With higher temperatures across the northeast fruits and vegetables are ripening faster than normal. Insects are having a wonderful time and breeding yet another generation of bugs to plague the crops. Fruit that normally is insect free this year is, in some cases being infested with bugs and late growing maggots. So the crops are not harvestable. This is a problem for the farmer in several ways.
He looses the crop, that means he has less money than expected this year.
He can’t get the crop off the bushes it just has to stay there and rot for the most part paying workers to pick unmarketable fruit is a waste of money. There is no mechanical way to pick it so its going to just sit there.
The dry weather means that the fruit is not rotting because mold only develops when there is some moisture. Fruit may have maggots but its not rotting.
The absence of mold means that yeast can proliferate more. These will eat the crops and just like in beer they product alcohol. So the fruit is not rotting its fermenting!
Guess what? Insects like alcohol too! Fermenting fruit is a delight that is going to draw insects in for the party of the year. The hot weather can also cause the nectar in later blooming flowers to ferment too.
Do bugs get drunk? They sure do. It can be fun to watch bugs drinking fermented nectar and then weaving off on a very wobbly flight path after leaving the flower or fruit. As a child I used to love watching the bees drink the fermented nectar from our Sedum flowers and then fly off all over the place. With other insects is harder to tell if they are drunk. How can you tell if an ant is drunk? I don’t know they weave around even when they are sober, but a lot of them can still bite.
Problem is that a drunk stinging insect is like a drunk driver, they don’t know what they are doing. They can crash into you and then get annoyed and sting for no reason. Drunk insects can be a real danger from the stinging perspective. Drunk bees are usually not too bad since when a bee stings it dies so even a drunk bee tends to be a little concerned but if she is very drunk then she might just sting without thinking about the consequences. (All forager bees are female).
Drunk yellow jackets or hornets are a different matter. They can sting to their hearts content so drunk ones can be quite unpredictable and just sting because they feel like it. Non flying insects are not such a problem. They might run up your legs and bite you but its not as likely, unless you are near aggressive ants, but they wild do that drunk or sober.
Your best option is to stay away from areas where there is ripening fruit or plants that have lots of nectar at this time of year. Don’t let young children near these areas. Just like my mother would not let me close to our sedum plants when the nectar was fermenting don’t let children or pets near them now. Drunken insects can be nasty.
This year has been disastrous for the US with Hurricane damage, first Texas, then Florida and then Puerto Rico. While almost everyone in the US is concerned about the people effected by these hurricanes many don’t realize just how much its might effect them too. Most of us have already seen a rise in gas prices because of the refineries in Texas but less noticeable, as yet, is the migrant worker effect.
Many jobs in agriculture are seasonal. Farmers only need workers during the growing and harvesting seasons so they employ migrant workers who come into the country especially to work these jobs and then go home in the winter months. These workers are essential to get almost all of our vegetable and fruit crops harvested and shipped to the supermarkets for everyone to buy. A large proportion of these workers come from either Mexico or Puerto Rico. Here in the northeast for the past few years a lot of the workers have been coming in from Puerto Rico. After the Hurricane disaster all these workers have gone home to help their families and be with loved ones. This is of course exactly what you would expect them to do. Other workers from Mexico have who have families in the Earthquake areas have also gone home to be with their families. This has left very few migrant workers for the remaining harvesting of vital fresh foods.
Farmers are now scrambling to find workers to help with the harvest of the remaining crops. The unusually warm weather which is also an influence of the hurricane has extended the season providing a longer growing period but also ripening crops a lot faster than would normally happen at this time of the year. Produce does not wait, farmers have to work to the plants schedule not the other way around. However with so few workers to do the harvesting much of these crops is being left in the fields. Many farmers are now considering that crops may have to be abandoned and ploughed under because there are no workers to bring the crops in. This may cause an increase in the price of fruits and vegetables since there will be less available on the market, its all rotting in the fields.
Many may ask why use migrant workers rather than home grown Americans? Simple. It’s almost impossible to get home grown Americans to do the job. The migrants are the only ones willing to do harder physical labor which is very hard work outside in often unpleasant weather conditions for fairly low wages. Agricultural jobs do not pay high rates farmers cannot afford it because the profit margin on fresh produce is very low. Consumers will not pay very high prices for fruits and vegetables everyone wants low prices. Low prices translate into low wages to grow and harvest the crops. Ask almost any farmer they will tell you without migrant workers there will be no food in Americans supermarkets. This year the prices may be higher. If such devastating weather continues in the future its certain we will see a rise in prices.