Monday, July 6, 2009

Predators and Prey

Over time, nature reaches a balance between numbers of predators and prey. In the short run, however, the predators may cause quite a bit of damage to their host population. That has been the situation here at Peace Farm. Predators have killed at least 40 domestic birds this year. The predators, including coyotes, feral dogs, and bobcats have taken pea fowl, guinea fowl, chukar partridges, geese, and chickens. On occasion, while working in a close-by bee yard, I would see an animal run through the bee hives carrying a chicken in its mouth. One bobcat became so emboldened that it ambushed a chicken yesterday at noon just 20 feet behind my back. Killing five birds a day, the bobcat freely ventured into the lawn of our home stalking prey. Its reign ended today when we spotted it stalking rabbits in a pollinator garden in our front lawn. Ethan, our nine-year-old beekeeper grandson, holds the dead bobcat.

Arriving in the United States in 1984 and 1987, parasitic mites attacked the honey bees in America with the same deadly effect as the predators attacking our domestic birds. Serious die-offs were experienced. Now, beekeepers are finding ways to help their honey bees live with the parasitic mites. I believe that genetically resistant strains of bees, integrated pest management programs, and time will shift the balance back in favor of the honey bee. Oh, a dozen or more chickens were born today in the incubator, the offspring of the silky rooster and hen that the bobcat killed yesterday afternoon.

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