June Fest at Pleasant View

Click on the slideshow above to see photos of the 2017 JuneFest at Pleasant View.  Besides featuring a newly restored historic Bible, the Fest showcased our garden as a work in progress.  I was asked to speak briefly about the project -- an opportunity to share a message about native plants.  

A pleasant surprise came when Rev. Green awarded me a "Doers Do" award as a thank you for the work we have done on the site.  So in turn I want to say thank you to each of you who has helped -- planting, watering, weeding.  It's a huge job and we've had help from many, many volunteers.

Native Plant Highlights

On May 23, Tuesday, at 7 p.m. we will have a presentation at the historic school at Pleasant View on native plants for the home garden.  Merikay will share photos and descriptions of a variety of native plants for sun/shade including some of those recently planted at Pleasant View.  This blog highlights Ilex glabra, inkberry.

The cultivar selected for Pleasant View is 'Shamrock' but there are many other choices. This is a lovely evergreen shrub in the holly family that remains compact so it is low maintenance. It's also deer resistant.

Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Adaptable to both light and heavy soils. Tolerates wet soils. Prefers rich, consistently moist, acidic soils in full sun. Good shade tolerance, however. Inkberries are dioecious (separate male and female plants). Female plants need a male pollinator in order to produce the berry-like drupes that are characteristic of the species and cultivars. It is native to the coastal plain from Nova Scotia to Florida to Louisiana. Leaves usually remain attractive in winter unless temperatures dip well below zero.

I'm a beekeeper and have learned that inkberry honey is a highly-rated honey that results from bees feeding on inkberry flowers. This honey is locally produced in certain parts of the Southeastern U.S. in areas where beekeepers release bees from late April to early June to coincide with inkberry flowering time. Dried and roasted inkberry leaves were first used by Native Americans to brew a black tea-like drink, hence the sometimes used common name of Appalachian tea for this shrub.

Historic Q.O. Colored School

To me the most satisfying aspect of the Pleasant View project has been the delightful people we've met.  I feel like I have a new circle of friends.  The volunteers have been great across the spectrum of ages and experience.  My favorite times have been when the work is done and we're relaxing in the school listening to the stories of the old days.  I'm posting a few photos here of that experience.  Click on the photos to see more.

Pleasant View Progress

Native yucca transplanted as a start to the oval bed of native plants at the base of the site's sign.  This type of yucca is hard to find in nurseries but it was used for years to mark gravesites in African American cemeteries.  There are yucca plants in the Pleasant View cemetery.  Thanks to Merikay's neighbors, Kate and Dave Young, for allowing Merikay to dig some of their yucca plants for use at Pleasant View.  Click on photos above to see transplanting progress.

Getting excited about our Earth Day volunteer event this Saturday, April 22.  See you there!

Donations Launch the Project

Dara Ballow-Giffen, a Master Gardener, helped us out by contacting Pope Farm, a facility which grows native plants, to see if they would donate some to our project.  Rochelle Bartolomei of Pope Farm selected 100 plants for us and Dara picked them up today, delivering them to Pleasant View.  

Photos of Dara and Rochelle

Our native beauties

I'm heading out to hike a local trail this morning and expect to find at least a few of our lovely spring native flowers in bloom, though not likely a lady slipper.  To get a peek at this and others, check www.virginiawildflowers.org.  There are sites with more information such as the Maryland Native Plant Society or Virginia Native Plant Society, but I like this site because it is simply a list of common native wildflowers and attractive photos of each with interesting background information.  Enjoy!

Stewardship and Creation: No Waste

 

Brigham Young:  "Never let anything go to waste. Be prudent...and what you get more than what you can take care of yourselves, ask your neighbors to help you consume. . . . Never consider that you have enough around you to suffer your children to waste a crumb of it. If a man is worth millions of bushels of wheat and corn, he is not wealthy enough to . . . sweep a single kernel of it into the fire; let it be eaten by something and pass again into the earth, and thus fulfill the purpose for which it grew. Remember it, do not waste anything, but take care of everything." Brigham Young, Discourses, 292.

