Periodic Cicada or Magicicada

Periodic Cicada or Magicicada

In recent years, people have paid a great deal of attention to insects and how they benefit humans. Some insects pollinate our fruit trees. Others provide food for birds and a variety of mammals–even humans. Insects also help convert waste into valuable nutrients. One of the dangers to the total insect population is over predation because so many animals eat them. One insect species solves the problem in a unique way. It is the periodic cicada or Magicicada that appears every 17 years. These insects suddenly emerge from the ground in massive numbers, as many as 1.5 million per acre, to overwhelm their predators.

Dr. Cliff Sadof of Purdue University has headed up research into the life cycle of cicadas. He tells us why we will have a massive amount of noise during the coming weeks from treetops all around us here in Indiana and other areas of the eastern United States. When the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees F at a depth of eight inches, the periodic cicada or Magicicada will start crawling out of the ground. In massive numbers, they climb up trees to molt. After molting, their bodies will be white as they unfold new wings. In a few hours, their bodies will harden, and the males will fly into the treetops and start singing to attract females.

After mating, the females will lay eggs in twigs with a saw-like egg-laying device called an ovipositor. After the eggs hatch, the nymphs will fall from the treetops and burrow into the ground, where they feed on sap from the tree roots. Seventeen years later, the nymphs will emerge and become adult cicadas repeating the cycle.

The cicadas are easy to see, good to eat, and plentiful in huge numbers. Birds, squirrels, and other insect-eating animals will gorge on the cicadas giving other insects a reprieve to recover their numbers. The soil around the trees will be aerated and enriched. The process will prune upper tree branches encouraging new growth.

In Indiana and many other states, the cycle is 17 years. In other regions, the periodic cicada or Magicicada has a 13-year cycle. Trying to explain how such a system came into existence by chance requires a tremendous amount of imagination. We suggest that cicadas are another example of wisdom built into the natural world by God to allow life to exist on planet Earth.

— John N Clayton © 2021

Our thanks to David Harrington, who sent us this information from the Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana.

Solutions to the Mosquito Problems

Solutions to the Mosquito Problems

One of the big problems that humans face is mosquito infestations. Most of us know that mosquitoes can carry serious diseases, with malaria being at the top of the list. It is essential to understand that the presence of mosquitos is not a failure in God’s design of the natural world. What are the solutions to the mosquito problems?

Most mosquito species are pollinating insects. Of the problem species, only the females draw blood, usually from decaying remains of animals. Before humans invaded natural habitats, mosquitos were less of an issue than in modern times. The larvae do not survive well in running water, and mosquitos are such weak fliers that even a slight breeze will keep them at bay.

The human response to mosquitos has been badly misdirected. The most common response has been to spray areas with heavy doses of chemicals that kill mosquitos. The problem is that the spraying kills everything else as well. Pesticides do not discriminate between good insects and bad ones. Animals dependent on insects for food are radically affected by massive spraying. Since 1970, nearly three billion birds have disappeared from North America. The solution to mosquito problems is quite simple–let God’s natural agents control the mosquito population.

Dragonflies and damselflies are voracious mosquito eaters concentrating on mosquito larvae. Hummingbirds eat hundreds of insects every day. American bullfrogs have long sticky tongues designed to catch insects, and mosquitos are at the top of their list. Red-eared slider turtles are mosquito eaters, with one study showing a 99% drop in mosquito numbers in ditches where the turtles were introduced. Woodpeckers, warblers, and wrens all eat mosquitos. They are all solutions to the mosquito problems.

Mass spraying creates imbalances in insect populations and kills birds and animals that feed on mosquito larvae. The spray also has serious implications for humans who react to the chemicals, including some forms of cancer. Humans have contributed to the dilemma that mosquitos bring to all of us, but God has natural solutions to the mosquito problems.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from National Wildlife April/May issue 2021.

Murder Hornet Madness

Murder Hornet Madness - Asian Giant Hornet
Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia)

The media can stir up unfounded and destructive emotional reactions to what, in reality, are minor events. In May of 2020, the media announced that Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia) hornets had been found in Washington State and British Columbia. The media referred to them as “murder hornets” and expressed the fear that those hornets would sweep across the continent, killing people with their lethal stings. That caused some panic, especially in the eastern United States, which could be called “murder hornet madness.”

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven had numerous calls from people who believed they had a murder hornet in their backyard. In all cases so far, the specimen turned out to be a European hornet, bald face hornet, robber fly, or cicada-killer wasp.

