the students, beyond the ruddy tentacles of the sundew, lie the exoskeleton remains underneath each leaf’s dripping maw.
By Vince McKeon
What a treat to know the Biological Station is still alive and well. My father, David S. Shetter, B.S. Biology 1932, M.S. 1933, Ph.D. Zoology, 1937, enjoyed many summers there and until recently we had a scrapbook showing the activities and the friends he met there. Unfortunately, the storage space in Florida retirement homes dictates that some things have to be cleaned out. Wish I had known where to send it. This was definitely a seminal experience for a city guy from Cleveland. He loved everthing and had a hard time deciding what to do for his advanced degrees – ichthyology, entymology or herpetology.
Dad subsequently went on to become the director of the Hunt Creek Fisheries Experiment Station in Lewiston from 1943 until his death in 1969. This is now under DNR management. My brother and I grew up at the “Lab”. A wonderful place to learn about the out of doors – many students and scholars coming and going. All summer there were folks camped out on the property observing or collecting. We learned VERY early not to disturb anyone or anything in jars, nets or collecting trays.
There were no data bases established for many things we take for granted today. Hunt Creek has one of the longest data bases in existence for a freshwater trout stream. I certainly hope the current budget crises does not put that in jeopardy.
Call Andy Nuhfer, the current director and have him show you the scrapbook I did on the history of Hunt Creek last year. I think you could do a good article on that and what the Lovells Historical Society is doing for the fishing lodges on the North Branch and the Main Stream. All of this was tied together in the beginning.
Keep up the good work!
Alice Shetter Hoelzer-Hawthorne
3808 Doune Way
Clermont, FL 34711