Severe Thunderstorm

Lightning flashes above Harrison during a severe thunderstorm June 19, 2019, that prompted the National Weather Service in Cheyenne to issue several tornado warnings for Sioux and Dawes counties.

I can’t wait for Labor Day; I want this summer of discontent with the weather to end. I mouth the advantages of sleeping with the windows open when the night temperatures are in the low 50s, but I add the quilt to the bed and wonder if I should be knitting sweaters for the tomatoes. And it is not just the temperatures. It’s the thunderstorms, the unremitting, miserable thunderstorms.

It has even affected our border collie Jack that suffers from thunder terrors. Far too many nights of lost sleep have been spent trying to calm him. His response to the thunder and lightning is, as was stated in a New Yorker magazine cartoon, to “dig himself into an alternative universe.”

Jack chewed his way through a large portion of the cargo area of the car; he destroyed several rolls of toilet paper in a clawing effort to become one with the toilet and in apparent desperation, he spent one night in the bathtub.

In the garden I am encountering masses of earwigs. A large group was gathering in one of the bird feeders, which is now closed for the season. Others were consuming the leaves of several amaryllis that were summering under a tree in the garden. Earwigs, with a head end resembling an ant and (miniature) lobster-like pinchers on his rear, thrive in damp, dark setting, and the gardens surely provide that.

In the spirit of education, some aspects of earwigs’ personal history are interesting. There are about 2,000 species in the insect order Dermaptera. According to fossil evidence they or their immediate relatives have been pursuing their scavenger lifestyle for approximately 208 million years. They are found on all continents except Antarctica.

The European earwig, Forficula auricularia, the common one we see, apparently arrived in Seattle, Washington, in 1907 and was spotted by scientists frequently in the following years as it took up residence across primarily northern states.

Because they are nocturnal, they can be difficult to control in the garden. One source suggested putting petroleum jelly on the base of plant stems. I will anoint their presumed gathering places with diatomaceous earth, hoping to make them uncomfortable.

I have mentioned a dearth of butterflies in our garden, which distresses me. However, the Bordered Patch (on sunflower patch) butterfly has been noted primarily because its multitudes of small black caterpillars will rapidly consume the leaves of sunflowers.

The rain this year has also produced a bumper crop of slugs, easily the most unattractive of creatures. They will be killed by temperatures 20 degrees and lower…and I can hardly wait.

The information precipitated by this wet summer has been fascinating: I’ve learned more about rolling thunder than I wanted to know; I’m savvy now about canine thunder terrors; I regret the arrival of the earwigs but will deal with them and the slugs and the caterpillars. I am ready to end summer on Labor Day.

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Cathie Draine is a South Dakota Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She lives and gardens in Whispering Pines. Contact her at blackhillsgarden.com.

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