Good bee news (for once)

PARIS (Reuters) – A French court suspended on Friday the license for two pesticides made by Dow Chemical, citing uncertainty over environmental risks including their effects on bees.

Can you imagine this happening in the U.S.?

In another amazing citizen triumph, the Australians demanded the end to neonicotinoids, a major bee killing chemical used in agriculture and found in many over the counter insecticides at your local plant nurseries.

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Research suggests neonicotinoids impair bees’ ability to remember how to return to the colony. Photo: Getty

 “Having a beautiful garden is a luxury. Bees are not. They are essential”, stated Dr. Katja Hogendoorn of Adelaida, Australia, who researches behavioral ecology and evolution of native bees. “There is no doubt that pesticides often kill bees”.

Research in recent years has found that even small amounts of this ingredient [neonicotinoids] can be harmful to bees, shutting down their brains.

The chemicals impaired bees’ ability to remember how to return to the colony and to connect the scent of a flower to a food reward (pollen).

Other research has suggested exposure to neonicotinoids causes lower reproductive success and leads to bees dying sooner than they otherwise would.

 

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These days I am more concerned than ever about chemicals and the effects they have on all life forms, including humans. In an era where the EPA is quietly being rendered impotent, it is time for citizens to become informed and demand healthy alternatives. As blocks of consumers, we have incredible clout. Some safe alternatives to pests include bio-solutions of beneficial insects, soaps, bt, sulphur and oils. Research it. Boycott chemicals.

It’s time to evolve as human beings—to a safe, chemical free world—even as Dow, Bayer and Monsanto sell our earth out for profiteering and their bottom lines.

We are all one in the web of life.

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Wildflowerscapes

 

As spring encroaches in fits and starts, it’s time to think of ways to boost your pollinator habitat.

One thing that’s not so easy to do here in the southwest because of the lack of water, is grow wildflowers. But if you are able to keep one little patch watered, the honey is amazing, and bees love native wildflowers. Check the packet to make sure they are New Mexico drought resistant.

If you live in the Midwest or big Ag areas, hand the article below to farmer Joe or your neighbor. You know, the ones who insist on spraying his/her crops or backyard with neonicotinoids or using systemically treated pest resistant plants. Sad reality: those systemically treated plants also kill the good guys, our pollinators. Over time, they sicken bugs and humans alike.

Our British fellows across the Pond are leading the way— not only to increase pollinator habitat—but also to encourage beneficial bugs that eat the nasty devourers of crops. The hope is to STOP using neonicotinoids, the worst class of insecticides for pollinators. (Click on this link to find all the common trade names at your local nursery with such misleading names as Calypso, Prosper, Gaucho, Capstar…)

Here’s the story.

Lining the perimeter of fields with pretty-as-can-be floral borders is a proven way to attract ground beetles, hoverflies and parasitic wasps — not the most lovable-sounding collection of arthropods, to be sure. However, these predatory insects do a solid job of keeping real pests such as aphids in check and, as a result, can help to lower a farm’s reliance on pesticides and increase crop yields. (Added bonus: they attract bees.)

But according to a recent report from the Guardian, ringing fields with wildflowers isn’t quite as effective as it could be considering that the beneficial bugs are only eliminating destructive pests on the outskirts of fields and not toward the center, where there’s an even greater abundance of crop-damaging free meals for the taking. After all, why would a perfectly content bug travel out of its way for an tasty aphid snack when it doesn’t really have to?

“If you imagine the size of a [ground beetle], it’s a bloody long walk to the middle of a field,” explains Richard Pywell of England’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)…And so, Pywell and his colleagues have launched a literal field study that’s more or less a no-brainer when it comes to broadening the range of pest-munching predatory insects: extending the rows of wildflowers inside the fields, in lieu of simply limiting bug-attracting blooms to the periphery. The brightly colored floral strips planted as part of a five-year test-run at 15 farms across eastern and southern England are only six meters (a little under 20 feet) wide. The strips take up a mere smidge — roughly 2 percent — of valuable cropland when spaced about 100 meters (328 part), a distance that allows for pest-eradicating insects to better infiltrate the fields and do what they do best.

