No One Immune

insectsMatthäus Merian der Ältere  (1593 – 1650)

 

Our Bees, Ourselves
by Mark Winston, Op-ed contributor, The New York Times

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — AROUND the world, honeybee colonies are dying in huge numbers: About one-third of hives collapse each year, a pattern going back a decade.

Honeybee collapse has been particularly vexing because there is no one cause. The main elements include the compounding impact of pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites; fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases; nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields that lack diverse flowering plants; and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself, which disrupts colonies by moving most bees around the country multiple times each year to pollinate crops.

The real issue, though, is not the volume of problems, but the interactions among them. Here we find a core lesson from the bees that we ignore at our peril: the concept of synergy. A typical honeybee colony contains residue from more than 120 pesticides; together they form a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases.

These findings provide the most sophisticated data set available for any species about synergies among pesticides, and between pesticides and disease. The only human equivalent is research into pharmaceutical interactions, with many prescription drugs showing harmful or fatal side effects when used together, particularly in patients who already are disease-compromised. Pesticides have medical impacts as potent as pharmaceuticals do, yet we know virtually nothing about their synergistic impacts on our health, or their interplay with human diseases.

Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us that our own well-being might be similarly threatened. The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years, and the widespread collapse of so many colonies presents a clear message: We must demand that our regulatory authorities require studies on how exposure to low dosages of combined chemicals may affect human health before approving compounds.

Bees also provide some clues to how we may build a more collaborative relationship with the services that ecosystems can provide. Beyond honeybees, there are thousands of wild bee species that could offer some of the pollination service needed for agriculture. Yet feral bees — that is, bees not kept by beekeepers — also are threatened by factors similar to those afflicting honeybees: heavy pesticide use, destruction of nesting sites by overly intensive agriculture and a lack of diverse nectar and pollen sources thanks to highly effective weed killers, which decimate the unmanaged plants that bees depend on for nutrition.

Recently, my laboratory at Simon Fraser University conducted a study on farms that produce canola oil that illustrated the profound value of wild bees. We discovered that crop yields, and thus profits, are maximized if considerable acreages of cropland are left uncultivated to support wild pollinators.

Such logic goes against conventional wisdom that fields and bees alike can be uniformly micromanaged. The current challenges faced by managed honeybees and wild bees remind us that we can manage too much. Excessive cultivation, chemical use and habitat destruction eventually destroy the very organisms that could be our partners.

And this insight goes beyond mere agricultural economics. There is a lesson in the decline of bees about how to respond to the most fundamental challenges facing contemporary human societies. We can best meet our own needs if we maintain a balance with nature — a balance that is as important to our health and prosperity as it is to the bees.

Spin

spider

Jan Augustin van der Goes
c. 1690

 

The Sandpiper

sandpiperGerardus van Veen (circa 1620 – 1683)
Standing Ruff, pen and brown ink, watercolor, and bodycolor


The Sandpiper

The roaring alongside he takes for granted,
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.

The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.

- Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn’t tell you which.
His beak is focussed; he is preoccupied,

looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!
The millions of grains are black, white, tan, and gray
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst.


Elizabeth Bishop (1911 – 1979)

Poems 1817

karoli

. . . .

Where swarms of minnows show their little heads,
Staying their wavy bodies ’gainst the streams,
To taste the luxury of sunny beams
Temper’d with coolness. How they ever wrestle
With their own sweet delight, and ever nestle
Their silver bellies on the pebbly sand.
If you but scantily hold out the hand,
That very instant not one will remain;
But turn your eye, and they are there again.
The ripples seem right glad to reach those cresses,
And cool themselves among the em’rald tresses;
The while they cool themselves, they freshness give,
And moisture, that the bowery green may live  . . . .

John Keats (1795 – 1821) 

 

Published in: on July 10, 2014 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Herbs, Plants, Stones

ligozzi poppyJacopo Ligpzzi (1547 – 1627)
O
pium Poppy


O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities.
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give.
Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
And vice sometime by action dignified.

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1613)
Friar Laurence, Romeo and Juliet

Small Sounds

hoef caterpillar

Many scientific reports show inexplicable behaviours of plants that seem to be analogs to animal senses, behaviours, and perhaps even intellect.

This observation of complex behaviour in plants would seem to be impossible given the fact that plants don’t have the diversification of their bodies and biology into sensory organs, nervous systems, and brains, but the facts remain.