"There are many who confuse prosperity with the power to waste.  An oft-spoken rationale for waste is that if people own something, they are entitled to do with it as they pleased....Brigham Young offers a different perspective by reminding us that one can never have enough to be wasteful, that everything that was created was created for a purpose, and that we interfere with God's plan when we waste something that He created for a purpose."

"Brigham Young makes a clear connection between our stewardship over natural capital and over human capital. When we waste the resources provided for us by God, we harm our brothers and sisters. This principle is also emphasized in the 104th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: 'For the earth is full, and there is enough to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment' (D&C 104:17–18)."

Excerpts from Donald L. Adolphson, “Environmental Stewardship and Economic Prosperity,” in Stewardship and the Creation: LDS Perspectives on the Environment, eds. George B. Handley, Terry B. Ball, and Steven L. Peck (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center), 2006.

  NEVER LET ANYTHING GO TO WASTE. BE PRUDENT, AND WHAT YOU GET MORE THAN WHAT YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES, ASK YOUR NEIGHBORS TO HELP YOU CONSUME. . . . NEVER CONSIDER THAT YOU HAVE ENOUGH AROUND YOU TO SUFFER YOUR CHILDREN TO WASTE... Brigham Young  

 

NEVER LET ANYTHING GO TO WASTE. BE PRUDENT, AND WHAT YOU GET MORE THAN WHAT YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES, ASK YOUR NEIGHBORS TO HELP YOU CONSUME. . . . NEVER CONSIDER THAT YOU HAVE ENOUGH AROUND YOU TO SUFFER YOUR CHILDREN TO WASTE...

Brigham Young

 

From small and simple things

This week I had our Cub scouts at my garden.  They helped plant a native tree, planted seedling vegetables in the garden, and created a recycled soda bottle terrarium planted with basil to grow at home.  Fun.

Whenever we engage the next generation in caring for Creation, we are planting seeds for future growth.  Besides engaging with the plants, the boys had fun identifying various worms, caterpillars, larvae, beetles and other creatures found in the soil.  They got to explore the garden and compare how things had change since their visit a few weeks ago -- the wonders of spring.

In talking with one of the moms I was reminded how easy it is to be discouraged, to feel like it is not worth trying to care for the environment. Why not keep consuming along with many in our culture until we all face dire consequences?  

On reflection, my response would include 1) the joy the comes from connecting deeply with nature and caring for Creation 2) our stewardship is not dependent on the choices of others 3) each of us can make a significant difference 4) we are not alone.  In every community there are people deeply concerned about the environment and willing to make personal sacrifices to protect our common home, Earth.  

I'm finding opportunities every day in small and simple things I can make a difference.  Every time I buy something I can make a choice to consume less.  I can wear a sweater rather than turn up the thermostat.  I can plant a garden for food and native plants for habitat -- feeding the creatures who share my corner of the world.  I can look for ways in my church service to include conservation -- like teaching Cub scouts.  I serve on the Board of our local watershed group and run their annual tree initiative.  It takes a few days' work but is very rewarding as I think of oaks, maples, hornbeam, dogwood, redbuds, and other trees growing in my community.  One at a time I've now disbursed 1,000 trees.  These little seedlings don't look like much now but imagine the impact over time of that many native trees.  

From small and simple things...

New Bee Publication Available at Xerces.org

http://www.xerces.org/neonicotinoids-and-bees/

http://www.xerces.org/neonicotinoids-and-bees/

A reminder of the importance of science based analysis and response, this report relies heavily on studies done by the EPA.  Visit Xerces.org for the full report and helpful information on how you can protect bees and other invertebrate.  As earth stewards we may need to work together to not only protect the environment but to protect the ability of scientists to objectively study and report on their findings.  Prior to the studies cited in this report there was uncertainty as to the extent and mechanisms of neonicotinoids' impact on bees.  I've copied an image from and executive summary of the report below:

Neonicotinoid Movement in the Environment

Neonicotinoids are being found throughout the landscape in areas where they were not applied. This figure from our report illustrates some of the main pathways for neonicotinoid movement in the environment and also shows how this movement could expose beneficial insects.

