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Is the Loss of Insects a Desperate Cry for Help From a Planet Under Assault?

Is the Loss of Insects a Desperate Cry for Help From a Planet Under Assault?

It’s already too late for millions of insect, plant, and animal species that have gone extinct; it may soon be too late for us if we don’t wake the hell up and take decisive action…

Not a single insect anywhere in sight…

It’s early summer here in the Pacific Northwest and the flowers are blooming; above is a photo Louise took with her iPhone yesterday morning as we were walking along the Columbia River. The hillside is ablaze with wildflowers.

But it was also eerily silent. Look carefully: No matter how much you enlarge the photo you’ll not see a single insect. Thirty years ago this hillside was swarmed with bees, flies, and dozens of other winged bugs. Today, although pretty, walking by it felt like I was passing a graveyard.

I’ll never forget the day the trucker called into my radio show from southern Illinois. It was about seventeen years ago, and he was a long-haul driver who regularly ran a coast-to-coast route from the southeast to the Pacific Northwest a few dozen times a year.

“Used to be when I was driving through the southern part of the Midwest like I am right now,” he said, “I’d have to stop every few hours to clean the bugs off my windshield. It’s been three days since I’ve had to clean bugs off my windshield on this trip. There’s something spooky going on out here.”

The phone lines lit up. People from Maine to California, from Florida to Washington state shared their stories of the vanishing insects where they lived. Multiple long-haul truckers listening on SiriusXM had similar stories.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bee Lawns: What’s all the buzz about?

Purple flowers growing amongst grass

Bee Lawns: What’s all the buzz about?

A bee lawn is a way to benefit pollinators in our landscapes by providing additional floral resources, and often utilizes a mix of low-growing flowering plants in addition to turf species. Although flower gardens also provide flowering plants for pollinators, bee lawns can be multi-functional in their usability for recreational purposes with the added benefit of providing food for bees.

Habitat loss is one of the major factors implicated in the global declines of native bee species. Providing resources utilized by these critical pollinators can assist in mitigating this. Research through University of Minnesota has found 50 species of bees utilizing the flowers in bee lawns.

The purpose of bee lawns includes providing nutritious sources of nectar and pollen for pollinators, especially in urban environments, where these resources can often be scarce and difficult to find. Additional factors include recreational usability, and reducing inputs, e.g., irrigation, nutrients, weed control, and time spent mowing. Flowering plants suited for bee lawns have a variety of common characteristics including: low-growing and flowering heights, perennial life cycles, the ability to persist with turf species, and tolerance of mowing and foot traffic.

An important consideration is that bee lawns don’t necessarily mean weedy lawns or no-maintenance lawns, but instead require different types of management and serve different functions than traditional turfgrass lawns.

Not all bee lawns are created equal, and some work better than others.

Here are some turfgrass species that can work well for bee lawns:

Cool-season turf

A mix of fine fescues (which includes species such as: creeping red fescue, chewings fescue, hard fescue, and sheep fescue) are some of the best options for bee lawns due to reduced needs for inputs including irrigation, fertilizer, and weed controls, in addition to their compatibility with flowering plants…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The Bee Project

“The Bee Project” installation in Historical Bohemian District in Cedar Rapids Iowa April-November 2021 Photograph by Brendan Pole

If you drive through the historical Bohemian Village in Cedar Rapids, you can see large bright yellow hexagonal structures covered with hundreds of bees made from recycled materials.

 One might see children playing around the installation, like the boy in this photograph, admiring the bee made from a Rubik’s cube – he thinks it’s such an inventive idea! He, his younger sister, and their cousin made their bees from plastic bottles and tape and added them to the installation a few weeks earlier. Now they are often checking on their own and other people’s creations: there is an enormous bee made from two biking helmets, there is a tiny one from the nail polish bottle, there is a bee crocheted from yellow and black yarn, there is one made from old plastic toy and used kitchen mixing bowl! Furthermore, it’s a great place to hang out with friends!     

