Save Us, And The Bees, From Ourselves

Calvin and Hobbes - Meet Giant BeeLike too many things in this world, the bees ought to fear the humans. And we ought to fear ourselves. The good news is there is always hope! No need to wallow in fear when there is work to be done! 

 

Bees are a keystone species?

Many of us grew up thinking of bees somewhere along the spectrum between picnic nuisance and deathly fear of all buzzing pollinators. Unless you lived on or near farms you may not have realized how essential bees are in the agricultural puzzle – $15 billion in increased value and about one in three bites of food we currently enjoy. As a child, I only had a vague idea bees were important to their ecosystem.

Pollinators are what ecologists call keystone species. You know how an arch has a keystone. It’s the one stone that keeps the two halves of the arch together. […] If you remove the keystone, the whole arch collapses.
  

 –May Berenbaum, PhD, Entomologist.

Bees have long suffered from the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, but at no other point in history has their decline in numbers and safe havens been so rapid and fraught with controversy and uncertainty of cause or solution. Many studies point to pesticides, neonics (or neonicotinoids) in particular, as one factor of the recent massive bee die-offs, and therefore putting our entire food system in peril.

Living in Oregon, it was hard to escape the horror of the tens of thousands of bees who fell dead to the ground in a Target parking lot. That is the stuff of nightmares. This led the state to issue a temporary ban on the use of the harmful insecticide to determine what plans need to be put in place going forward.

 

What do we know about the role of neonics and bee deaths?

Bee pollinating peach flower
photo credit: “Fir0002/Flagstaffotos”

     

     — We know that neonics cause certain harm, death, to bees under certain conditions. Those conditions are what the scientific community is debating.

     — Although “low level exposures do not normally kill bees directly, [but] they may impact some bees’ ability to foraging for nectar, learn and remember where flowers are located, and possibly impair their ability to find their way home to the nest or hive.” Meaning bees will be harmed one way or another after enough exposure.

     — The European Food Safety Authority, when asked to perform a risk assessment of neonics, found “a high acute risk to honey bees,” as well as both flaws and data gaps in the industry-sponsored studies used as scientific evidence in safety assurances.

     — Bees are exposed to neonics through commercial agricultural uses (dust drift, residues in nectar and pollen, reduction in pollen diversity), commercial landscaping (direct insecticide use for ornamental plants and trees), and home landscaping and garden use (potting soil and direct insecticide use).

 

What can we do about these bee die-offs right now?

E.O. Wilson - Natural World

 

      — Read, learn more. You’ve already read this so we are off to an excellent beginning! Now direct your attention to this lovely Buzz on Bees and Making Your Garden Count Blog Carnival and all the information you can glean from it.

     — Choose neonic-free products. Grow organic plants in organic potting soil. Avoid shopping at the mega-garden centers who sell plants and soil that have already been treated. Avoid neonic-based insecticides for home use.

     — Take action! Call on retailers to commit to stop selling neonics, as well as plants and seeds pretreated with these pesticides. Sign the petition and share it widely!

If these are big steps for you, take your time to learn as you go. Use the wisdom of your locally-owned plant nursery or college extension program. There are a lot of resources to help you continue on your path to creating a better world for the bees around you, but we all need to take the first steps!

Please share any tips on how to make your yard and garden more bee-friendly! Will you take any action today?

The 9 Best Ingredients For Homemade Ice Pops

9 Best Ice Pop Ingredients

Homemade popsicles are the perfect summertime treat for lots of reasons, but one of the best is that you can control what ingredients go in to them. It may be cliché, but our health certainly owes a lot to what we eat. Plus, homemade ice pops taste a whole lot better than the overpriced grocery store versions anyway!

We all have our favorite flavors and go-to ingredients, so I polled my favorite green gals to see what their favorites are. Go organic. Go local. Go homemade!

1. Chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Especially when you can do chocolate-dipped ice cream pops or even dairy-free fudge popsicles!

2. Bananas. “Hands down my favourite summer treat is banana popsicles and I love that I can make them at home with my own molds,” says Jen (Jen and Joey Go Green).

3. Coconut milk. A vegan, creamy addition to fruit and other goodness.

4. Strawberries. Strawberries are the epitome of summer making these the perfect ingredient to have on hand at any time of year (frozen for most of that year of course!).

5. Yogurt. Another great option for creamy popsicles.

6. Honey. For that touch of sweetness, honey brings out many of the other ingredients’ flavors.

7. Booze. Gretchen from Healthful Mama says,”My favorite ingredient: booze. I think adult popsicles are an awesome twist on a bbq dessert.”