 

 

How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees: Executive Summary

Neonicotinoids have been adopted for use on an extensive variety of farm crops as well as ornamental landscape plants. They are the most widely used group of insecticides in the world, and have been for a decade. Developed as alternatives for organophosphate and carbamate insecticides, neonicotinoids are compounds that affect the nervous system of insects, humans, and other animals. Although less acutely toxic to mammals and other vertebrates than older insecticides, neonicotinoids are highly toxic in small quantities to many invertebrates, including beneficial insects such as bees.

The impact of this class of insecticides on pollinating insects such as honey bees and native bees is a cause for concern. Because they are systemic chemicals absorbed into the plant, neonicotinoids can be present in pollen and nectar, making them toxic to pollinators that feed on them. The potentially long-lasting presence of neonicotinoids in plants, although useful from a pest management standpoint, makes it possible for these chemicals to harm pollinators even when the initial application is made weeks before the bloom period. In addition, depending on the compound, rate, and method of application, neonicotinoids can persist in the soil and be continually taken in by plants for a very long periods of time.

Across Europe and North America, a possible link to honey bee die-offs has made neonicotinoids controversial. In December 2013, the European Union significantly limited the use of clothianidin, imiadcloprid, and thiamethoxam on bee-attractive crops. In the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, local, state, and federal decision makers are also taking steps to protect pollinators from neonicotinoids. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service phased out all uses of neonicotinoids on National Wildlife Refuges lands starting in January 2016.

This report reviews research on the impact of these pesticides on bees. For a research review on beneficial insects, including those important to biological control, see Hopwood et al. (2013). See Morrissey et al. (2015), Mineau et al. (2013), and Gibbons et al. (2015) for reviews on aquatic invertebrates, birds, and vertebrates, respectively.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation also maintains an annotated bibliography of relevant research published since the writing of this report on its web site. The bibliography can be accessed here.

Key Findings

The following findings are divided into three sections. In the first section, we present clearly documented information about neonicotinoid impacts on bees, i.e., facts that are supported by an extensive body of research. (Fully cited evidence for these is detailed in the main body of this report.) The second section covers what can be inferred from the available research. This includes possible effects for which there is currently only limited research or the evidence is not conclusive. In the third section, we identify knowledge gaps in our understanding of pollinator and neonicotinoid interactions. Filling these gaps will allow better-informed decisions about the future use and regulation of these chemicals.

 

Clearly Documented Facts

Exposure of Bees to Neonicotinoids

  • • Neonicotinoid residues found in pollen and nectar are consumed by flower-visiting insects such as bees. Residue concentrations can reach levels that cause sublethal effects through a variety of application methods, including use of coated seed, and in some situations can reach lethal levels.
  • • Neonicotinoids can persist in soil for months or years after a single application. Residues have been found in woody plants up to six years after soil drench application.
  • • Untreated plants have been found to absorb the residues of some neonicotinoids that persisted in the soil from the previous year.
  • • Neonicotinoids applied to crops, even as seed coatings, can contaminate adjacent vegetation, including bee-attractive wildflowers.
  • • Products approved for home and garden use may be applied to plants at rates substantially higher than the maximum label rate approved for agricultural crops.
  • • Direct contact from foliar applications of the most toxic neonicotinoids has caused bee kills; additionally, foliar residues on plant surfaces may remain lethal to bees for several days.
  • • Bee kills have been caused by legal applications of neonicotinoids to Tilia (linden, basswood). Some of these applications, designed to be uptaken by the trees, occurred weeks to months prior to when bees visited the trees.