 Photograph by Brendan Pole

And there is more to come. Starting this April, two more public works by Russian American multimedia artist Elena Smyrniotis will be installed in Iowa. Growing up, Elena spent summers in her grandmother’s village, well known for beekeeping, where she roamed the open fields bursting with wildflowers and bees. These early memories reoccurred in The Bee Project, developed during her Grant Wood Artist Fellowship at the University of Iowa. The Bee Project is a community engaging art installation designed by the artist in collaboration with the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability and the Environment, the Office of Community Engagement, Grant Wood Art Colony, Indian Creek Nature Center, and Czech Village/New Bohemian District in Cedar Rapids, Iowa…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

American Bumblebee Takes Step Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

American Bumblebee Takes Step Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

Bumblebee Once Found Across Country Has Nearly Vanished From 16 States

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the American bumblebee, whose populations have plummeted by nearly 90%, may warrant Endangered Species Act protection. The announcement kicks off a one-year status assessment of the species.

Today’s finding comes in response to a petition filed in 2021 by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Bombus Pollinator Association of Law Students of Albany Law School. Only two bumblebees — the rusty patched and Franklin’s — are now protected under the Act.

The American bumblebee was once common in open prairies, grasslands and urban areas across most of the United States but has experienced a rapid and severe decline. Over the past 20 years, it has disappeared or become very rare in 16 states; overall, observations of the bee have declined by nearly 90%.

“This is an important first step in preventing the extinction of this fuzzy black-and-yellow beauty that was once a familiar sight,” said Jess Tyler, a Center scientist and petition co-author. “To survive unchecked threats of disease, habitat loss and pesticide poisoning, American bumblebees need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act right now.”

American bumblebees are highly recognizable across the eastern United States, where they’re most common; the largest remaining populations are in the southern Great Plains and Southeast. But the bees are also found in southwestern deserts and, historically, as far north as North Dakota and Maine.

They buzz across a wide range of open habitats, where they forage on a variety of flowering plants. The decline of this once-common species could have serious consequences for ecosystems: their varied diet makes them a highly important pollinator, essential for wild plant life as well as for the production of cultivated crops.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

These 3 tips will help you create a thriving pollinator-friendly garden this winter

These 3 tips will help you create a thriving pollinator-friendly garden this winter

The busy buzz of pollinating bees is a sound most of us associate with summer. If you live in temperate regions of Australia, you may start to notice fewer insects as the weather gets colder. Across most of the continent, however, some flower-visiting insects are active all year round – and some are more common in cooler months.

Planting winter-blooming flowers is a great way to support beneficial garden insects. Now is the perfect time to start planning your pollinator-friendly winter garden.

Flowers are an important source of food for insects such as bees, butterflies, wasps and hoverflies. Sugary nectar is an important source of carbohydrates, while pollen packs a powerful protein punch.

Planting flowers also attracts and sustains predatory insects. This can help keep pest species under control, meaning less need for pesticides.

cabbage garden
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay Planting flowers means less need for pesticides.

Know your winter-active insects

First, let’s look at which pollinators and helpful predators you can expect in your garden in winter.
This guide, as well as the below gardening tips, applies primarily to temperate regions of Australia where temperatures become cool over winter.

The temperate region comprises the areas shown in blue below. It includes the coastal rim that curves from inland of Brisbane down to Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as Tasmania and the southwest tip of Western Australia.

Australian climate zone map
Australian climate zone map – Bureau of Meteorology

One of the most common pollinators is the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera). This introduced species evolved in cooler regions of the world and tends to be more cold-tolerant than most native bees. They’ll start to leave the hive when the temperature rises above 13℃, but are most active above 19℃.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Five of Our Favourite Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects

Five of Our Favourite Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects

All organisms are beneficial, and at the very least all organisms past, present and future decompose to nourish something else, but when we speak of beneficial organisms we are speaking of those organisms that provide clear and present benefits, specifically to our polyculture activity. Beneficial organisms, or Borgs as we like to call them, provide benefits to our activity of growing the stuff we need. They seem to be happy to carry out these duties providing we supply (or at the very least don’t destroy) suitable living conditions for them, i.e, habitat. The benefits these organisms offer come mainly in the form of increasing the productivity of our crops via pollination support, protecting our crops from pests via pest predation and providing fertility to our crops via their roles in decomposing organic matter and supplying nutrients, fertility provision.

