While Jean and I no longer attend meetings of the Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association, the meetings are a little too far away for us, I still subscribe to their email updates. Thus that’s how I was informed of a most incredible set of photographs on the National Geographic website. Here’s how the article opens:
Researchers take advantage of photography technology developed by the U.S. Army to capture beautiful portraits of bees native to North America.
Text by Jane J. Lee
Photography by Sam Droege, USGS
Bees are the workhorses of the insect world. By transferring pollen from one plant to another, they ensure the next generation of the fruits, nuts, vegetables, and wildflowers we so enjoy.
There are 4,000 species of North American bees living north of Mexico, says Sam Droege, head of the bee inventory and monitoring program at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Only 40 of them are introduced species, including the European honeybee. (See “Pictures: Colored Honey Made by Candy-Eating French Bees.”)
Most of the natives are overlooked because “a lot of them are super tiny,” Droege says. “The bulk of the bees in the area are about half the size of a honeybee.”
The native species also go unnoticed because they don’t sting, he adds. They quietly go about their business gathering pollen from flowers in gardens, near sand dunes, or on the edges of parks.
The bee pictured above is a species of carpenter bee from the Dominican Republic known as Xylocopa mordax. It nests in wood or yucca stems, and is closely related to the U.S. species that chews through the wood in backyard decks.
Trust me when I say that to view these images, and more, in their breathtaking beauty you need to go here and revel in what you see and read. Plus, in the text above I didn’t include the many links that are in the Nat Geo site’s version – so go there!
The natural world is so deserving of man’s care and protection.
Today is our first anniversary of living in Oregon.
In many ways, it’s difficult to comprehend that we have now lived in our house a few miles from Merlin, OR, for a full year.
There are so many different, wonderful emotions associated with our move from Arizona to Oregon, of moving into a property quite unlike anything that Jean and I have ever lived in before, of seeing our dogs so happy with their surroundings, of being immersed in Nature, and so much more.
But rather than waffle on about everything in general and nothing in particular, I just want to write about the several acres of grassland that slope down from our house towards Bummer Creek, flowing North-South through the Eastern part of the property.
Having mown the grassland a number of times in the Spring musing that there must be better ways to spend your time, a few weeks ago we came across an article about not mowing lawns. It was on the Mother Nature Network website and here’s how the article started.
Get off your grass and create an edible lawn
What would happen if you stopped watering, fertilizing, pesticiding and mowing your lawn?
Americans currently spend more than $30 billion, millions of gallons of gasoline, and countless hours to maintain the dream of the well-kept 31 million acres of lawns. An estimated 67 million pounds of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides are applied around homes and gardens yearly. Commercial areas such as parks, schools, playing fields, cemeteries, industrial, commercial and government landscapes, apply another 165 million pounds.
Lawn grasses are not native to the North American continent. A century ago, people would actually pull the grass out of their lawns to make room for the more useful weeds that were often incorporated into the family salad or herbal tea. It was the British aristocracy in the 1860s and ’70s, to show off their affluence, that encouraged the trend of weed-free lawns, indicating one had no need of the more common, yet useful plants. Homeowners were encouraged to cultivate lawns that would serve as examples to passers-by. These types of lawns also lent themselves to the popular lawn sports, croquet and lawn tennis. From the 1880s through 1920s in America, front lawns ceased to produce fodder for animals, and garden space was less cultivated, promoting canned food as the “wholesome choice.” Cars replaced the family horse and chemical fertilizers replaced manure.
It has been estimated that about 30 percent of our nation’s water supply goes to water lawns. In Dallas, Texas, watering lawns in the summer uses as much as 60 percent of the city water’s supply.
Next, a newsletter from The Xerces Society mentioned bee feed wildflower seed mixes from a company called Sunmark Seeds in Portland, OR. A call to them quickly produced the answer about what we could sow to help our local bees.
Upon further searching I did find 2 mixes that might fit what you are looking for. They are attached. The Bee Feed Mixture would be $36 per lb. The Honey Bee Flower Mixture would be $38 per lb. The price is a little higher but you would need a lot less. It is suggested 6-12 lbs per acre. You can still add the clover at $5 per lb and you should add 1 oz per lb of wildflower seed. There is still the option of the Knee High Low Profile mix which would be a little less at $30 per lb but the seeding rate is higher at 8-16 lbs per acre.
I have attached a spec sheet on all three mixes. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Decision made. Three pounds of Bee Feed Mix to sow on a half-acre area as a test before we do all five acres next Spring.
Thus not so much later a box arrived with our Bee Feed Mix and the next afternoon saw Jean and me marking out the test area and scattering the seed.
It’s been an amazing year with plenty of challenges as we learnt to be rural people; yet another thing the dogs were able to teach us! However, the joy of living in such beautiful surroundings will last for ever. And more or less picking up on the theme for the week, the sharing, caring community of neighbours around us doubles that joy.