Effects on Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)

  • • Clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam are highly toxic to honey bees by contact and ingestion.
  • • Thiacloprid and acetamiprid are moderately toxic to honey bees. (To understand how the EPA defines the levels of toxicity, see EPA Toxicity Classification Scale for Bees on right.)
  • • Neonicotinoids absorbed by plants are metabolized over time. Some of the resulting breakdown products are also toxic to honey bees, and sometimes even more toxic than the original compound.
  • • Honey bees exposed to sublethal levels of neonicotinoids can experience problems with flight and navigation, reduced taste sensitivity, and slower learning of new tasks, all of which impact foraging ability and hive productivity.
  • • Larvae exposed to sublethal doses of imidacloprid in brood food had reduced survival and pupation, altered metabolism, and reduced olfactory response as adults.
  • • Contaminated talc, abraded seed coating, or dust that becomes airborne during planting of neonicotinoid-coated seed is acutely toxic on contact to honey bees.

Effects on Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.)

  • • Imidacloprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, and thiamethoxam are highly toxic to bumble bees.
  • • Exposure to sublethal amounts of neonicotinoids can result in reductions in food consumption, reproduction, worker survival rates, colony survival, and foraging activity.
  • • Queen production is significantly reduced by sublethal amounts of neonicotinoids, which may lower bumble bee populations because fewer colonies are established the following year.

Effects on Solitary Bees

  • • Clothianidin and imidacloprid are highly toxic to blue orchard bees (Osmia lignaria) and alfalfa leafcutter bees (Megachile rotundata).
  • • Imidacloprid residues on alfalfa foliage increase rates of mortality of alfalfa leafcutter bees and alkali bees (Nomia melanderi).
  • • Blue orchard bee larvae required more time to mature after consuming sublethal levels of imidacloprid in pollen.
  • • Sublethal amounts of neonicotinoids can have harmful effects on the reproduction of red mason bees (Osmia bicornis).

Presence in the Environment

  • • Tens of millions of acres of neonicotinoid-coated seed is planted annually in the United States and Canada. When applied systemically and taken up by the plant, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin can have residual activity within plants for months to years.
  • • Imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin are persistent in soil, with residues present for months to years.
  • • Neonicotinoids can move into water and have been found in a range of water bodies, where they may persist. Clothianidin has been found in rivers and streams, wetlands, groundwater, and puddles. Imidacloprid has been found in surface water, groundwater, and puddles. Thiamethoxam has been found in waterways, wetlands, groundwater, and puddles, and has also been detected in irrigation water pulled from ground wells. Acetamiprid and dinotefuran have been found in waterways.

 

Inferences from Research Results

Exposure of Bees to Neonicotinoids

  • • Application as a seed coating can result in low levels of residues in pollen and nectar that have been linked with sublethal effects in solitary bees.
  • • Application methods such as foliar sprays, soil drenches, and trunk injections apply a higher dosage per plant than seed coatings and may result in much higher—even lethal—levels of neonicotinoid residues in pollen and nectar.
  • • Application of neonicotinoids before and during bloom may result in residue levels in pollen and nectar that cause sublethal effects or even mortality.
  • • Application by soil drench or trunk injection to woody ornamental species may result in residue levels in blossoms that cause lethal and sublethal effects for more than a year after treatment.
  • • Foliar applications may have shorter residual toxicity in comparison to other application methods such as trunk injection and soil drench.
  • • Pesticide residues, including from planting coated seeds, have been found in honey bee hives.

Effects on Pollinators

  • • There is no direct link demonstrated between neonicotinoids and the honey bee syndrome known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). However, recent research suggests that pesticides, including neonicotinoids, may make honey bees more susceptible to parasites and viruses, including the intestinal parasite Nosema, which has been implicated as one causative factor in CCD.
  • • Neonicotinoids may synergistically interact with demethylase inhibitor (DMI) fungicides. DMI fungicides have significantly increased the toxicity of neonicotinoids to honey bees in some laboratory tests. The synergistic effects of these mixtures in field settings using formulated pesticides in water appear to be less dramatic in comparison with the laboratory research.
  • • Bumble bees and solitary bees can be affected by neonicotinoids at lower concentrations than are honey bees. Currently, evaluation of other pollinators beyond honey bees is extremely limited in EPA’s pesticide registration process.

