The heat is heavy on the air. The humidity is very high; you almost have to wade through the air to do anything. A whiff of ozone hints of a storm. The trees tremble in anticipation, flexing their branches against the wind, testing their strength; they feel the storm nearing. Off in the distance to the West, a vertical cloud menaces.
The mosquitoes are agitated, even in this heat. They prefer it cooler and usually hide in the tall grasses and shadier spots at the end of the garden. Before a storm breaks, they, like horse flies, will take their measure of blood wherever they can find it. (This is an old wives’ tale, we are told. Hmmm. I must be an old wife since I have seen the horses standing in misery before a storm, their tails switching, their heads swiveling to bite at the flies on their shoulders. Old wives are very observant, their tales often true, yet they are much belittled by the inexperienced.)
Here in the city, there are only mosquitoes, and they do bite before a storm breaks.
The garden plants seem to sense a storm as well, but they are not downcast. Perhaps they know they will receive a tonic of nitrogen if there is a really good lightning display. The ground is rock hard, even though it has only been eight days since it last rained; there are cracks in the soil as if Earth is begging for water and opening up channels to quench her thirst when the rain comes.
The rain will be a relief from the 30 degree temperatures for those who have no air conditioning.
The insects are active this year.
Ants have been undermining the bricks on my patio. I saw an army of them moving house across my driveway the other day. Something cataclysmic must have disturbed their former home.
Tobacco budworm seems to have moved into the neighbourhood. It has been attacking petunias and even impatiens and lobelia as I discovered last night when I looked at my once lovely flower box on the garage window. Now the lobelia is a series of naked stems and the double impatiens are looking very unhealthy with bitten blossoms.
This pest is fairly new here. It doesn’t normally survive our cold winters, but since last winter was unseasonably (some would say unreasonably) warm, they seem to have got a foothold, especially in areas around foundations where the temperatures beneath the surface of the earth can be warmer than the –7 degrees C temperatures or lower that generally destroy the pupae.
Their droppings look like small black seeds on the plant and around it. The worms are active at dusk, hiding near the roots during the daytime.
Pesky things. I have a small arsenal of old bug powders that I have seldom used. Perhaps I will give it a try. These caterpillars also go after geraniums, petunias, nicotiana and sweet potato vine, to which my lacy leaved beauties will attest. The leaves are full of holes.
It didn’t storm or rain, after all, but the air is sultry even now at 10 p.m. The storm passed us by to the south and all we got was that little bit of wind blow at noon. It will be 30-plus all week with high humidity in the 80 to 90 per cent range. I used to think that was wonderful. Thank our lucky stars for air conditioning.
The storm came yesterday, with dramatic flashes of chain lightening across the western sky and a wind that was gale force at times. It lasted only a morning, but it drenched the thirsty earth and now the garden is smiling again. The heavy air has lightened and so has the mood. A sweet breeze moves the prairie grasses in a delicate dance outside my window at the office. Now perhaps we can settle down to summer.
July 2, 2012