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Pest-watching, preparing for a world without wildlife

April 12, 2011

To prepare ourselves for a world without wildlife or wild orchids, we go on with pest-watching. This morning I ate a yogurt outdoors, and within minutes a cohort of Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) had gathered around the rim of the detached yogurt seal. Their light yellow bodies and tiny size are characteristic.

Nobody really knows where they originally come from, but they are now pan-tropical, and also found indoors in temperate homes. Their survival skills are due to small size (2 mm) and multiple queens. That means a queen can hide with her workers in your suitcase, and follow you home to another continent.

The Thais usually put the legs of food cabinets in cups of water, to prevent the ants from spoiling the food. This is an old tradition, and can also be applied when protecting book cabinets from termites. How do you avoid the wood from getting wet? Use two cups! One larger with water, and one inner dry cup for the leg. It is also important not to leave food on floors or tables. The presence of ants may explain the Thai’s love for cleaning, because any food crumbs will attract ants.

In addition to the preventive measures, one can use ant baits. That may make sense in a temperate house, where you can wipe out all queens, but if you live in a flat that will probably just be a temporary victory. At Dokmai Garden we have them outdoors too, so poison would not help, we simply try not to attract them indoors.

A teak cabinet with discreet cups is in fact more beautiful  than a plywood construction screwed onto the wall. If you wish to make sure you do not contribute to deforestation, buy old wood or antique furniture. The space between the wall cupboard’s backside and the wall is often an excellent hiding place.

Between the year 1900 and 1975 the human population increased from 1 billion to four billion people. Now, there are 7 billion people, and there will be 14 billion people around the year 2050. There is of course a physical limit to how many people can be stuffed on the planet, and the road to that destination becomes uglier for each generation. Margaret Atwood played with an extermination scenario in her book ‘Oryx and Crake’. I hope no madman will try, because our species can not be exterminated unless there is a cosmic catastrophe, but humanity’s beautiful culture and science can be damaged by war or a pandemic. Education and welfare will automatically turn the growth rate, but many supreme beings and landscapes will be lost before we reach that civilized stage. Use your garden to save what you can!

What surprised me is that a majority of orchid growers worldwide are more curious about how they can buy Dokmai Garden’s orchids, than offering help in saving the wild Thai orchids. The problem is that if we start trading orchids to make money to run the Orchid Ark, then we can not get a salvation picking permit. But if we have no money, we can not do anything anyhow. Feel free to advise!

Eric Danell

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2011 9:51 AM

    Not everyone is as pessimistic as the title of this article. And although it might be fair to say that a majority of orchid growers worldwide are responsible for loss of so many orchids from the wild through a collective greed to collect, in down town Chiang Mai we have an orchid grower fighting against the trend. He grows local orchids on trees in his garden, cross pollinates a species with another individual – not forming hybrids or clones, waits for a seed capsule to develop and then takes this back to the forest for the seed to disperse and hopefully colonise trees there. One might regard his garden as less than an Orchid Ark and more of an Orchid Refugee camp.

    • April 12, 2011 10:49 AM

      Dear Ricky,

      Indeed I try to be provocative, and it seems to work 😉

      I would say your friend has an orchid ark too, and we should love to collaborate! It might be good to chit chat with the national park HQ and the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden when outplanting, because anyone doing scientific studies would have weird results if he thought he studied indigenous genotypes.

      Cheers, Eric

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