A New Year for Change

The holidays have come and gone. Today most all of us are returning to our usual obligations and routines. Welcome back to reality. Maybe like me, you felt more than ready to say goodbye to 2016. Now a new year spreads out in front of us, fresh and new and full of possibility like that perfectly smooth bank of freshly fallen snow just begging for footprints or sled tracks or a giant belly flop of a snow angel.

 

I appreciate the reflection the changing year invites. I’m grateful for the opportunity to open myself up to resolutions, goals, and change. Whether the potential of all that can soon happen feels exciting, intimidating, or a squirrelly mix of both, I take encouragement from knowing that we come to earth to be changed and shaped by our mortality. If you feel stuck in a rut or trapped or held back take courage from knowing our world is a place devoted to change. We worship a Creator whose creations are designed to grow, adapt, and progress. As Marcus Aurelius said, change is nature’s delight.

Photo by Belle Deesse

Photo by Belle Deesse

John Muir observed:

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another. (1899)

Here in the Northern Hemisphere it is the darkest and coldest time of the year, but every day gains a little more light. So follow the seasons and let your small efforts brighten and warm your life and bring about great change.

As Alma reminds us:

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls. (37:6-7)
-KateMC

Boat Tour of the Anacostia, October 29, 10 AM

anacostia-river.jpg
Fall display at the National Arboretum

Fall display at the National Arboretum

 Autumn Bonsai: The Colors of Nature (opens this Saturday Oct. 29) Enjoy bonsai in their glowing autumn colors before the leaves fall away: a formal display of select trees during their peak fall colors, including red maples, yellow ginkgos, fruiting trees, and more.

 Autumn Bonsai: The Colors of Nature (opens this Saturday Oct. 29)
Enjoy bonsai in their glowing autumn colors before the leaves fall away: a formal display of select trees during their peak fall colors, including red maples, yellow ginkgos, fruiting trees, and more.

To learn more of the Anacostia and see photos from Dr. McKenna and Howard University students:

multimediastorytellinganacostia.wordpress.com

Save the morning of Saturday, October 29, to join Earth Stewardship East for a tour of the Anacostia hosted by Riverkeepers.  This free event will be led by people who care about the Anacostia -- they'll share its history, wildlife, and environmental concerns.   The boat carries 13 passengers so please RSVP to earthstewardshipeast@gmail.com.  

The Riverkeepers are willing to take one group at 10 am and a second group if we have that many interested.  We have arranged for this tour to depart from the docks at the National Arboretum which is a wonderful place to visit.  Our own Kate Cummings  is a volunteer there and she will lead a tour of the garden (with particular emphasis on what will appeal to children).  

Please share with friends.  Since we're meeting at the Arboretum, we can have something interesting for everyone who comes, even if we can't all take the boat tour.

If you have questions, call Merikay at 301-926-9774.  

We learned about these tours through the Chesapeake Interfaith Power and Light.

www.anacostiariverkeeper.org/anacostia-river-explorers

A Challenge for You

Sarah Vining, one of our local earth stewards, has challenged us to take a nature walk finding the most interesting plant you can find, and submitting a picture of it with the name (if that can be found).

So here's Merikay's.  Already the rules are being broken as it is not a plant but a fungi: Laetiporus sulphureus. (If there's a mycologist who'd like to correct the ID, please do.). The bright orange color seems right for October. Saw this on a walk along the Seneca Greenway Trail.

If you have a photo to post, please send it to earthstewardshipeast@gmail.com.

Stewardship and Creation: Not a partisan football

" It is perhaps one of the more shameful aspects of our current age that things as patently universal as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat have become partisan footballs tossed about in an effort to gain our political loyalty. Environmental stewardship is not an issue that has to be a battle between liberals and conservatives; it entails the best impulses of liberal generosity and conservative restraint. The profound contributions of various Christian ecotheologians over the past decades have provided an example of how to tap into the rich doctrines of the Bible to articulate an ethic with regard to the environment and without regard to partisan infighting."

