Black Flies

first_imgOne of the best things about living above the fall line in Georgia has always been the lack of gnat swarms, but that seems to have changed this spring.Months of heavy rain have increased the flows in northeast Georgia rivers and that means an increase in tiny black flies, a fly that most Georgians would refer to as a “gnat.” Residents of northeast Georgia may have already noticed their new neighbors if they live anywhere near a healthy river or stream. If they haven’t, they’ll probably notice soon.While a year of above-average rainfall as helped erase our concerns about drought and lack of water, it has created a different concern. River flows that have returned to normal or even above-average levels have created the perfect conditions for larval black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae) in many north Georgia streams and rivers.As a result, we have seen significant populations of gnats or black flies in the Athens, Georgia, area in recent weeks, and it’s likely other areas of northeast Georgia are experiencing the same phenomenon.For most residents of northeast Georgia, the swarms of small flies are unusual and a little concerning. To be clear, one man’s gnats aren’t always the same as another man’s gnats. The term “gnat” is used to describe many different species of small flies, or Diptera. Consequently, the gnats of south Georgia are very different from the gnats, or black flies, that are being produced in the rivers and streams of the upstate.Black flies are closely related to mosquitoes, but while mosquitos need still water, black fly larvae require flowing water to develop. Consequently, northeast Georgia, with its multitudinous rivers, has been besieged by these pests in the past.Ironically, we may be seeing an increase because we’ve been doing a better job keeping our rivers and streams cleaner than in the past. Since the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, water quality in Georgia’s rivers has improved. Better water quality has allowed black flies to recolonize many of the rivers and streams where they once occurred in Georgia and around the country.While they are strong fliers and can travel as far as 20 miles from the rivers where they develop, black flies’ life cycles are tied to clean, swift-flowing rivers.Adult black flies deposit their eggs in the rivers, either on the surface or attached to trailing vegetation and debris. The eggs hatch, and the larvae, which have large silk glands, attach to substrates that are exposed to flowing water via silk pads and rows of tiny hooks at the base of their abdomens. The attached larvae extend into the current and filter particles out of the passing water with their fan-like mouths to filter food from the water. They’re not picky. They catch everything less than 100 microns in size, digesting bacteria, algae and detritus while letting the rest pass through. The Simulium jenningsi species typically overwinter as eggs, which hatch as the water temperatures rise in the spring and produce multiple generations over the summer and through October, or as flow and temperature conditions dictate.Today, there are 47 known species of black flies in Georgia. For most of these species, the females require a blood meal to stimulate egg production. Thankfully for us here in north Georgia, the species that are developing in the Oconee River do not prefer to bite humans.The flies we have seen in recent weeks are swarming about us in an effort to pick up the final cues to determine whether we are their preferred host. The species we are seeing in Athens this spring have been identified by world-renowned black fly expert Peter Adler as being in the Simulium jenningsi species group. This species prefers to feed on large mammals like deer, horses and cows. It’s pretty common for species that prefer these types of hosts to swarm in the faces of people and make themselves a nuisance. So, while north Georgia may be in for a gnatty spring and early summer, there’s nothing dangerous about our new neighbors. Hopefully this increase in black fly populations correlates to continued improvements in our rivers’ water quality. We can only hope that Athens sees all the gnats that we deserve in the years to come.last_img read more