To quell murder hornet madness, here are the facts about the Asian giant hornets from Science News:

1) They hunt for honeybees, not people, and the concern is for the honey industry, not because they will kill humans. A few months ago, we posted about how the honeybees have devised a defense against them.

2) Their nests have all been destroyed.

3) Studies show that migration to the east is almost impossible because of the mountains and other natural barriers in the way.

4) None of them have been seen anywhere but in the coastal ranges of Washington state and British Columbia. That is 3000 miles away from the people calling their local entomologists claiming to see them in their yards or parks.

Expert entomologist Gale Ridge, who has been working on the Asian giant hornet issue, says, “The combination of half-listening and overdramatization of the facts by the media creates an anxiety driven stew.” There is a threat to honeybees, making it essential to prevent this invasive species from getting a foothold in North America. However, Asian giant hornets are not a direct risk to humans.

We need to realize that the media are trying to get viewers and readers. They often overlook or overdramatize the facts, even creating “murder hornet madness.” That is true not just in cases of natural phenomena but also in politics and religion.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, December 19, 2020 and January 2, 2021.

Learning from the Natural World

Learning from the Natural World

One of the ways people discover new materials and new applications is by learning from the natural world. Scientists have wondered how bugs that live in wet areas avoid water damage and bacterial infections. Researchers are using a fabrication process called nanoimprinting lithography to study the wings of Neotibicen pruinisus, the annual cicada found in the central region of the United States.

Cicada wings are made of a complex pillar-shaped nanostructure that repels water and prevents bacteria from establishing a foothold. New fabrication tools have enabled scientists to produce replicas of the wings and pillars. Entomologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have reported that this work will be beneficial in engineering applications across various subjects–everything from aircraft wings to medical equipment.

We look at what we feel are simple forms of life and fail to realize the complexity of their design. Earth is full of examples like the Cicada. Researchers are learning from the natural world. Everywhere we look, we find a wonder-working hand has gone before to allow life to exist all over the planet.

When God wanted to convince Job of His intelligence, power, and design (Job 38-41), He used astronomical and geologic creations and the design of an assortment of living things. Job responded by saying, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). We must continue learning from the natural world God created because there is still much we don’t know. That is not just true of the material world but also of the spiritual world as well.

— John N. Clayton © 2021


The Wonder of Birds

The Wonder of Birds - Bald Eagle

We live on the edge of the St. Joseph River in Michigan. By the river and surrounded by woods, I have the joy of observing the wonder of birds in enormous varieties. As I watch geese, swans and ducks take off and land on the river, I am amazed at the way they put their feet out and water ski to a stop. I enjoy seeing them stand on one foot, seemingly asleep with half of their bodies ready to react to any danger.

When our resident bald eagle flies by 100 feet above the water, the ducks turn their heads to track the eagle. The eagle swoops down and picks up a small dead fish which I couldn’t see from 20 feet away. I watch three species of woodpeckers hammer away at the trees on the edge of the river with such force that bark flies in all directions. Still, the design of their skulls lets them do this for hours on end without brain damage.

I watch the finches and nuthatches pick off berries from the poison ivy and eat them in the dead of winter. They never have any problem with the oil that I am allergic to. I watch the hummingbirds come to my feeders and hover for a long time, eating the sugar solution and engaging in territorial combat. I hear the birds singing as they mark their territories, with each species having its own peculiar melody.

As a person trained in physics and chemistry, I am enthralled by the wonder of birds and their widely varied properties. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an ongoing study of the properties and abilities of birds. One area of research is the specialized equipment individual bird species have. The eagle’s eyes are incredible optical tools that give it the ability to see a small fish from 100 feet above the water.

Woodpecker heads show engineering with their shock-absorbing design to prevent brain damage from the constant hammering they use to get bugs. People researching flight techniques study the wing design of hummingbirds which allows them to hover. The design of the bird’s gut prevents the poison ivy oil from lingering long enough to cause a reaction.

All birds have design features that allow them to survive. Their digestive and waste removal systems avoid the use of a bladder. The vascular system with a unique heart design allows the Swainson’s thrush to travel 3000 miles in a single flight with its heart beating 840 times a minute. Darwin showed us that the design of the bird genetics is flexible enough to allow their beaks to vary depending on what diet is available in their environment.

Humans throughout history have depended on birds as a food source. Where would we be in America without chickens and turkeys? God sustained the ancient Israelites with quails, a provision that continues today in that part of the world. In some areas, songbirds are a source of meat even though they are small. For those of us who look for evidence of God’s design in the natural world, birds are an incredible example of how much has to be done to produce an animal that can do what birds do.