George B. Handley, Terry B. Ball, and Steven L. Peck, eds., introduction to Stewardship and the Creation: LDS Perspectives on the Environment (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center), 2006.

Gleaning the Fields, our joint activity with local Green Muslims

Join us to glean local farm fields for food which we will donate to Manna.  This event is being co-sponsored by the Green Muslims.  Additional details will be posted under "About" -  "Events" on our home page.  

If you have a home garden with surplus, bring that along to share with Manna too. Photo is of one day's pick from our home garden -- too much for our family to eat.

Manna provides food to 40,000  Montgomery County residents each year and helps distribute rescued food to soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters.

For more info on Manna:  http://www.mannafood.org/

Honeybees

Can you spot the queen bee?  Photo from montgomerycountybeekeepers.com

Can you spot the queen bee?  Photo from montgomerycountybeekeepers.com

There is real concern over the long-term health of honeybees throughout the world.  Although honeybees are not native to North America, they are important as pollinators for many of our food crops (some estimates put our food crop dependency on honeybees to as high as 75 - 80%).  Over time I will post more information on the best current science relative to honeybees, Colony Collapse Disorder, and other challenges facing our bees.  But for today, I'd simply like to thank the dedicated volunteers of the Montgomery County Beekeepers.  Besides keeping bees they teach an annual course on beekeeping and sponsor events to give hands-on experience to newbees.  Jeff and I have been beekeeping for four years and still consider ourselves novices.  Today we met with other beekeepers to learn various ways to treat for Varroa mites. To learn more about beekeeping, contact your local bee keepers association.  

Honeybees are such fascinating creatures that caring for a hive can bring a greater sense of care for other creatures and our environment in general.  You are suddenly acutely aware that herbicides and pesticides you or your neighbors might use have a direct impact on the insects sharing your world.  You begin to observe other pollinators, distinguishing your honeybees from the native bees which also visit your garden.  You begin to perceive a whole new, vastly more diverse world of insects.  For example, the 7 species of honeybees (genus Apis mellifera) are only a small fraction of the more than 20,000 species of bees!

 While at the MC Beekeepers events someone asked me about Utah's symbolic association with the beehive.  I responded that though there are beekeepers in Utah, the symbol was chosen more as a representation of an ideal of community which the LDS Saints hoped to create -- where everyone worked together in community for the good of all.  Virtues such as industry, self-sacrifice, and cooperation are attributed to honeybees and pioneer Mormons alike.  Honeybees were first brought to the Utah Territory in 1848.  By 1872 there were about 2,000 beehives in Utah.  Some facts:  

  • There are three types of bees in the hive – Queen, Worker and Drone.
  • The queen may lay 600-800 or even 1,500 eggs each day during her 3 or 4 year lifetime. This daily egg production may equal her own weight. She is constantly fed and groomed by attendant worker bees.
  • Honey bees fly at 15 miles per hour.
  • Honey bees' wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.
  • Honeybees are the only insect that produce food for humans.
  • Honeybees will usually travel approximately 3 miles from their hive.
  • Honeybees are the only bees that die after they sting.
  • Honeybees have five eyes, 3 small ones on top of the head (ocelli which have a single lens like the human eye but can view UV light) and two big compound ones in front.  They also have hair on their eyes!  (See photo below)
  • Bees communicate with each other by dancing and by using pheromones (scents).
  • Honeybees never sleep!

