Elephants Have Their Own Technique for Keeping Cool

August 3, 2015
Elephant Mud Bath

African Elephants Taking a Nice Mud Bath – Photo courtesy of Mgiganteus

No air conditioner? No ceiling fan? No problem. If you’re an elephant that is! These pachyderms pack their own portable cooling system. Their tool of choice is their trunk which they use to fling mud onto their bodies. If a nice roomy mudbath is available, some will take a more efficient approach and wallow in it. The full-body mud-mask not only protects them from the sun and from insects, but cools the elephants down. Thermal images of Asian elephants by Canadian scientists visiting a zoo in Florida illustrate how the mud’s cooling properties last all day long and into the night. As you can see from the above photo, African elephants employ this same technique.

A similar study was conducted at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, by thermal biologists. The purpose of this study was to highlight the importance of providing elephants with shade and water during summer daylight hours. Apparently mud is to elephants what Freon is to shelter-dwelling humans.

Blogger Terry Portillo owns and operates ACU Air Heating and Air Conditioning in The Woodlands, TX.

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Rasberry Ants Have an Appetite for Electronics

September 8, 2010

Their appetite for electronics exceeds that of the average American teenage boy. They have already launched one attack NASA. Stories about them read more like science fiction than credible journalism. Who, or rather, what are they? Paratrechina species near puben, better known as Crazy Rasberry Ants.

Named after Tom Rasberry, the exterminator who first identified the species (hence the spelling), the rasberry ant invades and devours the electronic components of air conditioning units, security alarms, pool pumps, gas meters, and computers.

Scarcely larger than a flea, the rasberry ant makes up in numbers what it lacks in size. Rasberry ant colonies have multiple queens, with each queen laying up to one million eggs per ant hill per day. According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, infestations can reach fifty million ants per acre during their peak season (June through September). When an infested areas is treated with pesticides, the initial wave of rasberry ants die; then the remaining ants use their dead comrades as a bridge to safely cross the pesticide treated ground.

If your home has suffered an attack from these minute creatures and you’ve found a way to fend them off, let us know. You might want to let the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Department of Agriculture know while you’re at it! They’re still researching the answer to the question, “How do we get rid of these things?”


Trouble in Pearadise

August 11, 2009

One of the nicest thing about owning a business on the outskirts of town is having enough land to maintain a pasture out back for a horse and donkey and a garden, in front, to one side of our parking lot.

Lately, however, there has been trouble in this semi-rural paradise.
Theodore, the donkey, has been opening the gates from the pasture to the garden where we grow our flowers and fruit trees. Theodore himself doesn’t do much damage. The problem is he lets out Cisco, our Quarter Horse, who attacks the pear tree, snatches off a pear, takes a bite or two, then snatches another and another and another. Soon the ground is littered with half-eaten pears.


Three Things I Love About My Pit Bull

August 8, 2009

petie1. The way he crowds his entire ninety-pound body onto my lap when I sit down on the top porch step.
2. The way he barks, whines, twitches his nose, and runs in his sleep.
3. The way he sits at attention and licks his chops when I take a container of Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream out of the freezer


Quarter Horse and Wild Bird Forge Unlikely Friendship

August 7, 2009

Recent triple-digit temperatures have had a strange affect on the fauna inhabiting the pasture outside my office window. Unlike our suburban home, our office and warehouse occupy a semi-rural lot spanning a couple of acres. Several years back, my husband committed bribery when he told me I could get a horse if I would leave my teaching career to run our air conditioning company. Having longed for a horse since I was ten, I quickly caved. I took on the role of office manager and soon afterwards adopted Cisco, an eighteen-year-old rescue horse.

Theodore, our Sicilian donkey, was an afterthought. Horses are sociable animals which should not be kept alone and a bit of research revealed that a donkey would make an economical, low-maintenance companion. Four-year-old Theodore swaggers about the pasture like a gang member trespassing on some rival’s turf. At the same time, he has his soft side. If I ask him for a “donkey hug” (you ask a donkey, you don’t tell!), he’ll walk over and rest his extraordinarily heavy head upon my shoulder.

As the summer temperatures have soared, Cisco, the horse, and Theodore have been spending less time grazing side by side in the pasture, as the heat has driven them to pass most of the day beneath two widely separated shade trees.

The other day I looked out my window to see that Cisco had left the shelter of his tree to graze awhile on the sun-scorched grass and that he had acquired a new companion — a small, nondescript bird. The bird followed Cisco everywhere he went, hopping when the horse walked, stopping when the horse stopped. It had to be a coincidence, I told myself as I went back to work.

Fifteen minutes later, I looked out the window again. The horse and the bird were still together. Another thirty minutes went by and I looked again. The bird was still sticking close to his newfound thousand-pound friend. Occasionally the horse would walk away without the bird realizing it. Moments later the bird would crane his neck, turn his head to locate the horse, and hurry after him.

Eventually I figured out the source of this unlikely relationship. The sun was beating down upon the pasture and the bird was using the horse for shade. He was not so much following Cisco around as he was taking pains to remain in Cisco’s shadow.

Later, when Theodore ventured out from the shade of his tree, another bird tried to take advantage of his shadow, but the donkey would have none of it. Every time the bird got too close, Theodore swiped at him with his famous, dangerous sidekick. Not on my turf, Buddy. The bird soon gave up and flew away.

In this month’s issue of National Geographic, there’s an article about an astronomer, Roger Angel, who wants to launch trillions of thinner-than-tissue silicon nitride disks into space where they will, together, shade a section of the earth to counteract the effects of global warming.

If Angel has his way, maybe we should name the manmade silicon constellation Pegasus – the flying horse which shades us from the sun.