Dandelions deserve a gold medal. One of the first links in that magical chain of events bringing dinner to our tables, this sunny flower is one of the first spring foods for bees. If bees survive the winter, they look to dandelions and other wildflowers for nutrition — so they can begin the work of pollinating our fruits and vegetables. As you know, the bees are in a pickle right now. Their population is dwindling. Let’s not kill off anything that helps the bees!
Outlawing a type of insecticides is not a panacea.]
As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s Apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.
Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.
When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.
Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.
“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.
The journal Nature is out with a one-two punch of studies that carry bad news for our besieged bee populations. The first finds strong evidence that the class of insecticides long suspected to be harming the pollinators is indeed affecting the growth and reproductive abilities of wild bees. And the second finds that bees are getting hooked on the chemicals, and actively seeking them out.
95% of surveyed consumers buy organic food because they think it is pesticide free. Organic farmers can legally use pesticides labelled as ‘organic’ or 'natural,’ but nearly half of the natural pesticides used in the US are illegal and deemed unsafe in Europe. Source
Natural and Harmless Alternatives to Garden Pesticides
Unfortunately, many people choose to use cruel methods that either injure or kill garden visitors. I think the problem is that most people are not aware that there are other ways to protect your garden that don’t require you to harm any living beings.
The best way to keep your garden healthy is to really be a part of your garden. You will be amazed at the big, complex world going on in your backyard (or front yard, or patio or whatever you have the space for). Sit down one day in your garden and just look closely and quietly. Incredible stuff.
You can plant some “sacrifice” plants in various parts of the yard which is often ones that we don’t like so much, but the bugs do. These include plants from the cabbage family and some others that you can let go to seed purposely. These will naturally attract the most destructive bugs. This may entail some experimentation on your behalf, to note where they like to hang out the most.
Consider having an open style compost bin. You can have both an open version and a closed one. The open bin can be made with just a few old car tyres stacked up beside the house, where it is too shady to grow anything. Throw plant clippings and some old cabbage/broccoli leaves/plants in there and deposit the collected bugs there. That way they have some food and a way to get out if they wish.
Another method is to take an empty bucket or container and carefully remove the caterpillars or another bug that you can spot. Take these to your ‘sacrifice’ plants or your open compost bin, depending on how many you have. Use gloves to do this as some hairy caterpillars can give you a nasty rash.
White cabbage moths, which look like white butterflies with black spots, will lay tonnes of eggs on your cabbage family plants (broccoli, bok choy, Brussel sprouts etc) but you can trick them into thinking the plants are in a territory of other moths. Thread some of the white, Styrofoam peanut-shaped packing thingies (or cut out shapes from plastic containers) onto the string and hang them above your plants. These look like other white moths have already taken those plants, and often encourages them to find somewhere else. Worth a try anyway.
If you have aphids, you will probably have ladybugs in the vicinity. Most of the time they will migrate to the affected plants, however, if you find a plant covered in aphids and no ladybugs, just take a look around for them elsewhere in your garden and carefully transfer a couple. I don’t know how they do it, but these freshly fed ladybugs will soon send out the appropriate signals and others will come. I notice most aphid problems disappear after a few days.
Snails and slugs always seem to attack the freshly planted seedlings after a nice raindrop or too. Don’t use snail bait, firstly as they are dangerous to the kids and dogs, and as they are nasty to the snails. Use copper strips and sawdust to stop them from getting into the beds. The copper gives them an annoying electric zap as they crawl across them and saw dust also irritates them. Be sure to use dust from non-treated wood as older-style treated wood can contain nasties like arsenic!
Pill Bugs or slater beetles or roly-poly bugs are the janitors of the garden, cleaning up all rotting fruit and vegetables. Sometimes they get a bit excited and eat stuff that you can use still. They love eating ripe strawberries so make sure to pick them every day. Keep them distracted by leaving a few orange halves around your garden. They will flock to them. If you do find them eating something you don’t want them to, gently brush them off and give the fruit or veg a good wash before eating it.
We all have plastic bottles or cartons left over from juice/milk substitutes. Before putting these in your recycle bin, cut them into sections about 10-15 cms high. Simply cut through the middle section of the carton leaving a ring-like section, open both top and bottom. Place these protective guards around your seedlings, pushing them a little way into the ground, until they are established. These will stop most slugs or snails getting to them. Make sure you take them off though as I have forgotten a couple in the past, on the large plants. Tricky to cut them off without damaging the plant stems. They will keep for many seasons as long as you wash well and store them out of the weather.