 (utahcountybeekeepers.org)  

Bee's compound eye of many single eye units each of which sends it's view to the bee brain which combines the images.  Each hair aids in determining the flight speed and direction of the bee.  Photo:  keeping-honey-bees.com  

Bee's compound eye of many single eye units each of which sends it's view to the bee brain which combines the images.  Each hair aids in determining the flight speed and direction of the bee.  Photo:  keeping-honey-bees.com

 

 More facts:  Any worker bee larvae can become a queen if feed Royal Jelly.  (What I'd like to know -- how the nurse bees know the secret recipe to make this jelly!)  Workers create a new queen if they sense their queen is sick or missing.  They will often create several new queens with the strongest (often the first to emerge) decapitating her rivals as they emerge.  Males (drones) do no work except to mate a virgin queen.  Their sex organ is barbed and is pulled from their body causing death on mating.  Each hive has 25,000 - 60,000 bees, a small fraction of which are drones.  The drones are expelled from the hive in winter or when food is scarce.  The temperature near the queen is kept a steady 93 degrees no mater how hot or cold the exterior temperature.  If bees are sick or dying they will try to leave the hive -- thus prote cting the colony.  Bees are also clean -- among other things during the long cold periods in winter they will refrain from "going to the bathroom" until a warm day when they can finally leave the hive.  (Sometimes beekeepers will see yellow snow outside the hive on a warmish winter day.)  Imagine having that level of bladder control!

Best of all, for me anyway, they can create that marvelous elixir, honey.

Celebrating the 4th of July with freshly extracted honey.

Celebrating the 4th of July with freshly extracted honey.

Photos above at Brookside Gardens bee yard kept by volunteers with Montgomery County Beekeepers.

Mountain Mints, #1 for pollinators in Penn State Study

Short-toothed Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum muticum

Short-toothed Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum muticum

If you want continuous buzzing of pollinators in your garden, this is a plant to grow.  There are multiple species of mountain mint -- all native to North America.  Two which grow well here are P. muticum and P. virginicum.  The flowers are not showy by human standards but they apparently are for pollinators.  They prefer sun but in my garden thrive in part shade.  I've referenced a Penn State study below.  Their Center for Pollinator Research has lots of great information and links of interest to us in the mid-Atlantic region.  http://ento.psu.edu/pollinators  

Penn State Extension Study, 2013

Evaluated 88 herbaceous pollinator plants

 

Mountain Mint  Pycnanthemum muticum

#1 longevity - 10 weeks peak bloom

#1 pollinator diversity

#1 insect visitors – 78 in 2 min.

#1 bee and syrphid visits – 19 in 2 min.

Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata)

Less commonly found in cultivated gardens than common bee balm, this native plant grows from eastern Canada to northeast Mexico.  If you can find it in a nursery or get a start from a friend, this is a worthy garden addition.  Its colors are more subdued than that of Monarda didyma but its interesting flower structure and pollinator pull make it worth growing.  Common names include spotted beebalm and horsemint. It is a thyme-scented plant with purple-spotted tubular yellow flowers. According to Wikipedia, the plant contains thymol, an antiseptic and fungicide. It was historically used to treat upset stomachs, colds, diarrhea, neuralgia and kidney disease.

Bee Balm - Funky native plant (Monarda didyma)

Monarda didyma in my garden.  Blooms profusely in summer. - always covered with native bees and other pollinators.

Monarda didyma in my garden.  Blooms profusely in summer. - always covered with native bees and other pollinators.

Before we leave National Pollinator Week, I'll try to post a few more pollinator friendly native plants.  One of my favorites is Monarda, commonly known as bee balm -- currently in full bloom.  The native bumblebees love this plant -- I also see the sphinx moth, hummingbirds, butterflies and others visitors.  Bee balm thrives and spreads in full sun, not surprising as it's in the mint family.  I love its funky flowers.  It is drought resistant and very easy to grow though can get mildew if it has poor air flow.  Hybrids occur naturally in a variety of colors and heights.  Monarda didyma (in photos from my garden) has red flowers but other species have pink and purple.   

On Care for Our Common Home, Loss of Biodiversity

Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence. 

Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence

The following are quotes from Pope Francis interspersed with examples of just a few of the vulnerable creatures in our area:

32.  The earth’s resources are being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production. The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses. Different species contain genes which could be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental problems.

Beyond being a resource, they have value in themselves.   Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence. We have no such right.