See Rock City

first_imgLookout Mountain Overlooks the South’s Best Outdoor City.From battlefield to coal mine to tourist trap and the birthplace of mini-golf, the Lookout saga has more twists and turns than the Tennessee River it overlooks. These days, the greater Chattanooga, Tenn. area is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the best outdoor cities in the United States, and Lookout Mountain is a major factor in this standing.Lookout Mountain is actually a skinny plateau that runs 92 miles through Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Lookout towers almost 2,000 feet above the river valley below, the primary reason for its early development as a resort and retreat for the industrial magnates that inhabited Chattanooga in the early 1900s. For the past few decades, the region has taken great pains to shake its coal industry past, with its reputation for environmental destruction, and transform itself into a bastion for those seeking adventure in the outdoors.Mike Pollock is on the forefront of the effort. As a longtime resident on Lookout and trustee of the Lula Lake Land Trust, he has seen the area undergo an amazing metamorphosis from environmental scourge of the South to a model for dynamic reinvention.Although he moved to Lookout as a pre-teen, Pollock did not have an appreciation for all the mountain had to offer until a decade later, when he discovered mountain biking and began penning an outdoor column for a local paper.Pollock’s memories from those early days include some of the most well-known haunts on Lookout: learning to climb at Sunset Rock, teaching tykes to rappel at Eagles Nest, catching trout on Rock Creek, and getting kidnapped in high school by a couple of knife-wielding bikers who threatened to toss him off Insurance Bluff.“They drew some knives on us and forced my friend to drive. I was put in the back with another guy who was keeping watch over me,” he said. “As we started to drive back toward Chattanooga, they made us get out of the truck at Insurance Bluff and essentially wrap our toes around the edge. He said, ‘You know I could push you [preppies] off the edge right now and nobody would know about you until your bodies began to stink.’ I was kind of scared and I whispered to the guy, ‘Don’t do this man, don’t do this,’ and I was really pondering my next move. But fortunately he laughed and he pulled us back and told us to get back in the truck. Eventually, I was made to jump off the tailgate of the truck moving at about 30 miles per hour going down Lookout Mountain and rolled a couple times in the road.”Luckily, Pollock survived that incident and went on to create a consulting firm based out of Chattanooga concentrating on corporate team building through outdoor adventures like ropes courses and backcountry excursions. He also dove into the immerging conservation effort, becoming project manager for the development of Five Points Recreation Area, one of the best singletrack trail systems on the mountain.“I have a lot of personal equity in this area called Five Points,” he said. “This is really where I cut my teeth mountain biking, as did many of my contemporaries. We loved this area deeply and rode till it was closed around 1997.”The Lula Lake Land Trust bought much of the area and deeded it to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, where the master plan got stalled due to a lack of funds. Pollock got involved as project manager and pulled together people and money to build the trail network.Beginning with the development of the Tennessee Aquarium in 1992, and culminating in a $120 million downtown waterfront rehabilitation project finished in 2005, Chattanooga is leading the way into the 21st century.“It’s a massive transformation since the development of the aquarium,” Pollock said. “The aquarium just ushered in a whole new era of livability, sustainability, and attractiveness to this entire area with a focus on water and a lot greater focus on the conservation and preservation of land.”Perhaps no other area of the country needed this rehab more. The federal government declared that Chattanooga had the country’s dirtiest air in 1969, a result of decades of unregulated coal mining and buildup of pollutants in the Tennessee River. Now, Pollock sees people from all over the South moving to Chattanooga solely for the recreation opportunities that exist here.“I chose to live in a place where I practically don’t need to get in a car ever to go out and climb, road bike, mountain bike, swim in a lake, trail run,” he said. “I can do all my favorite activities out my back door. I’m getting to realize my outdoor dream right here.”pollock’s picksMike Pollock has been exploring Lookout Mountain since he was 12 years old. Here are his picks for getting down and dirty on Lookout.HikingThe hike from Point Park at the tip of the mountain to Sunset Rock is a classic, beautiful trek with outstanding views.PaddlingBear Creek and Rock Creek can’t be beat. There are a number of waterfalls on both sides that boaters love playing in.Mountain BikingFive Points is the highlight of Lookout Mountain.CyclingRoute 157 on Lookout Mountain goes all the way to Mentone, Ala. and you can connect another 50 miles to Gadsden. That’s 200 miles of road biking opportunities with nary a stop sign or traffic light.Hang GlidingHang-gliding is very popular in Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain Flight Park takes people on tandem rides as well as teaching lessons.Trail Running“Trail running is massive up here,” says Pollock. “Just on Lookout Mountain alone you could run 100 miles in a day on trails you could connect. There are a couple different Wild Trails races every year.”last_img read more

