insect-pollinated plants---the humble honey bee
is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination."
Defenders of Wildlife 2013
Have you ever had days where one thing just leads to another and then another? Well yesterday was one of those days. I don't normally write about this sort of thing on my blog, but I just couldn't let it go. I had to get these stories out there and see what some of you think about all of this.
I have been worried about honey bees and bees in general for several years. I have noticed a huge decline in their numbers in my own garden. It seems that a few people are starting to jump into action to save them, so when I heard a report about a bunch of bees in Saint Paul Minnesota being killed a few days ago, I could hardly believe it. I checked the story on my online newspaper thinking somehow I had not heard it correctly on the evening news. But to my dismay, it was true.
Below is part of the story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, click here for the full story.
St. Paul fire crews killed honeybees
• Firefighters had been called to eradicate the swarm, estimated to contain 25,000 to 30,000 bees.
By KEVIN DUCHSCHERE firstname.lastname@example.org
The mystery of what killed thousands of honeybees bivouacked in two oak trees in downtown St. Paul was solved Wednesday, when an official said that fire crews had sprayed the bees with fire retardant foam in response to a police call for help.
“During the day we might have called animal control or other resources, but it was just a few minutes before midnight on a Sunday night,” St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said. “We were trying in good faith to avoid injuries or panic.”
The foam caused the bees to drop dead to the sidewalk below the trees, creating dark-colored mounds that one pedestrian the next morning likened to “small snowdrifts.”
It was a bittersweet resolution for Marla Spivak, a University of Minnesota entomologist who feared that insecticides had been used. Using foam on bees is “what fire departments have been instructed to do nationwide,” Spivak said. “If you’ve got a bee problem, it’s a good way and a fast way to get rid of it. It’s a much better way to do things than insecticide.”
Still, she said, it would have been better had officials contacted a beekeeper to move the swarm, which she estimated contained 25,000 to 30,000 bees.
“A colony of bees grows just like a plant, and they normally get to their maximum size in Minnesota in early June, when half would take off looking for a new place,” she said.
That's likely what this swarm was doing — camping in trees while waiting to find a new home — when they were killed.
“This was an unfortunate situation,” Paulos said. “Bees are cool. They help pollinate and they are a necessity to nature. But in this case, it was a public safety issue.”
OK, so here is my two cents worth! Really now, they really couldn't just pick up the phone and call a beekeeper?? The police just call the fire department and the fire department blasts a bunch of sleeping bees!!! It's not like they called a beekeeper and the guy or gal says, "Nope, can't help you, that's just too many bees. blah-blah-blah". They didn't even try!! Were the police so busy on a Sunday night around midnight that they didn't have time to think of anything else?? I'm sure they were just following procedures. Oh, and the fire department did say it was a "shame", but the bees were a public hazard.
I probably wouldn't be so irritated by this except it seems that every time a moose, or bear, or some other form of wildlife wanders into town, the only thing they can ever think to do is to kill it. Other places that come to mind like Wisconsin and Michigan, seem to use tranquilizer guns and other non-lethal methods to handle wild things.
But back to the subject at hand. The even weirder and equally disturbing part of this story is that they left the dead bees just lying there on the side walks. The images appeared as dark colored mounds akin to "snowdrifts" to passing pedestrians, who obviously reported this weird phenomenon to the newspaper, thus the article. The saddest part about this story, the bees were moving to a new colony and would probably have left as peacefully as they came. There was not one report of anyone being stung by the wayward bees.
And if that wasn't enough, the next day I read this article!
I just read in the summer 2013 edition of Defenders of Wildlife a story titled:
WildMatters --- Talk About a Buzzkill
It turns out that back in the early 1970's, some beekeepers were looking for a cheap alternative to honey to feed their bees. I mean, why let the bees eat their own honey which was so expensive, when they could feed them cheap corn syrup! Does that sound like a good idea to you? Here is what they didn't know at the time:
"High-fructose corn syrup is not itself toxic to bees, but with honey removed from their diet the bees miss out on important nutrients that help the bees fight off pathogens and the toxins found in pesticides.
The scientists found that consumption of the compound p-coumaric, for example, turns on "detoxification genes" in bees. This nutrient is found in pollen, not nectar, and makes its way into honey inadvertently by sticking to bees' legs as they visit flowers. The genes amplified by p-coumaric help bees to safely digest a common insecticide used by beekeepers to kill mites." from Defenders of Wildlife
The entire article is not posted online yet but should appear in the next month or so. Here is their link.
And then there's this.....which explains why I haven't seen a Monarch in my garden....
Monarch butterfly numbers down sharply (full story here)
Minnesota’s state butterfly is scarce again this summer, a victim of two bad weather years in a row and the decline of caterpillar-sustaining milkweed in the landscape, experts say.
Counts of caterpillars, which transform into monarchs during the summer, are “the lowest we’ve ever seen,” said Karen Oberhauser, a University of Minnesota professor who runs the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. But it’s not just a problem in Minnesota. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as low as it is this year,” said Chip Taylor, an ecology and biology professor at the University of Kansas who is also director of Monarch Watch, a research and educational organization, speaking of the monarch populations across North America.
Indeed, an estimated 60 million monarchs spent the winter at their customary migration site in Mexico, but 350 million would be customary, said Elizabeth Howard, director of the tracking site Journey North. That’s an 80 percent decline.
Ordinarily, the distinctive butterflies, with gold-and-black wings trimmed with white specks, are common across the Minnesota landscape this time of year. Aggressive suppression of milkweed in corn and soybean fields has removed a key piece of the monarch life cycle across much of North America, Oberhauser said. “There’s a strong correlation between the loss of milkweed habitat and loss of monarch numbers,” she said.
Krischik, who is researching ways to blunt the declines under a grant from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, said linden trees, which are in bloom this time of year, should be buzzing with pollinating insects. She said she was “stunned” when she checked 30 trees Wednesday and found only a single painted lady butterfly. “It’s not just that there aren’t monarchs. There’s nothing there,” she said.
“We have met the enemy, and he is us,” Krischik said. “... we’re never going to see monarchs like we did, say, in the 1990s,” Taylor said. “We’ve lost too much habitat.”
So friends, what do you think?