Jean and I consider ourselves two very lucky people. And no more mowing grassland! 🙂
If you eat food, and hope to do so in the future, read this!
I subscribe to Food Freedom News and often read their articles when they appear in my ‘in-box’. Especially so yesterday morning when the headline jumped off the ‘page’ at me: Autism and Disappearing Bees: A Common Denominator?
So, in a sense, hand-in-hand with the article in yesterday’s Learning from DogsFood, glorious food! Because if trying to feed 9 billion people living on a planet where ‘farmers holding seeds that won’t sprout‘ means the even greater use of chemicals then ….. then, I don’t know what!
The Food Freedom website showed that the article came from Brian Moench of the Common Dreams website. Not a website I had come across before but one that quickly impressed me!
A few days ago the Salt Lake Tribune’s front page headline declared, “Highest rate in the nation, 1 in 32 Utah boys has autism.” This is a national public health emergency, whose epicenter is Utah, Gov. Herbert. A more obscure story on the same day read: “New pesticides linked to bee population collapse.” If you eat food, and hope to do so in the future, this is another national emergency, Pres. Obama. A common denominator may underlie both headlines.
A Stanford University study with 192 pairs of twins, with one twin autistic and one not, found that genetics accounts for 38% of the risk of autism, and environmental factors account for 62%.
Supporting an environmental/genetic tag team are other studies showing autistic children and their mothers have a high rate of a genetic deficiency in the production of glutathione, an anti-oxidant and the body’s primary means of detoxifying heavy metals. High levels of toxic metals in children are strongly correlated with the severity of autism. Low levels of glutathione, coupled with high production of another chemical, homocysteine, increase the chance of a mother having an autistic child to one in three. That autism is four times more common among boys than girls is likely related to a defect in the single male X chromosome contributing to anti-oxidant deficiency. There is no such thing as a genetic disease epidemic because genes don’t change that quickly. So the alarming rise in autism must be the result of increased environmental exposures that exploit these genetic defects.
During the critical first three months of gestation a human embryo adds 250,000 brain cells per minute reaching 200 billion by the fifth month. There is no chemical elixir that improves this biologic miracle, but thousands of toxic substances can cross the placenta and impair that process, leaving brain cells stressed, inflamed, less well developed, fewer in number and with fewer connections with each other all of which diminish brain function. The opportunity to repair the resulting deficits later on is limited.
The list of autism’s environmental suspects is long and comes from many studies that show higher rates of autism with greater exposure to flame retardants, plasticizers like BPA, pesticides, endocrine disruptors in personal care products, heavy metals in air pollution, mercury, and pharmaceuticals like anti-depressants. [my emphasis] (Utah’s highest in the nation autism rates are matched by the highest rates of anti-depressant use and the highest mercury levels in the country in the Great Salt Lake).
Doctors have long advised women during pregnancy to avoid any unnecessary consumption of drugs or chemicals. But as participants in modern society we are all now exposed to over 83,000 chemicals from the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the consumer products we use. Pregnant women and their children have 100 times more chemical exposures today than 50 years ago. The average newborn has over 200 different chemicals and heavy metals contaminating its blood when it takes its first breath. 158 of them are toxic to the brain. Little wonder that rates of autism, attention deficit and behavioral disorders are all on the rise.
How does this relate to vanishing bees and our food supply? Two new studies, published simultaneously in the journal Science, show that the rapid rise in use of insecticides is likely responsible for the mass disappearance of bee populations. The world’s food chain hangs in the balance because 90% of native plants require pollinators to survive.
The brain of insects is the intended target of these insecticides. They disrupt the bees homing behavior and their ability to return to the hive, kind of like “bee autism.” But insects are different than humans, right? Human and insect nerve cells share the same basic biologic infrastructure. Chemicals that interrupt electrical impulses in insect nerves will do the same to humans. But humans are much bigger than insects and the doses to humans are miniscule, right?
During critical first trimester development a human is no bigger than an insect so there is every reason to believe that pesticides could wreak havoc with the developing brain of a human embryo. But human embryos aren’t out in corn fields being sprayed with insecticides, are they? A recent study showed that every human tested had the world’s best selling pesticide, Roundup, detectable in their urine at concentrations between five and twenty times the level considered safe for drinking water.
The autism epidemic and disappearing bees are real public health emergencies created by allowing our world to be overwhelmed by environmental toxins. Environmental protection is human protection, especially for the smallest and most vulnerable among us.
Please bring this to the notice of any couples who you know are planning for a family!
If all this sort of information makes you want to curl up and kiss your backside goodnight, then hold on. Next week I hope to publish a summary of a fascinating presentation given to a local women’s group here in Payson that shows the many obvious and easy steps we can all take to revert back to a resilient life on this planet.