In this post, we’re identifying some of the plants whose flowers are total Borg magnets. All the plants mentioned in this post with the exception of one are in the Umbelliferous or Apiaceae family, whose flower heads readily attract large numbers of Borgs and appear to drive them into something of a frenzy! Some of these flower heads are edible to humans, and others deadly poisonous, but all are shaped like an umbrella. The curved flower stems and flower buds are essentially clustered in yet another small umbrella, and this structure allows Borgs easy access to forage.  It’s not just this that pulls in the punters though – insects looking for a mate find love in the umbels, and predators take advantage of this busy meeting space.

Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Study warns US farmland is now 48 TIMES more TOXIC to insects: Are neonicotinoids to blame for the impending “insect apocalypse?”

Image: Study warns US farmland is now 48 TIMES more TOXIC to insects: Are neonicotinoids to blame for the impending “insect apocalypse?”

(Natural News) Researchers have determined that the nation’s farmland is now 48 times more toxic to insects than it was just 25 years ago, and much of this rise in toxicity is being blamed on the widespread use of a dangerous category of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

The study, which was published in the PLOS ONE journal, provided a thorough assessment of the use of pesticides in America and was the first study to determine just how dangerous our fields have grown for insects in recent years. The role of pesticides was dramatic; the scientists found that neonicotinoids were responsible for a remarkable 92 percent of the rise in toxicity.

Part of the problem is that neonicotinoids create a cumulative toxic burden because they are far more persistent within the environment than other types of commonly used insecticides, which is why the burden today is so much higher than it was a quarter century ago and is likely to grow even higher.

Study co-author Kendra Klein, Ph.D., said: “It is alarming that U.S. agriculture has become so much more toxic to insect life in the past two decades. We need to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees and other insects that are critical to biodiversity and the farms that feed us.”

She also called for a shift from our food system’s dependence on dangerous pesticides toward organic methods of farming that work in harmony with nature instead of destroying it.

Will there be any insects left on our planet in the decades to come?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

This Small Change Increased Bee Populations by 45%

This Small Change Increased Bee Populations by 45%

Scientists in Amsterdam have found ways to help their bee population regain its health. Here's how to implement some of their methods in your community.
For quite some time, scientists across the world have been warning the public about the decline of bees and other pollinators.

We’ve known for years that bee populations all across North America and Europe are collapsing at an alarming rate.

Our very existence relies on the tiny buzzing creatures, as we explained in Will the Extinction of Bees Really Mean the End of Humanity?

This is a huge threat to our food supply. One-third of all the food we eat comes from plants that are pollinated by insects, and 80% of those crops are pollinated by bees. It also has big implications for our meat supply as well: plants (like alfalfa) that feed animals are pollinated by bees.

The largest international survey of insect pollinators found that just 2 percent of wild bee species now account for 80 percent of global crop pollination.

Put bluntly, if all the bees die, humanity will follow.

There is one place where bee populations are growing and flourishing – Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands.

According to a recent report from NBC News, the diversity of wild bee and honeybee species in the Dutch capital has increased by 45 percent since 2000!

The city of 2.3 million people attributes the success to creating bee-friendly environments like the overgrown, sunburnt patch of shrubs that commuters pass by daily.

The installation of “insect hotels” and a ban on the use of chemical pesticides on public land also appear to have played a role.

Geert Timmermans, an ecologist who works for the city, explained that four years ago, Amsterdam set a goal to convert half of all public green spaces to native plants. He added that residents and local businesses are provided with information on how to avoid using pesticides and the use of alternative treatments:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Thoughts From The Precipice

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Thoughts From The Precipice

Things are worsening. But we’re not over the edge quite yet.

As you already know, things are unraveling. The narratives of the past are being revealed as false and fraudulent — even harmful.

For example, the fallacy of pursuing “ever more” growth. Growth up to a point is beneficial, but it turns self-destructive when it exceeds what available resources can sustain.

