We Are Killing Bees

Do you know that the grub-killing pesticide you put on your lawn and the flea control you put on your pet likely contains imidacloprid, a pesticide implicated in honeybee-killing Colony Collapse Disorder? And, if you purchase non-organic coffee, citrus, grapes and other fruits, potatoes and other vegetables, rice or use any sugarcane products you are probably buying an imidacloprid-treated crop?

Imidacloprid, by Bayer, is an ingredient in over 400 products in the U.S., according to the National Pesticide Information Center. Bayer reports it is used on sucking and biting insects such as aphids as well as fruit flies, grubs, termites, white flies and many beetles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABees are exposed to imidacloprid through the pollen and nectar they collect from treated crops. Honeybees are also exposed to imidacloprid through the high-fructose corn syrup they are fed by beekeepers, notes Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health.  Most U.S.-grown corn is treated with imidacloprid so the insecticide is in corn syrup, Lu explains in this Science Daily report.

Lu and colleagues studied the role imidacloprid might play Colony Collapse Disorder. They monitored four different bee yards, each with four hives – three exposed to different levels of imidacloprid plus one no-exposure control. After 23 weeks of observation, 94 percent of the hives exposed to imidacloprid had died. Those exposed to the highest imidacloprid levels died first.

Strikingly, said Lu, it took only low levels of imidacloprid to cause hive collapse — less than what is typically used in crops or in areas where bees forage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Related studies, conducted in the United Kingdom and France, also implicated imidacloprid exposure in the decline of honeybee and bumblebee populations. Both suggest that levels of the nerve-effecting neonicotinoid type of pesticide imidacloprid, similar to those reached with common crop applications, impair bees ability to gain weight, their sense of direction, and ability to produce queens.

“Bumblebees pollinate many of our crops and wild flowers … The use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops clearly poses a threat to their health, and urgently needs to be re-evaluated.”

There are many neonicotinoid pesticides – too many to address in one post – so let’s focus on imidacloprid, the active ingredient in Bayer’s Merit and Season Long Grub Control products.

Imidacloprid  may remain in the soil for more than a year. It easily moves through soil via water, causing a run-off problem. The pesticide will not remain where you put it, it ends up where ever water takes it. It is taken up by blooming plants … exactly where bees head for pollen and nectar. It is toxic to bees, earthworms, fish, and other aquatic life.

Just look at the label for one imidacloprid product, Merit, approved for use on turf grass, landscape ornamentals, fruit and nut trees, and interior plants. The caution statement for humans is scary enough. The Environmental Hazards statement then lists Merit as highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and highly toxic to bees exposed directly or from residues on blooming plants. It also cautions that Merit – in essence imidacloprid – is not to be used in areas where soil is permeable to water.

Think about this …  All lawns and gardens are in soils permeable to water.  To me, this little fact negates the use of imidacloprid on any lawn or garden.

Lawn and garden owners must take the initiative to be informed. Question all lawn and garden care sales pitches in television, newspaper and magazine ads, and through direct mail. READ ALL LABELS. Know what is in a product before using it. Most importantly, acknowledge that each action you take in your lawn and garden is important. What you add to your soil affects insects and birds and toads and small mammals and continues to affect all creatures along the food chain – all the way to humans.

This TED talk, http://www.ted.com/talks/dennis_vanengelsdorp_a_plea_for_bees.html provides an entertaining and informative explanation of the importance of bees. It’s worth the time to watch. You may begin to look at bees with a bit more respect, and understand that bees do not exist to annoy us … they actually help feed us.

Garden thoughtfully …

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Post-Fire Views of Devil’s Hopyard State Park

The early spring fire that burned an estimated 150  of the 860 or so acres of Devil’s Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, Connecticut, was noteworthy because brush fires that burn up to tree tops is an unusual occurrence in this region of Connecticut. But this fire was not nearly as destructive as those out West where forest fires frequently consume thousands of acres, leaving remnants of charred dead trees that once towered overhead.

At the Hopyard, most of the park remains untouched by the fire, looking as it has for decades. There are many trails to hike if you want to avoid seeing fire damage.

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Along stream banks where Skunk Cabbage and False Hellebore grow, life is completely normal.

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But follow the orange trail that leads to the Vista and eventually you’ll find fire damage. The photos below were taken April 1, 2012, about a week after the fire.

As the trail winds higher toward the Vista you begin to see evidence of fire here and there. In many areas it’s clear that fallen, dead trees burned but not nearby dead leaves.