If at all possible, build your garden beds up with raised beds. You can try out some second hand (imperfect) cement blocks. They have a lovely textured finish like bluestones and the slugs/snails don’t like crawling up them. Bonus: they are simple to keep weed free and are easy on your back. They are about 2 ½ feet high and you can overplant them to your heart’s content. Solves any rabbit issues too. Other products you can use are recycled tin, reclaimed wooden train sleepers, old bricks or whatever you can get your hands which are free or, at least, doesn’t cost too much $. Remember: one person’s garbage can be another person’s treasure…
Use netting to stop birds and bats from eating all of your fruit but make sure that they can see it (or hear it in the bat’s case). Add some old, shiny CDs to the netting that act as a further deterrent or warning. They also look pretty, reflecting light around the garden! Make sure you check your nets for any creatures that may have gotten stuck. Alternatively, if you are feeling generous, leave off the nets and share with your bird/bat friends.
A lot of pest control will be a bit of a hit & miss affair and require some experimentation. These are ways which I have found to work in my little patch of earth so I would encourage you to try these, and try out your own ideas. Just like most recipes can be turned vegan, most problems in the garden can be solved cruelty-free. I would be happy to help out with any specific pest issues that you may be experiencing. Just drop me a line. I would love to hear any suggests that you may have too!
Aphids (plant lice): Plant chives, marigolds, mint, basil, or cilantro or place aluminum foil at the base of your plants. The foil reflects light onto the undersides of the leaves, which scares away aphids.
Ants: If ants are coming in through the cracks of doors and windows, pour a line of cream of tartar where they enter the house, and they will not cross over it. A cinnamon stick, coffee grinds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves, or dried peppermint leaves near the openings will repel ants. You can also squeeze the juice of a lemon at the entry spot and leave the peel there. Planting mint around the foundation of the house will also keep ants away. Place cloves of garlic around indoor and outdoor ant pathways.
Cockroaches: Create sachets of catnip and place them throughout the infested area (your cat will love you!). Cockroaches like high places so put a few sachets on top of shelves and other elevated surfaces. Bay leaves, cucumbers, and garlic can also help to keep cockroaches away.
Codling moths: Use a cheesecloth square full of lavender, chives and garlic, or cedar chips. Try adding cedar oil, rosemary, dried lemon peels, or rose petals.
Deer: Place some soap shavings or used cat litter along the ground to create a boundary between their grazing area and your garden. Also, try hanging a salt lick in their path to distract them from your plants.
Grasshoppers: Simply spray garlic oil where you don’t want them, or plant calendula, horehound (a bitter herb), or cilantro.
Japanese beetles: Try chives, garlic, rue, and catnip.
Mice: Use mint plants, especially peppermint plants! Mice really dislike peppermint and will avoid any areas where it grows.
Mites (spider and clover): Try planting alder, coriander, or dill, and use rye mulch and wheat mulch.
Rabbits: Sprinkle chili pepper around plants (it must be reapplied if it gets wet). Install oven racks around plants. Rabbits tend to dislike their texture and the way that they feel on their feet. Other natural rabbit repellents include bellflowers, astilbes, asters, yarrows, cranesbills, hostas, lavender, sage, and other textured or thorny plants.
Slugs: Place mint, lemon balm, human hair (remove excess hair from hair brushes and place in gardens), pine needles, cosmos, sage, or parsley in your garden.
Ticks and fleas: Plant mint, sweet woodruff, rosemary, and lavender. Also, try placing cedar chips in your garden. They smell great to you … but not to fleas and ticks!
“We found that four of the pesticides most commonly found in beehives kill bee larvae,” said Jim Frazier, professor of entomology, Penn State. “We also found that the negative effects of these pesticides are sometimes greater when the pesticides occur in combinations within the hive. Since pesticide safety is judged almost entirely on adult honeybee sensitivity to individual pesticides and also does not consider mixtures of pesticides, the risk assessment process that the Environmental Protection Agency uses should be changed.”
Wanyi Zhu, Daniel R. Schmehl, Christopher A. Mullin, James L. Frazier. Four Common Pesticides, Their Mixtures and a Formulation Solvent in the Hive Environment Have High Oral Toxicity to Honey Bee Larvae. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (1): e77547 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077547
Bee feeding larva in the hive. Credit: Maryann Frazier/Penn State
Victorino began picking strawberries, blueberries, grapes and other seasonal crops on the West Coast 20 years ago when he was 18. Today, he has cataracts and wishes to keep his 18-year-old son out of the fields.
I’ve been exposed to pesticides many times. Now, I try to protect myself because I know better than to count on anyone else to look after us. Just today, the field next to where we were working was being sprayed. We asked, “Hey, what are you doing?” They replied, “Don’t worry. It is just sulfur.” Because of the lack of enforcement, even if we did complain, no one would investigate or take action.
When the wind is blowing in my direction and I see a drift coming towards me, I walk away and cover my nose and mouth with my sweatshirt. Even if they get mad at me for walking away, I am simply not going to put myself in harm’s way anymore.
We are forced to work in toxic fields, because the supervisors aren’t being supervised. In the fields, my eyes are always irritated. I have cataracts now, and I can’t afford to get my eyes fixed. Many people in the fields have damaged eyes.
