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To carry the heaven you have to be big

September 14, 2011

This year we had hardly any hot dry season. The rainy season began already in March (normally in May), and August and September have been unusually rich in precipitation. What are the consequences? In many cases it is very difficult to ascertain that one factor such as rain fall is the direct reason for a given organism’s change in abundance. All we can do is to record and then compare with future years and see if there is a correlation with say rainy years and an increase of the Atlas moth. Parasites, predators and food supply may also affect the numbers. Until now with excess rain, gardening has been quite easy, and anyone establishing a garden this year should be grateful for the assistance of nature. Establishing plants during a dry El Niño year is terribly difficult.

These are my unscientific records on how a few selected organisms have responded to this rainy year. Please send us comments whether you agree or not.

Amphibians – more common. They deserve this recover after some years of drought.

Aphids – less common.

Atlas moth – more common. This is a dear friend which is around every year, but I have never seen so many larvae and adults as this year.

Borers – they seemed to disappear during the dry years, so I fear the worst. I have seen some signs they are back.

Chicken – they look pathetic in the rains so I guess they suffer, but they are native and of a strong breed.

Citruses – theoretically in danger. Keep them in pots, plant them in areas which do not flood. We have not seen the results yet.

Cobra – more common. This is probably linked to the abundance of amphibians and to the fact they like to hangout when it is wet.

East African land snail – exploding numbers! It has always been around in low numbers, but this year we kill them in hundreds.

Eucalyptus – according to reports they are dying back in Thai plantations.

Fire ants – more common. I have not seen any for a number of years, but they are back again.

Flies – less common.

Gardenia – they suffer.

Hammer head worm – more common.

Indigo (Indigofera sp.) – much less than in a dry year. The only spot at Dokmai Garden is where we had a cooking pit.

Jackfruit – the trees look healthier than ever.

Lichens – prosperous!

Longan – standing water is never good. We lost one tree.

Mango – a terribly poor harvest. The flowers do not like rain.

Mealy bugs – less common.

Mediterranean plants – they suffer tremendously! Plant in pots, put them under roofs.

Mosquitos – theoretically more common, but they are never in great numbers like in Sweden.

Moulds – much more common on leather, straw hats and ceilings. I can imagine how it would be to live in a rain forest climate, and so I am grateful to live here in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand with a dry season.

Mushrooms – much more common.

Owls (collared scops-owl) – more common, maybe a consequence of the increasing rodent population?

Paphiopedilum orchids – suffer from rot unless hung high up.

Rodents – more common, but maybe we simply observe them more frequently when they go inside to escape the rain.

Scolopenders – more common.

Taro – they love the rains!

Tourists – less common than in the dry season, but they are unaware of weather fluctuations between years. They respond more to embassy warnings about violence rather than La Nina.

Vanda orchids – suffer from rot if placed too low.

Willow (Salix tetrasperma) – I saw die back on Doi Inthanon mountain and a friend has reported die back too. Quite surprising, as this tree grows along streams. It could be a coincidence or due to a thriving pathogen.

Workers – less common. They tend not to show up if it is a rainy morning.

This virgin female atlas moth (Attacus atlas) was photographed yesterday evening in a Dokmai Garden avocado tree. Luckily Deb from Australia was here to document it too. I have observed its enormous larva on Artabotrys, Cananga, Samanea, Diospyros and Sandoricum. The moth’s gigantic size has rendered it the name Atlas moth, after the Greek mythology Titan who was forced to carry the celestial spheres on his shoulders.

Text and photo: Eric Danell

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