The wonder of birds is not reasonably explained by accidental change. We all need to be concerned about the fact that between human exploitation, the removal of resources and habitat by humans, natural climate change, and pollution, the population of birds on our planet is getting smaller and smaller. Since 1970, three billion birds have vanished from the United States. God told us to take care of the world in which He has placed us. Caring for all of God’s creatures, including birds, is everyone’s responsibility.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Stop the Killing of Bees

Stop the Killing of Bees

There are many things that God has provided that we take for granted, and yet without them, we would not be able to live on planet Earth. One example is the common bee. The Earthjustice organization has been involved in trying to stop the killing of bees, and they gave some interesting statistics.

Bees fly an average of 55,000 miles (88,000 km) to produce one pound of honey. They can see colors that humans can’t see, and they communicate by dancing. Very importantly, it’s hard to realize that one-third of our food crops are dependent on bees. It takes 60,000 bees to pollinate one acre of an orchard, and without bees, we would have no almonds, apples, apricots, squash, and many other fruits and vegetables. An average hive contains about 30,000 bees.

One problem is that every year farmers apply over 5.6 billion pounds of pesticides to our country’s crops, and that is a factor in the decline of the bee population. The current alarm over the drop in the bee population is an excellent time to remember that God provided bees, not just for honey. They also sustain the food crops we need. That is why we must stop the killing of bees.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: EarthJustice website.

God Positioning System and What it Means

Homing Pigeon - God Positioning System and What it Means
Homing Pigeon

The Spring 2021 issue of God and Nature published an article by Angie Cornwell about the “God Positioning System.” During World War I, a homing pigeon saved the lives of almost 200 American men by carrying a message 25 miles despite being bombarded with gunfire. People have used homing pigeons for thousands of years to carry messages in all kinds of terrain, all kinds of weather, and in unfamiliar territory. Studies of how homing pigeons do this have concluded that they use at least five different systems. If one method doesn’t work, they use a different one. One technique is visual, using familiar landmarks. A second involves the use of environmental odors. A third system consists of using Earth’s magnetic field. A fourth system uses infrasonic (low frequency) signals, and a fifth system uses information stored in the pigeon’s brain.

Humans have a difficult time learning how to navigate in unfamiliar environments. For most of my life, I have relied on maps, but they are hard to use. You have to know where you are on the map, and folds in the map can cause misinformation. The invention of the global positioning system (GPS) has eliminated the weaknesses of maps. When in our human arrogance, we think we have a better way than the GPS has advised, causing us to get lost, the GPS will jump back in and guide us back to where we wanted to go.

Christians have a special GPS which Angie Cornwell has called the God positioning system. There are many similarities to the global position system. The God positioning system finds us wherever we are in life and directs us to where we need to go. When our arrogance causes us to choose a destructive path, we can turn back to the God positioning system to find our way.

God, in His mercy, has given us the ultimate navigational system to find our way back to Him. He has given us His Word to follow and His Holy Spirit to guide us. The global positioning system uses three satellites to triangulate our position. God the Father, Jesus Christ, His Son, and the Holy Spirit can pinpoint our spiritual condition and navigate us toward our eternal home. We never have to be desperately lost or alone. We don’t have to struggle to figure out where we are and how to get where we need to be.

Science hasn’t completely figured out all of the things that allow homing pigeons to navigate, and our human wisdom does not allow us to comprehend how the God positioning system works. The good news is that we don’t have to understand either one to take advantage of all they do for us.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: “God Positioning System (GPS)” from God and Nature Spring 2021.

Wind Bringing Quails to the Israelites

Wind Bringing Quails - common quails in Gaza today
Common Quail

Skeptics often claim that the Old Testament accounts of God providing for Israel are a bunch of silly fairy tales. One target is the way God sustained the Israelites in their journey from Egypt to the promised land. Two weeks ago, we posted about God supplying manna. Another area of interest is the wind bringing quails in massive numbers into the camp of the people (Exodus 16:12-13 and Numbers 11:31-32).

The Middle East Eye website carries an article titled “Quail Season Brings Rare Treat for Meat-Starved Gazans.” It tells of a regular migration of quails from Europe to the Middle East. If the wind is blowing against the migration, the birds become exhausted and land on the Gaza shore, where people capture them in nets to provide a source of badly needed protein. The point is that there is a natural way in which quails can provide food for a nation of people even today.

God provides for His people in two ways. One is by miraculous acts that are not natural and which require a direct act of God. These are rare, but they do happen. Jesus did things that have no natural explanation, and their purpose was to verify that Jesus was the Son of God. One of my favorite gospel songs is a song by the Booth Brothers titled “Ask the Blind Man, He Saw it all.” That kind of event does not have natural explanations.