8. Avocado. It may seem unusual, but avocado’s creamy goodness is the perfect choice for an earthy ode to summer.

9. Red Beans. From ecokaren, an unusual ingredient for me! But Karen says, “This is my favorite. I can see you thinking, ‘beans in a popsicle? ewwwww….’ But seriously, I used to eat red bean ice cream or popsicle in Korea every summer.”

Do you have a favorite ingredient for your homemade ice pops?

Why we make this organic garden grow

Little gardeners
We are just now getting our little garden started again for this year. We have been lucky to not have the horrific weather that has been affecting so much of the country lately, but we have also not had the best gardening-with-small-children weather.

Let’s face it, I am not about to get out and work in the yard in the rain and the cold.

We are amateur gardeners at best. Some of us like to dig in the dirt and feel the mud oozing through our fingers. Some of us like to learn about the plants. Some of us like to eat. We all enjoy the garden.

Our garden is not about growing and saving for the winter -not yet anyway. Our garden is not about reducing our grocery bills, although that would be a nice benefit. Our garden isn’t even about a love of gardening, although if we all learn a bit more of that along the way, it would be a good thing.

We have a garden to simply teach our children about growing and caring for plants, understanding that food comes from hard work, fortunate weather, and the earth – whether that is in our own backyard, the local farm, or a large cooperative of farms farther removed from our daily lives. Food does not come from the store. Let me rephrase, food does not originate at the store.

We have an organic garden so our children can run barefoot in the yard, in the dirt and in the grass. So they can stand in the raspberry bushes and pluck the juicy berries with muddy little fingers and enjoy the sun-ripened goodness right then and there without a thought that they should not.

Muddy hands eating berries

We have a garden because of then I can hear my 7 year old tell my 5 year old in his knowing voice that the tomatoes that we grow in our garden taste so much better than the ones that we get from the store. It amazes me to hear two boys that ordinarily would not willingly eat tomatoes become excited about the tomato plants that we have growing out back and look forward to the fruit they will bear.

We have a garden to try vegetables that might otherwise be passed over in the store or varieties that are simply not available there. I might not love Brussels sprouts, but we are going to grow them and I’ll eat them! They might not love broccoli, but we are going to grow it and they’ll try it. Planting heirloom varieties you don’t see everywhere is fun and exciting and lends itself to more adventurous eating on all of our parts.

We have a garden to experience it in all the triumphs and failures, in all the deliciousness of the fruits of their labor and the healthfulness of the vegetables we grow despite how we may really feel about them, the patience and work, the learning and careful tending. There are life lessons to be learned here and I hope to let my children find them as they’re growing.

Tell me about your garden! Why do you have one and what do you grow?

New Studies Find Prenatal Exposure to Pesticides Impact IQ

A few days ago, three long-term studies were released that found that a woman’s exposure to organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy could affect IQ and memory in her child 6 to 9 years later. Organophosphates are one of the most commonly sprayed, and most toxic, used today on food crops.

We can do better for our children.

People have long known that organophosphates are neurotoxic at high doses. They were originally developed as nerve-gas agents for chemical warfare.

Studies have long linked chronic, low-level exposure to organophosphates to: ADHD and learning disabilities in children; reduced levels of testosterone and fertility in men; leukemia and lymphoma; increased risk of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease.

Now, three separate teams of researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, University of California Berkeley’s School of Public Health and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health have found that a child’s IQ will decrease in direct proportion to the mother’s exposure to organophosphates while pregnant.

Study after study has shown the damaging effect these pesticides have on the developing brain. The EPA had put a few restrictions in place, but the emergence of these three new studies show it isn’t enough. The link between prenatal exposure and long-term cognitive development is clear.

Farmers Market Veggies

The largest source of organophosphates are fruit and vegetables that have been sprayed with the toxic pesticide.

Reduce exposure to organophosphates by:

  • washing all produce thoroughly. All produce.
  • buying organically grown produce.
  • buying locally grown, in season produce.

If you are unable to buy all organic produce, then just do your best to buy the produce with the highest levels of pesticide use organic. Use this handy Shopper’s Guide from the Environmental Working Group to help you learn about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15!

EWG Shoppers Guide

But we can’t stop there. I am sure most of you can guess who the test subjects were for each of these studies? Some were agricultural workers or the family members of agricultural workers, some were mutli-ethnic inner city dwellers. All were low-income.

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 is one way we can work to make sure all Americans are safe from the highest risk chemicals, not just ones that can afford to buy organic and live in areas with clean water and clean soil.

Have you contacted your Senator yet? Not sure what to say? Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families has some great tips to use writing a personal letter or phone call. Or simply join in sending a message directly to your Senators.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that we are not protecting children and pregnant women adequately and support this proposed legislation. It is time Congress did too.

How are you going to make a difference today?