Archive for April, 2012

Help Save the Bees–and the People

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

honeybee1

Perhaps you have been following the alarming reports over the last few years of massive die-offs of honeybees. Beekeepers and others in the U.S. and many other countries report steep declines in honeybee populations.  In some parts of the U.S, honeybee populations have fallen by as much as 70% in just a few years.

While I always find it painful when any of our fellow species is threatened, this rapid loss of honeybees could have a dire impact on all of us humans.  Honeybees pollinate so many food crops that scientists say about one in three mouthfuls we humans eat is made possible by honeybee pollination.

After several years of study, many scientists believe the main reason for what they call ‘colony collapse disorder’ is a pesticide called clothianidin.  Used on corn and other agricultural crops, clothianidin is part of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which have been in use since the mid-1990s—the same time mass bee disappearances began occurring.

Scientists believe that honeybees are ingesting clothianidin on their daily pollination rounds.  Like other neonicotinoids, clothianidin blocks specific neural pathways in insects’ central nervous system, thus impairing communication, homing and foraging abilities, and also interfering with insects’ flight and their ability to  discriminate by smell.

Clothianidin has been banned in Italy, France, and Germany.  But in the U.S., clothianidin has been used widely for well over a decade, even though it was never officially licensed by the EPA. While the EPA is required by law to license only pesticides that meet standards for protection of human and environmental health, pesticide law allows EPA to waive those requirements and to allow the use of a new pesticide on a ‘conditional’ basis when health and safety data are lacking.  Even though the pesticide manufacturer is required to submit valid safety to the EPA by the end of the conditional use period, clothianidin’s manufacturer Bayer, has never done so.  EPA has failed to follow its own rules, failing to protect human and environmental safety.

The future of honeybees and our own future are inextricably linked.  Please strengthen the public call for a halt to the use of neonicotinoids like clothianidin.   Please help stop honeybees’ decline and restore their populations.  You can help by doing the following:

  • Contact the Bayer Corporation, and insist that they stop marketing clothianidin because it is a serious threat to our ability to continue to grow the foods we depend on.   https://secure.bayer.com/bayer/contact.aspx?lang=en
  • Call EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at 202-564-4700.  Urge the agency to suspend the registration of clothianidin to stop the rapid and steep decline of U.S. honeybee populations, essential to the continued pollination of necessary food crops.
  • Learn more about honeybees and the threats they face by checking out the Beyond Pesticides website, http://www.beyondpesticides.org/   April Moore

Earth Day Inspiration

Friday, April 20th, 2012

With Earth Day just a few days away, I have been thinking and thinking about what I want to post on TheEarthConnection.

I considered posting Al Gore’s 2012 Earth Day remarks which pay tribute to one of my heroes, Rachel Carson.  But while important, his remarks did not convey a feeling of celebration.

I also considered a series of photos with the message that in just a generation we humans have done more harm to our planet than all previous generations combined.  This message, while also important, felt too heavy for the one day of the year set aside to celebrate Planet Earth.

I even considered writing about a painful experience I had this morning.  A robin flew into our window.  During the hour or more that the bird remained almost motionless before flying away, I thought about how all of us humans, even those of us who truly love birds, are living in ways that make their lives very difficult.

Then I read a Biblical verse sent to me by my friend Patsy.  Job 12:8.  “Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.”

Yes!  This short verse reminds me that by speaking to the earth–when I acknowledge my deep connection with it–nature offers me valuable lessons.  It shows me that calmness, peace, a deep feeling of rightness, come from opening my heart and mind to nature.  The earth is an always available source of strength and healing.

So, despite the horrific damage being done to our gorgeous planet every day, on Earth Day I will focus on ‘speaking’ to the earth, to opening myself to its healing lessons.

I invite you to play this short video, to take a few minutes to revel in the beauty of this planet we are lucky enough to call home.–April Moore

watch?v=dwF5XomHvcg


The Buzz in New York City–a ‘New’ Bee!

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

I love hearing about discoveries of ‘new’ animals and plants!  Such discoveries remind me that the web of life is even more complex and intricate than we’ve known, that despite the great knowledge science has amassed, there are species sharing our planet about whom we know absolutely nothing.

Several insect discoveries of the past few years are especially exciting because of where these ‘new’ insects have been discovered–New York City!  Yes, four ‘new’ bee species, previously unknown to science, have been living right alongside human beings in one of the most urban areas on the planet.

All four of the ‘new’ species are sweat bees, small bees named for their attraction to human sweat.  And of the four, the one getting the most attention has been nicknamed the Gotham Bee.  That’s right–Gotham, as in New York City.

The Gotham Bee, or Lasioglossum gotham if you want to get scientific about it, was first noticed in 2009 in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden by John Ascher, a bee researcher at the American Museum of Natural History.  Ascher was conducting a citywide bee biology survey in New York City’s parks and forested areas.

“This little bee has been quietly living in the city, pollinating flowers in people’s gardens for years,” says Jason Gibbs, co-author with Ascher of an article about the discovery in the journal Zootaxa.  Because the Gotham Bee looks so similar to other sweat bees, no one realized it was a distinct species.

But now we have new techniques for identifying species.  DNA bar coding and digital imaging enable scientists to distinguish new species from others they resemble closely.

As it turns out, New York City seems to be a great place for bees.  More than 200 bee species live in and around the city, performing their vital function of pollinating flowers all over the city.  This rich biodiversity, Ascher explains, is the result of the city’s large number of parks and the presence of such ecologically rich areas as Jamaica Bay.

One reason the discovery has brought pleasure to so many is that the existence of ‘new’ bee species, even in a well-studied urban area, suggests that there are many other animals yet to be discovered.–April Moore

gotham-bee




Life In the Nest–Up Close and Personal

Friday, April 6th, 2012

I thank my friend Elizabeth for forwarding me the links to two bird cams. It’s fun to be a ‘voyeur,’ to observe birds’ nesting activities without disturbing the birds.

In the first cam, you can watch a red-tailed hawk incubating three eggs in her nest.  The nest sits atop an 80 foot-tall light pole on a Cornell University athletic field.  The eggs are expected to hatch around April 13.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=2422

In the second cam, you’ll see a great blue heron sitting on her four eggs in a nest high above a pond in a woods near the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York.  Her eggs are expected to hatch at the end of the month.  I especially enjoy looking at the heron because I’ve never seen this long-legged bird with folded legs, sitting on a nest.  I have only seen great blue herons stalking fish in a stream, perched in a tree, or in flight, but never before on a nest.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=2433

In addition to the chance to check in periodically–and even to plan a ‘visit’ when the eggs are hatching–these links also provide informative text about these two bird species and their habits.  Enjoy.–April Moore

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