As it is practiced, economic growth as pursued around the world today is now destructive. If we continue on our current trajectory, it will become fatal.

It already has for an increasing scope of the natural world. Beauty is being ruined. The complex web of life is being shredded. Species loss is accelerating.

This kind of damage is essentially permanent.

Pollinator Collapse

Right now insect ecologists the world over are utterly horrified by the declines in insect populations. “Crashing” is not too strong of a term.

It’s almost as if the Rapture happened; but instead of humans, it’s the insects who were taken.

A healthy, prudent response by a healthy, prudent culture would be to immediately ban any insecticides suspected of contirbuting to the problem. And to swiftly deploy a serious scientific resources into studying the issue.

Nothing of the sort is happening in the US yet. Few other countries are, either; with the exception of France.  This is really positive news:.

France Is The First Country To Ban All Five Bee-Killing Pesticides

Nov 21, 2018

With bees on the endangered list and the terrible consequences that will come to pass if they become extinct, France has taken a drastic step in an attempt to save the population of pollinating insects.

As reported by Organic Consumers, the European nation has decided to ban all five pesticides that scientists believe are responsible for killing bees.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Beyond Honeybees: Pollinator-Friendly Farming for the Future

Imagine a world without strawberries, apples, chocolate, coffee, squash, or almonds. More than three-quarters of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts we eat rely on pollinators like honeybees. The phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has raised concerns about honeybees over the last decade, and although CCD is no longer the primary worry, honeybee losses continue to rise.

But many other pollinators are also in peril. A timely new report from the United Nationsshows troubling trends that threaten the future of pollinators and our food supply. Human activities are largely responsible—and the solutions are also in our power.

According to the report, pollinators worldwide are being driven to extinction by habitat destruction and degradation, intensive agriculture, pesticide use, pollution, invasive alien species, pathogens, and climate change. In some regions, 40% of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, are endangered. More than 16% of vertebrate pollinators, like bats and birds, are also threatened.

The UN report’s solutions to the crisis include protecting natural habitats, restoring native vegetation, and planting flower corridors to connect wild areas. Reducing pesticide use and using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can also increase the abundance and diversity of pollinators. Researchers and farmers in California have been already working together to create diverse landscapes where crucial pollinator populations can thrive.

Protecting Pollinators

As honeybees face increasing threats, native bees provide new hope for farmers who rely on pollinators for crop production. Since 2009, Frog Hollow Farm, a 143-acre organic fruit farm in Brentwood, has been partnering with the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab and the USDA Natural Resource and Conservation Service to promote native bees in agricultural areas.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bee battles: why our native pollinators are losing the war

Bumble bee. Photo credit: dnydick, CC BY-NC

As global commerce grows, the movement of goods is occurring at ever-faster rates. And with increased global trade comes the spread of non-native species. This includes invasive insects that are making life difficult for domestic bees.

Non-native species get introduced both intentionally and accidentally. However they migrate, though, their spread can lead to devastating results. Non-native species can dramatically reshape their invaded habitats and disrupt the interactions between native species.

After direct habitat loss, invasive species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity. Biodiversity is crucial to a healthy ecosystem, providing us services such as food, the natural resources that sustain our current lifestyle, and the building blocks of medicines.

Invasive species come in all forms – plants, animals and microbes – but all share common traits: they are non-native, they are increasing in prevalence, and they negatively affect native species.

Native bees in North America are declining drastically. Habitat loss is the number one reason for bee decline, with pesticide use, invasive species, and climate change also playing a major role. With the growth of cities and farms, habitat suitable for our native bees shrinks. And with competition and habitat degradation from invasive species, suitable habitat becomes even less.

We depend on native bees, like our humble bumble bees (Bombus spp.), to pollinate native flowers and crops. Bumble bees pollinate tomatoes, peppers, blueberries and many more of our favorite food items. Honey bees, which are widely used in agriculture and are suffering from colony collapse disorder, are a non-native species, and can’t replace the pollination services provided by native bees such as bumble bees.

But one invasive species in particular is threatening the livelihood of bumble bees.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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