However, far more common are situations like this one where we see God using natural forces to provide for the needs of His people. This action is no less significant because the timing met a specific need for the Israelites. God could have provided quails for food by any method He chose, but seeing the wind bringing quails to Gaza today offers strong support for God acting through natural processes in the biblical account.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Design of the Laryngeal Nerve in Giraffes

Design of the Laryngeal Nerve in Giraffes

Atheists try to refute any notion of design in the natural world. They look for examples of what they call “bad design.” In a National Geographic documentary titled Inside Nature’s Giants, Richard Dawkins criticized the design of the recurrent laryngeal nerve in giraffes. He said, “No engineer would ever make a mistake like that.” The distance from the brain to the larynx is about two inches, but instead of going directly to the larynx, the nerve runs from the brain all the way down the giraffe’s neck and into its chest. There it makes a U-turn and runs back up the neck to connect to the larynx. In a mature giraffe, that distance can be more than 16 feet (4.9 m).

Dawkins calls it “a ridiculous detour.” Atheists refer to Jerry Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True, in which he calls this “one of nature’s worst designs.” The question is whether there is any reason for this design of the laryngeal nerve.

The laryngeal nerves activate muscles that make sounds and also aid the animal in breathing and swallowing. What atheists fail to mention is that two nerves connect the brain to the larynx. The primary nerve, called the superior laryngeal nerve, makes a direct connection from the brain to the larynx. The recurrent laryngeal nerve, which goes to the chest before returning to the larynx, also connects to the heart and has branches to the mucous membrane and muscular coat of the esophagus.

The design of the laryngeal nerve is not a ridiculous detour but an example of incredible technique, making efficient use of the nerves to allow the animal to have its long neck so it can reach food that other animals can’t. Dr. Wolf-Ekkehard Lonnig of Germany’s Planck Institute says that the system’s design demands that “the recurrent laryngeal nerve needs to be, indeed, very long.”

The lack of integrity in the best-known atheists of our day is as distressing as the hypocrisy of some TV preachers. Dawkins’ videos are popular on YouTube, even though it is hard to believe an expert in biology would not be aware of the complexity of the giraffe’s nervous and vascular system. When assuming there must be bad design, a scientist must resort to explanations that don’t match the facts. The design of the laryngeal nerve shows the wisdom that God has demonstrated in every corner of creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center

HERE IS A LINK to the video where Dawkins makes his argument for evolution.

HERE IS A LINK refuting what Dawkins said.

Natural Solutions for Wildfires and Drought

Natural Solutions for Wildfires and Drought - Beavers
Natural Solutions for Wildfires and Drought - Beaver Dams

People worldwide need water for drinking, growing crops, bathing, and even for transportation. The problem is not so much the lack of precipitation as it is distribution. In the western United States, a massive amount of water accumulates as snow on the mountains during the winter season. This snow melts, and the water runs off in spring and summer. Some it soaks into the ground and creates a wealth of aquifers that carry the water underground for many miles. Humans have tapped this water with wells lowering the water table, causing a scarcity of natural springs and water available near the surface. That causes vegetation to dry up and die, making wildfires a major issue. There are natural solutions for wildfires and drought.

Wildfires that have occurred in the western United States in the past two years were relatively rare in the past. As water tables continue to drop, we can expect to see more fires, water shortages, and more demand for this vital resource. Private landowners have found a partial solution by building small rock dams that slow runoff and allow more water to soak into the ground raising the water table. In the Gunnison, Colorado area, landowners have constructed some 2,000 of those dams known as zuni bowls. The result is that places that were formerly brown through much of the summer and fall are becoming green.

Others seeking natural solutions for wildfires and drought reintroduce beavers into areas where there are streams and rivers they can dam and make ponds. In the past, people have trapped and removed beavers to allow land development projects. Today, people are even planting trees for beavers to use for dam building. When beaver dams create ponds and raise the water table, they create a whole new ecosystem restoring birds and other water animals while reducing the threat of wildfires. In July of 2018, the Sharps fire scorched the Baugh Creek region near Hailey, Idaho. The fire reduced everything to charcoal except the vegetation along beaver-built ponds, which remained green oases.

God created the Earth with natural solutions for wildfires and drought. Human activity often upsets that balance, but we are learning how to restore God’s water solutions. Beavers are among the resources God created to do the job. We just need to know how to use the tools God gave us.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, March 27, 2021.