“Plants certainly have the capacity to feel mechanical loads,” said plant biologist Frank Telewski, who was not involved in the research. “They can respond to gravity, wind, ice or an abundance of fruit.”

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri, in a collaboration that brings together audio and chemical analysis, have proven that plants hear sounds.

“Previous research has investigated how plants respond to acoustic energy, including music,” said Heidi Appel, senior research scientist in the Division of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU.
When pure tones are played, some experiments have seen changes in plant growth, germination or gene expression. For instance, one recent study showed that young roots of corn will grow toward an auditory source playing continuous tones and even responded better to certain frequencies.

“However, our work is the first example of how plants respond to an ecologically relevant vibration. We found that feeding sounds of caterpillars attacking plants signal changes in the plant cells’ metabolism, creating more defensive chemicals that can repel attacks from caterpillars.”

It is similar to how our own immune systems work — an initial experience with insects or bacteria can help plants defend themselves better in future attacks by the same predator. So while a mustard plant might not respond the first time it encounters a hungry caterpillar, the next time it will.

A deeper investigation could lead to advances in agriculture and natural crop resistance — and we could avoid harmful pesticides.

“What is remarkable is that the plants exposed to different vibrations, including those made by a gentle wind or different insect sounds that share some acoustic features with caterpillar feeding vibrations did not increase their chemical defenses,” Cocroft said. “This indicates that the plants are able to distinguish feeding vibrations from other common sources of environmental vibration.”

“Both animal and vegetable has in common a billion years of evolution. Just why we insist on believing that only certain animal life found sentience a useful evolutionary path is beyond me. This thing we like to think of as our unique sentience is in fact not at all unique rather it is just the opposite.
We are not alone.”
Russ George

http://russgeorge.net/2014/07/01/plants-hear-sounds/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/can-plants-hear-study-finds-that-vibrations-prompt-some-to-boost-their-defenses/2014/07/06/8b2455ca-02e8-11e4-8fd0-3a663dfa68ac_story.html

 

Herbal Intelligence
What Plants Perceive
The Knowledge of Vegetables
Trees Cry Out

 

Back Garden

menzel back garden
Adolph von Menzel (1815 – 1905)

Published in: on July 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm  Comments (3)  
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Early Crawford Peach

peaches

Artist: Passmore, Deborah Griscom, 1840-1911
Scientific name: Prunus persica
Common name: peaches

1905
Influence of Pre-cooling on Peaches. Specimen #1 – 34318 – Hard ripe Early Crawford peach delivered at New York in sound condition by precooling and ordinary icing. Specimen #2 – 34318 – Early Crawford peach from California picked green and shipped to New York under ordinary icing in the usual way.

 

The USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection is in the National Agricultural Library (NAL). As a historic botanical resource, it documents new fruit and nut varieties, and specimens introduced by USDA plant explorers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The collection spans the years 1886 to 1942. The majority of the paintings were created between 1894 and 1916. The plant specimens represented by these artworks originated in 29 countries and 51 states and territories in the U.S. There are 7,497 watercolor paintings, 87 line drawings, and 79 wax models created by approximately 21 artists.   

Lithographs of the watercolor paintings were created to illustrate USDA bulletins, yearbooks, and other publications distributed to growers and gardeners across America.

The Honeycomb Thief

cranach elder cupid honeyCupid Complaining to Venus
Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1472 – 1553)

 
Appetite

Pale gold and crumbling with crust
mottled dark, almost bronze,
pieces of honeycomb lie on a plate.
Flecked with the pale paper
of hive, their hexagonal cells
leak into the deepening pool
of amber. On your lips,
against palate, tooth and tongue,
the viscous sugar squeezes
from its chambers, sears sweetness
into your throat until you chew
pulp and wax from a blue city
of bees. Between your teeth
is the blown flower and the flower’s
seed. Passport pages stamped
and turning. Death’s officious hum.
Both the candle and its anther
of flame. Your own yellow hunger.
Never say you can’t take
this world into your mouth

Paulann Petersen


For Midsummer candles and mead

http://beealldesigns.com/about/

Silver Groundsel

g codexJohannes Simon Holtzbecher  (before 1649 – after 1671)

for Friedrich III, duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf, who engaged Holtzbecher to paint a visual record of his gardens. The result is the Gottorf Codex, four volumes containing 1180 flower paintings. From the archives it is clear that Holtzbecher drew from nature. Even in Hamburg the artist was able to draw from nature, since deliveries of botanist’s boxes of flowers are recorded as having been sent to him from Gottorf .       

Christie’s catalogue

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