Photo essay originally published at Earthjustice.org: The Toxic Secret of California’s Salad Bowl
The farmworkers who help bring fresh fruit and produce to your table aren’t protected by the safety standards most workers in the U.S. enjoy. They rely on the Worker Protection Standard, an outdated rule the EPA claims it will revise before the Obama Administration leaves office. Take Action!
May 27 marks the 107th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Louise Carson, the environmentalist whose research led to the 1972 banning, in the United States, of [DDT].
The American-born marine biologist and writer is best known for her 1962 book Silent Spring, which is credited with launching the global contemporary environmental movement.
Silent Spring focuses on the impact of synthetic pesticides on the environment—with the title referring to the absence of birdsong across swathes of agricultural landscape following the widespread introduction of pesticides and other intensive farming practices.
The book sparked a public outcry, bringing to widespread attention the effects of these chemicals both on the ecosystem and on human health.
Although her research was attacked by chemical companies, a decade after her book was published, and years after her death, her book led to a nationwide ban of DDT, a colourless and crystalline organochloride with insecticidal properties, and other pesticides. Silent Spring demonstrated that these pesticides could cause cancer and that their agricultural use was a threat to wildlife, particularly to birds.
On Thursday, a federal appeals court struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of a pesticide called sulfoxaflor. Marketed by agrichemical giant Dow AgroSciences, sulfoxaflor belongs to a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which have been implicated by a growing weight of evidence in the global crisis in bee health.
In a blunt opinion, the court cited the “precariousness of bee populations” and “flawed and limited data” submitted by Dow on the pesticide’s effects on beleaguered pollinating insects…
***SHARE THIS ARTICLE FAR & WIDE TO GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT THIS REVOLUTIONARY PATENT. ***
In 2006, a patent was granted to a man named Paul Stamets. Though Paul is the world’s leading mycologist, his patent has received very little attention and exposure.
The mycologist has figured out how to use mother nature’s own creations to keep insects from destroying crops. It’s what is being called SMART pesticides. These pesticides provide safe & nearly permanent solution for controlling over 200,000 species of insects - and all thanks to the ‘magic’ of mushrooms.
Monsanto’s chemical concoctions which are being sprayed all over farmers’ fields around the world are attributed to the large-scale bee die off. To say that new methods need to be implemented before it is too late is an understatement.
Monsanto presently generates $16 billion dollars per year (as reported in 2014), therefore you can be certain they do not want anything interrupting that flow of revenue. Such income gives them nearly limitless resources and abilities to suppress information that may be damaging their reputation.
Breaking news: A terrifying new study has found that the exact same pesticides causing the massive global bee die-off are now killing birds as well.
The global bee die-off has been happening so fast that scientists are still scrambling to detect all the impacts. And now, this new study also finds that neonic pesticides are killing warblers, swallows, starlings and thrushes nearly as fast as the bees – at current rates, 35 percent of the bird population will disappear in just 10 years in the areas studied.
In Europe, there’s a moratorium on bee and bird-killing neonics. Ontario, Canada’s biggest province, is close to becoming the first major territory in North America to ban them as well.
But Bayer – one of the biggest producers of these toxic pesticides – has an army of lawyers suing to overturn Europe’s ban, and their million-dollar lobbyists are fighting to kill Ontario’s bee protection bill. The only way we can win is if we all fight back together.
First study showing pesticide exposure can affect crop pollination by bees
For the first time an international team of researchers have shown that pesticides impair the pollination services provided by
Bees play a vital role in pollinating some of the most important
food crops globally and have been declining in recent years. Until now research
on pesticide effects has been limited to their impact on bees, rather than the
pollination services they provide.
The study discovered that
bumblebees exposed to a realistic level of neonicotinoid pesticides found in
agricultural environments collected pollen from apple trees less often and visited
flowers less frequently.
The findings of this study have important implications for both society and the economy, as insect pollination services to crops are worth at least $361Bn worldwide every year, and are vital to the functioning of natural ecosystem.
The Death Of Bees Explained – Parasites, Poison and HumansBy Kurz Gesagt
In 2015 the bees are still dying in masses. Which at first seems not very important until you realize that one third of all food humans consume would disappear with them. Millions could starve. The foes bees face are truly horrifying – some are a direct consequence of human greed. We need to help our small buzzing friends or we will face extremely unpleasant consequences.
Meet the pesticide giant with a plan to exterminate our bees.
The pesticide corporation Syngenta wants the US to increase the use of bee-killing pesticides by 40,000%. Please sign this petition to stop this dramatic increase of bee-killing pesticides in the US. Bees are an important, harmless, hard-working, and extremely crucial part of our ecosystem. This dramatic increase in bee-killing pesticides could mean the death of all bees, and would be devastating to our ecosystem, causing a severe shortage in fruits and vegetables.
The petition needs approximately 12,000 more signatures.