The rusty patched bumble bee was once common in the Eastern U.S.  Its habitat has decreased ~87% in recent years. xerces,org

The rusty patched bumble bee was once common in the Eastern U.S.  Its habitat has decreased ~87% in recent years. xerces,org

The Puritan Tiger Beetle is found only along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and the Connecticut River in New England. They have been listed as endangered since 1990.  (www.fws.gov)

The Puritan Tiger Beetle is found only along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and the Connecticut River in New England. They have been listed as endangered since 1990.  (www.fws.gov)

Rare in the 11 states which list it as endangered or threatened including Maryland. Xerces.org

Rare in the 11 states which list it as endangered or threatened including Maryland. Xerces.org

It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place.

The eastern gopher tortoises have been reduced to small, isolated populations. They build elaborate burrows that provide habitat for 360+ other species.  www.fws.gov

The eastern gopher tortoises have been reduced to small, isolated populations. They build elaborate burrows that provide habitat for 360+ other species.  www.fws.gov

Once common in the Midwest and Northeast, the yellow-throated turtle populations are now found only in Minnesota and Nebraska. www.fws.gov

Once common in the Midwest and Northeast, the yellow-throated turtle populations are now found only in Minnesota and Nebraska. www.fws.gov

Human beings must intervene when a geosystem reaches a critical state. But nowadays, such intervention in nature has become more and more frequent. As a consequence, serious problems arise, leading to further interventions; human activity becomes ubiquitous, with all the risks which this entails. Often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation. For example, many birds and insects which disappear due to synthetic agrotoxins are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will be compensated for by yet other techniques which may prove harmful.

The American Bee Journal reports on the latest study showing a link between honeybee deaths and widely used neonicotinoids.  The precise mechanism for harm has been found.   ABJ Extra-June 27, 2016 - Neonicotinoid Pesticides Cause Harm to Honeybees

The American Bee Journal reports on the latest study showing a link between honeybee deaths and widely used neonicotinoids.  The precise mechanism for harm has been found.   ABJ Extra-June 27, 2016 - Neonicotinoid Pesticides Cause Harm to Honeybees

A sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.

Black-throated blue warbler found in large tracts of woods in the Eastern U.S. is losing its habitat.  A bird of conservation concern - audubon.org.  Photo: Kenneth Cole Schneider

Black-throated blue warbler found in large tracts of woods in the Eastern U.S. is losing its habitat.  A bird of conservation concern - audubon.org.  Photo: Kenneth Cole Schneider

In assessing the environmental impact of any project, concern is usually shown for its effects on soil, water and air, yet few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity, as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of little importance. Highways, new plantations, the fencing-off of certain areas, the damming of water sources, and similar developments, crowd out natural habitats and, at times, break them up in such a way that animal populations can no longer migrate or roam freely. As a result, some species face extinction. Alternatives exist which at least lessen the impact of these projects, like the creation of biological corridors, but few countries demonstrate such concern and foresight. Frequently, when certain species are exploited commercially, little attention is paid to studying their reproductive patterns in order to prevent their depletion and the consequent imbalance of the ecosystem.

Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness. Damage caused by selfish lack of concern is much greater than economic benefits obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. 

The Peaks of Otter salamander lives on a 12-mile stretch of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. These dark, five-inch-long salamanders have one of the most restricted ranges of any U.S. salamander.  They never move more than a few feet from underground retreats located in mature oak and maple forests.  Vulnerable to habitat loss and climate change.  www.dgif.virginia.gov  Photo:  Paul Sattler

The Peaks of Otter salamander lives on a 12-mile stretch of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. These dark, five-inch-long salamanders have one of the most restricted ranges of any U.S. salamander.  They never move more than a few feet from underground retreats located in mature oak and maple forests.  Vulnerable to habitat loss and climate change.  www.dgif.virginia.gov  Photo:  Paul Sattler

Image:  IUCN.org  Source of international information on biodiversity

Image:  IUCN.org  Source of international information on biodiversity