Gifts often give back to the giver.
For Christmas I presented my dad with a book on how to attract more birds. He's been reading it and he mentioned to me on the phone the other day an interesting fact the book had taught him about blue jays: They engage in a behavior called "anting."
That bit of nature knowledge was a return gift. And it's an interesting one. Ants contain formic acid, which repels and kills parasites. So blue jays catch ants and rub their wings or bodies with them. Sometimes a blue jay will roll on top of an anthill for the same purpose. Parasite removal.
Formic acid can be nasty stuff. Ants emit it when attacking or being attacked, and it's also contained in bee-sting venom. The acid has many commercial uses, including as an antibacterial additive to livestock feed and as an ingredient in some toilet-bowl cleaners. Naturalists—and no doubt blue jays—noticed as far back as the 1400s that anthills often emitted an acidic odor. That led to humans' discovery of formic acid, whose name comes from the Latin word for ant, formica.
In case you're wondering, the Formica used in countertops has no connection to ants, though its name does have a link to geology and minerals. Because it was first used as a replacement for mica in electrical insulation, it was named, well, "for mica." Etymology doesn't get much simpler.
Here's a blue jay rolling on an anthill:
One More Thing About Blue Jays... I also learned this week that the distinctive crest on a blue jay's head reflects the bird's emotional state. An erect crest means the jay is excited, surprised or aggressive. A crest that's bristled out in many directions signals that the jay is frightened. If the crest is flat on the jay's head, he or she is relaxed.
Answer to the Last Puzzler
By adding S and rescrambling the letters you can turn: WILTED into WILDEST HEATED into HEADSET and HANGED into GNASHED
How good are you at converting Celsius temperatures to Fahrenheit? Doing the calculation in your head is a fun mental exercise, and with practice it becomes easy.
Let's start with a simple C to F conversion, using 12 degrees Celsius as an example. First double the C temperature (12 becomes 24). Then subtract one-tenth (24 minus 2.4 equals 21.6—or roughly 22). Then add 32 (22 becomes 54). Voila: 12 degrees Celsius equals 54 degrees Fahrenheit. (Or 53.6 if you want to be more exact.)
Try converting 30 degrees Celsius. Double it (60), then subtract one-tenth (60 minus 6 equals 54), then add 32 (54 plus 32 equals 86). 30 degrees C = 86 degrees F.
Time for your test.
Convert each of these Celsius temperatures to Fahrenheit...and yes, I'm throwing you a curveball on number 3:
1) 42 degrees Celsius
2) 5 degrees Celsius
3) minus-20 degrees Celsius