HHS offers tools to promote local pandemic preparedness

first_img Jun 14 CIDRAP News story “HHS hears community leaders’ ideas on pandemic readiness” He said the gap between what public health experts know and what the public knows about pandemic planning is still very large, and more work is needed, particularly on community mitigation efforts that may be needed in a severe pandemic, such as school closures and student dismissals. See also: One component that seems to be missing from the HHS toolkit is a plan for distributing it to community leaders who are well positioned to use the materials, Dworkin said. “As of right now, they are available online, but who knows about them? How will community leaders, school boards, and others learn about their existence?” he asked. Greg Dworkin, MD, founding editor of the Flu Wiki Web site and chief of pediatric pulmonology at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, Conn., told CIDRAP News the materials have been well received. “Interestingly, long-time flu preppers have already used them to discuss the idea with relatives and others who respond to the HHS stamp of legitimacy,” he said. Stephanie Marshall, HHS director of pandemic communications, told CIDRAP News via e-mail that the agency launched a “trade advertising campaign” for the toolkit on Dec 1, the same day the materials were posted on the government’s pandemic planning Web site. She said the ads appear on the toolkit Web site. “Government alone can’t prepare the nation for pandemic flu; this challenge requires your help,” HHS says in its online introduction to the toolkit. “As a leader in your community, you can playa powerful role in encouraging your employees, patients, and members and others whom you represent to prepare by providing information and guidance and by preparing yourself.” The toolkit is an outgrowth of earlier HHS efforts to engage community leaders’ help in preparing the nation for an influenza pandemic. In May the agency hosted a 5-week blog series that was designed to engage community leaders in online discussions about personal preparedness. In June, HHS held a leadership forum in Washington, DC, that drew about 100 leaders from various sectors.center_img Dworkin was one of 13 experts who led the HHS blog discussions and also took part in the agency’s leadership summit. HHS has identified nine communities that it will target with more intensive communication efforts regarding pandemic planning, Marshall said, adding that the agency hopes to introduce that campaign early next year. Titled “Take the Lead: Working Together to Prepare Now,” the 21-item toolkit is aimed at groups such as churches and business, healthcare, and civic organizations. The package of materials, posted on the HHS’ pandemic planning Web site Dec 1, includes several components that groups can adapt to meet their needs, including talking points, checklists, fact sheets, sample e-mails, and sample newsletter articles. The toolkit includes a template that groups can use to publicize campaigns to stockpile food as a community pandemic preparation activity. The package also includes ideas about incentives leaders can use to motivate community members to attend pandemic planning information meetings and related activities. Toolkit materials reflect the input from community leaders, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS said on the Web site. Dec 4, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a toolkit to help community leaders educate their constituents about steps they can take to prepare for an influenza pandemic.last_img read more

New FL Laws Take Effect Wednesday; Tickets to Begin for Texting-and-Driving

first_imgThe new year will bring with it a slew of new laws, and strict enforcement on a previously implemented bill.For starters, Florida Highway Patrol troopers will be issuing tickets to those caught texting and driving. Since the new law went into effect last summer, drivers have been receiving warnings.In recent years, texting while driving was considered a “secondary” offense in Florida, meaning that motorists could only be cited for texting if they were also stopped for other reasons. However, the new law (HB 107) makes it a “primary” offense.The law also bans drivers from talking on cellphones in school and work zones unless they are using “hands-free” electronic devices.Tickets for a first offense carry a $30 fine plus court costs, which could reach $108.16. The fine increases to $60, or $158.18 with court costs, for a second violation within five years.Highway Patrol troopers have issued about 800 warnings, while more than 1,150 have been issued in total among all law enforcement agencies statewide.Some of the other changes set to take effect on Wednesday include:-As part of an $87 million tax relief package (HB 7123), a sales-tax rate on commercial leases will be reduced from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent. The change is expected to produce a $30.8 million cut in state and local taxes in the remaining six months of the fiscal year. Over the course of a full year, the savings are estimated to be around $64.5 million.-HB 831 will require health care practitioners to transmit prescriptions electronically, with some exceptions.-HB 409 will allow remote, online notarization of documents.-HB 427 establishes the Honor and Remember Flag, which will honor members of the military who have died in the line of duty. The law authorizes the flag to be flown at half-staff at state buildings and by local governments on Veterans Day, Gold Star Mother’s Day, or any day when a member of the military from Florida is killed in the line of duty.last_img read more