DEAR JOAN: We watch the geese fly over our house in the morning and evening coming and going from the golf course. They always seem to fly in a "V" or echelon formation with a lead goose leading the way. Why?
Also, my wife is fighting the ants. We have a hummingbird feeder that hangs in a tree and the ants invade it going after the sugar water. She heard that putting Vaseline on the branch would stop the ants, but they basically climbed over each other and got to the feeder. Any ideas?
DEAR MICHAEL: I asked a wise, old goose whisperer that question one day and he told me it's because it's easier than flying in a "W." OK, that's an old joke, but there is some truth to it. The "V" turns out to be the most efficient way for geese to fly, taking advantage of aerodynamics.
Each bird in the formation flies slightly above the bird in front of him or her, taking advantage of drafting, or a reduction of wind resistance. Although you may not see it, but the lead bird, who is flying the hardest, changes several times in a flight. When the first bird gets tired, it drops back into the formation and another takes its place. This allows the flock to fly farther without having to stop for resting and refueling.
Experts say that the formation also is the best method for communication and keeping track of all of the birds in the flock. That's one of the reasons that Air Force pilots use the same formation.
In the battle against the ants, Vaseline or oil can be effective, but as your wife learned, it has its limits. Bird lovers also worry that the grease may spread to a hummingbird's wings, which can be detrimental to the bird. If you've ever gotten any in your hair, you know it's almost impossible to get out, at least quickly or easily.
Instead, buy some simple ant barricades. There are some that contain a chemical that repels, not kills, ants. Some people aren't comfortable with having a chemical near their beloved hummers so companies also make a type that holds nothing but water. You can even make your own.
A cup rests above the feeder sort of like a moat with the wire or string holder running through it. Fill the cup with water and when the ants try to reach the feeder they are blocked by the water.
It's time for the annual Blessing of the Animals events. Here are some in our area.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.