Walking has always been my transportation mode of choice. But in the summer when you want to get around without taking a huge chunk of time out of your day, cycling is an excellent alternative. You can get everywhere so much faster on a bike! It’s great…
The Perils of Cycling in Winnipeg
…Except, of course, for the many perils associated with biking around Winnipeg. From bike lanes that cars don’t pay attention to (or which mysteriously vanish after a few blocks) to the horrendous conditions of our roads to the ridiculous amount of bugs flying in your face to cars almost hitting you to getting sprayed from puddles and mud, biking can be a perilous excursion indeed!
My most recent gripe with cycling was when Mr Science and I biked a few blocks in a worm-infested area of the city last week, after Btk had been applied. This meant that we were cycling over what looked like mud, but which was probably (as Mr Science broke it to me afterward) a combination of mud and dead worms. Ewwwww. It also didn’t help that I evidently need better bike guards, because that mud mixture sprayed up all over my clothes *shudder* (showering and doing laundry has never felt quite so fantastic).
Don’t get me wrong – I adore biking. You can get around so fast, and it’s a really enjoyable activity. But there are certainly some things – such as the weather conditions and possible caterpillar control – to take into consideration prior to going for that bike ride.
About Caterpillar Control (Some Background on Btk)
In light of our most recent experience, Mr Science decided to write about the worms and Btk (being a science-y person, and all). Here is what he has to say on the subject:
Recently the city we live in announced that it was going to spray Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki) in an attempt to control a span worm (AKA inch worm) infestation that is occurring this year. This led us to question, just what is Btk and what does it do?
First, a little background information on the span worm is in order. The span worm is a very common caterpillar from the Order Lepidoptera that has a characteristic way of walking where the upper body attaches to a substrate, followed by the movement of the lower body in close proximity with the upper body, which forms a characteristic ‘loop’ structure. These worms feed on leaves of host trees and can often be seen hanging from the trees on silk threads. The life cycle of the worm includes six instars (caterpillar life stages) prior to pupation (moth development).
Control of these caterpillar populations is a common practice that is often undertaken through the application of Btk. This is because Btk is an insecticide that affects only caterpillars of Lepidoptera and has no known effect on other insects, mammals, birds, or fish.
The way that Btk works is through application via spraying programs where the leaves that the caterpillars eat are coated with the biological pesticide. The caterpillars eat the leaves, ingesting the Btk where their alkaline (pH 7-14) digestive systems cause a crystalline protein (produced by the bacteria) to attach to the cells of the digestive system, leading to the disruption of normal cell function and eventual cell death. This essentially leads to perforation of the caterpillar’s digestive system, which then leads to digestive juices escaping the digestive tract, mixing with the blood and interfering with other organ systems, ultimately leading to the caterpillar’s death.
Btk seems to be an effective control of caterpillar populations if applied in the right conditions, and a major benefit of this pesticide is that it is easily degraded by rain and sun and so does not accumulate in the environment.
After the Btk situation, I am making a point of being very choosy regarding when I wear my new sparkly silver ballet flats on a bike ride – but mostly, I’m just embracing the fact that when it comes to cycling, there are some minor frustrations you might have to deal with, but it is totally worth the enjoyment (and the environmental-friendlieness!) of getting out on the road.
Are you a cyclist? What do you like best about cycling? What’s the cycling situation like in your city? Share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in the comments section below!
Thank you to Mr Science for providing some insight on Btk and worms!