( @CEHScienceNews)

 Bon apetit beneficials!

 

 

Bee Lament

Half of my bees are lost. Dead. It’s the national average these days. 50% losses after the winter. Mites? Chemicals? Lack of food/habitat?

Likely all of those things. As Mark Winston, 40 year bee researcher and professor of biology at Simone Fraser University, wrote in Beetime..

We are prone to accept death by a thousand little cuts, in which one degraded aspect of our environment or health becomes familiar and accepted as … Sooner or later, though, there is that thousandth cut, insignificant on its own but deadly in the context of many other cuts.

Mark Winston, Beetime: Lessons from the Hive(Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 2014)81

Today as I grieve my bee losses, I am aware that I live in a society that is cutting itself to death—bees being only the canary in the mine. Our culture of chemicals, poisoned food, toxic politics, gun violence, overpopulation, destruction of our air, land and water, an economic of endless growth, fossil fuel addiction, to name a few…are all contributing to a human world that seems intent on destroying itself.

Somedays I feel the sickness in myself. Acutely. My bees literally feel it.

Do I have hope?

As a glass half full kind of gal, I must also say, half my bees are alive, flying and gathering pollen as Spring approaches! I was overcome with delight when I saw 4 of my hives with the usual buzzbuzz bee life activities.

One thing I took away from Dr. Thomas Seeley’s presentation last weekend on the Hive Mind was the resiliency of honeybees. After years of stalking the wild bee colonies in his local forest of upstate New York, he asked the question, “Why do they persist?

He found out, after years of sampling and observing wild bees that have escaped or swarmed from their domesticated lives with owners like me, that there were two things that allowed them to survive the myriad disasters arrayed against them.

  • Good genes—who they are
  • Good lifestyle–how they live

When they finally leave behind the drudgery and sickness of our industrialized ways of beekeeping, they can find their own rhythm and ways of coping— through natural selection. In studying multiple lineages of queen lines and their genetics, he found that after a huge homogenization, overcrowding, overstressing, over chemicalizing of the European honeybee in this country, they crashed. Bee society had lost their diversity.

Does this sound familiar for our current human dilemma?

Back to bees…The current wild bees living in Seeley’s neighborhood today have changed drastically. In terms of their genetics, their size has changed: “new bees” are smaller and more nimble. Their behavior has changed: they are adaptable and the workers have learned how to kill mites in the uncapped brood cells, before they hatch with these horrors attached to their bodies.

In terms of their lifestyle, they live with much greater distance in their colony spacing, so they don’t readily pass along pathogens and parasites as they do in the intensely crowed bee yards where we keep the hives in close proximity for our convenience. Their nest site is smaller and they have learned to slather they inner hives with propolis, an anti-biotic, antiseptic resin they gather from evergreen trees. In all ways, they are living less crowded, less stressed, less “too big” lives.

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If there is one notable message from honeybees, it lies in the power of their collective response to stress, in the way they allocate work, communicate, make decisions, and balance individual activities with their communal imperatives. Our decision either to emulate honeybees by opting for the collective good or to pursue personal interests and individual gain may be the decisive factor in the success or failure of our response to contemporary environmental challenges. (Mark Winston, Beetime: Lessons from the Hive(Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 2014)17

Sounds like a good recipe for humans.

I end with a lament for the bees and for all of us. It is a prayer for healing. It is attributed to the Ojibway people, the Anishinaabe, who originally stretched from the Great Lakes to Montana.

Grandfather,

look at our brokenness.

We know that in all creation

Only the human family

Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

We know that we are the ones

Who are divided

And we are the ones

Who must come back together

To walk in the Sacred Way.

Grandfather

Sacred One,

Teach us love, compassion, and honor

That we may heal the earth

and heal each other.

Earth Prayers, ed. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991)95

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