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Other areas burned more completely.

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But life goes on. The hole at the base of this tree shows evidence of use one week after the fire.

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Below, fallen leaves burned but underbrush holds natural color.

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I find the contrasts fascinating. The tree trunk here burned nearly to its top, yet nearby trees were unscathed.

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I don’t know if the unburned paths below are evidence of man’s intervention or just the way fire acts.

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Looking down from the Vista shows remains of the fire below.

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The Devil’s Hopyard fire offers an unusual opportunity for Connecticut residents – the chance to watch a forest regenerate. In many of the charred areas fire burned the top layer of fallen leaves, but did not reach lower leaf layers. I expect that a period of rain will encourage a rash of undergrowth and, before long, green will again dominate most of the blackened forest floor.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Coleus for Connecticut Gardens: You Can Grow That!

If you have yet to discover coleus or think this warmth-loving annual is too tender for Connecticut gardens, it’s time for your pleasant awakening. Coleus is easy to grow that provides constant color through its phenomenal range leaf hues and patterns. It makes a wonderful houseplant, an impressive container plant, and will fill spots in garden beds with splashes of season-long color. Coleus is my feature plant for this month’s You Can Grow That!, a gardening is good for people blog meme begun by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening.

Coleus likes moist, but not soggy, well drained soil.  It’s Latin name, Solenostemon scutellarioides, is a mouthful. Coleus originated from warmer areas of the globe and is commonly hybridized, so now there are varieties that thrive in partial shade and full sun. Coleus have such diverse leaf patterns and shades that there’s bound to be one that fits in your garden.

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I can’t recall when I fell for coleus … it was long ago … but this tropical annual has been part of my life for decades.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My windowsills house small coleus plants during cold months and water-filled vases of coleus cuttings in late summer. Once you buy one variety you like, it could be with you many seasons. These are from cuttings taken last summer. Now growing under florescent lights, they will be some of my outdoor container and garden plants this summer. To increase the diversity of the colors available to me each year I also start coleus from seed. Many catalogues sell coleus seeds in a mixture of color and leaf patterns, often Rainbow Mix. Pinetree Garden Seeds sells individual seed packets with enticing names like Chocolate Mint and Dark Chocolate, Black Dragon, or Palisandra, all with leaves in shades of burgundy and no green.  There’s coleus in shades of lime-green such as Limelight, and Pineapple (above), with lemon-lime leaves. Gardeners looking for shades of bronze to peachy orange can choose Sunset, the variety in the foreground of the photo to the left.

Coleus do not like cold. They are the saddest looking plants when touched with even a hint of frost so be sure to keep them in a protected area until all risk of frost is gone. Coleus cuttings root easily in water. About mid-summer, when coleus are beginning to get a bit leggy,  cut off the top few inches of growth to just above a lower set of leaves. This forces lower leaf growth and gives you plenty of cuttings to root in water. Once rooted, plant the cuttings in soil to grow indoors during winter. In late winter, take fresh cuttings of these houseplants to root and plant in small pots to become outdoor plants when warm weather returns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Aphids can be a problem on coleus plants but are easily washed off. A steady stream of water to the undersides of the leaves, where aphids like to hide, usually does the trick. Make sure any cuttings you bring inside are aphid free. And be sure to keep coleus out the reach of deer … they love to munch on juicy coleus leaves.

Coleus flowers, shown at the right, are tiny and purple. Once coleus to go flower their energy goes from leaf production to seed production, so the plants get tall and lanky. To maintain bushy growth, flower buds, such as the one growing out of the coleus in the foreground photo above, should be pinched off. If you do let some of your coleus go to flower, as I do at the end of summer when Connecticut’s season for  tender annuals is nearing and end, you’ll find that pollinating insects love the blossoms.

With such ease of growth and diverse color choices you’ll find coleus work in many combinations and situations. Here’s a few ideas:

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In 2011, Elizabeth Park, a Hartford treasure, featured coleus an annual bed. This photo is from early June. By July, as I’m sure the plants filled in and turned this bed into an explosion of color.

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With so much to offer you may find it’s hard to choose just one coleus variety. What makes growing coleus even more fun is that new color and leaf forms appear in garden centers every year. After all my years of growing coleus, I still can’t choose my all time favorite.

Garden thoughtfully, and remember …431580_3416780018870_1251184494_33429590_369171884_n[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please visit Whole Life Gardening to check out other You Can Grow That! ideas.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry