Zombees and hipster beard scents

THE WEST

Marketers can sell anything, it seems, even metaphors. You can now buy an air freshener that mimics not the true scent of a national park, which might be a noxious blend of car exhaust and smoke from surrounding wildfires, but the very “spirit of our nation’s pristine treasures.” Air Wick’s take on spirit in the Smoky Mountains happens to be “warm spice and twilight;” at Acadia National Park it’s a foray into the kitchen for the aromas of “sweet vanilla and pumpkins,” while at Shenandoah National Park, the smells are “cedarwood and cinnamon spice.” Without a smidgeon of irony, the National Park Foundation says it collaborated with Air Wick on the new line “so you can enjoy the scents of fall in your home.” Saves on gas, too.

Not to be outdone, Portland, Ore.-based Antler & Co. has come up with a box of little sticks that you ignite, blow out and then waft the smoke “onto your hipster beard.” Voila! Thanks to Campfire Cologne, reports laughingsquid.com, you emanate the smell of a sooty campfire without actually having to hike anywhere or put up a tent. The makers call the smoke permeating a man’s beard nothing less than a “nostalgic ode to cooking over the fire, secret swimming holes and the unending days of youth. Use it frequently, transport yourself, live the dream.” Also saves on gas.

MONTANA

A couple in Roundup, Mont., was apparently under the influence of drugs when they called the police to report a bleeding intruder who seemed to be expiring on a bed. Well, not exactly, says The Associated Press, though there was a bed of 262 growing marijuana plants into which Rachael Hanlon “fired four guns while her husband reloaded them and cleared jams.” Federal charges are pending against the misguided couple.

Speaking of guns and unlikely associations, the front page of the Daily Inter Lake of Kalispell, Mont., featured an ad for a raffle that would benefit the Stillwater Christian School. Only 1,000 tickets would be sold, and the lucky winner — selected at a Shoot Out event — would take home a fancy assault rifle valued at $905.

COLORADO

AND WASHINGTON

Zombies must be a little too much in movie news these days. Maureen Briggs of Montrose, Colo., was fishing at Lost Lake on the Gunnison National Forest when a man and his two sons hiked by, with the younger boy asking, “Have you seen any zombies here?” Her reply: “Not yet.”

But in Kent, Wash., a suburb of Seattle, residents are witnessing a real invasion of the living dead, reports The Seattle Times, as zombie bees, or “zombees,” flood the area. Unlike healthy bees that go to sleep at night, zombees stay active, buzzing around lights “in jerky patterns and finally flopping on the floor.” It’s all the fault of female scuttle flies, a small parasitic species. They land on the backs of foraging honeybees, and using their “needle-sharp ovipositors,” send eggs into the bees’ abdomens. “They basically eat the insides out of the bee,”says John Hafernik, a San Francisco State University biologist, who has begun tracking the spread of the zombees. And in a departure from the plot of horror movies about aliens, “it’s the parasite that’s native to North America, not the bees,” which settlers imported from Europe centuries ago. Zombees have been spotted in California, with 80 percent of hives in the San Francisco Bay Area infected, as well as western Washington, Oregon, and South Dakota. For the latest information gathered and shared by interested citizens, check ZombeeWatch.org.

MONTANA AND COLORADO

By now, everyone surely knows the mantra, “A fed bear is a dead bear,” but in Heron, Mont., a community near the Idaho border, Barbara Sweeney told the Sanders County Ledger that she’d been feeding many bears for a long time because they needed her help “to survive in the wild.” During the 22 years she ran an animal sanctuary, she said, people would drop off orphan bears that needed to learn “to run from outfitters and pickups.” Sweeney, who insists she never knew that what she was doing was illegal, is distressed because wardens from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks recently captured and destroyed seven bears that Sweeney had been feeding — including a 495-pound male and 300-pound female. “People have known I’ve been doing this for years,” she said. “If they would have said something, I would have stopped. I can’t get over killing these animals.” A spokesman for the state wildlife agency said that feeding bears was a safety hazard and that doing so leads directly to their death.

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write betsym@hcn.org.

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