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The early pollinator

A Syrphid fly visits Pasque Flower on a windy spring afternoon.

What can you do, in a seasonal desert,

but search for perfection, means of living or dying,

not by illness, or natural selection,

but the economists algorithm.

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Barn Bluff, Redwing Minnesota

1. When the snow melts, and daylight hours begin to cast a warm light, Pasque Flowers (Anemone patens) surface to welcome another year.

2. An American couple pause to reflect on a coal fired power plant below.

3. The most sacred grounds, of the rarest beauty, traveled by many, but understood by few.

4. As life reawakens, the Yellow-Rumped “Myrtle” Warbler (Dendroica coronata) feeds on a congregation of recently thawed flies.

5. A Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) darts across the path after carefully examining her options.

On Neonicotinoids

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Neonicotinoids (neo-nih-CAH-tin-oids) are systemic chemicals, which are absorbed into the plant’s vascular system, leaving the entire plant toxic to both target and non-target insects.  Systemic chemicals affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. This class of insecticides is particularly harmful to bees as accumulated neonicotinoids are consumed by adults or stored, concentrated, and fed to developing young.

These days we are hearing more reports of Honey Bee die-offs and Colony Collapse Disorder, though the European Honey Bee is but one species of invertebrates facing a precarious future. Native insect species all over the world are subjected to a deadly combination of stresses (with undiscovered species disappearing completely before being properly studied or understood). These stresses are widespread and stem directly from human activity. Habitat loss, fragmented ecosystems, alien organisms, industrial farming practices, climate change and the proliferation of lawns are a few major sources of invertebrate decline. Pesticides, which indiscriminately kill insects by design, pose the most immediate danger to invertebrates worldwide.

Following registration in the mid 1990’s, neonicotinoid use has grown to make this the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. While large-scale agricultural applications account for the greatest levels of cumulative harm (chronic lethal exposure), landscaping and garden use result in higher rates of death (acute lethal exposure) in non-target insects. The most notible victims of neonicotinoid exposure are pollinator species, which perform a key role in over one-third of our food system. This disproportionate frequency of non-target insect mortality is largely due to the abundance of unregulated insecticides available in retail stores, and a lack of understanding by those who use them.

Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals, which are absorbed into the plant’s vascular system, leaving the entire plant toxic to both target and non-target insects. Neonicotinoids exhibit long periods of toxicity, with two of the most widely used insecticides persisting in soil at toxic levels for many months and even years. Metabolites (the breakdown product of complex substances) and synergisms (combined substances which result in a greater potency than the original) could make neonicotinoids even more toxic and persistent than is already known.

The accumulation of neonicotinoids may adversely affect many invertebrates beyond those targeted through the initial application. Routes of unintended exposure can originate from spray drift, residual contact, particle exposure (from mechanized planting of treated seeds), as well as exposure through contaminated soil, nesting resources, water, pollen and nectar. Pollen and nectar contamination is especially worrisome for bees as accumulated neonicotinoids may be stored, concentrated, and fed to developing young. Adults can also suffer from chronic and acute exposure, through foraging and ingestion of toxic nectar. The sublethal effects on Honey Bees range from inhibited flight, navigation and taste, in addition to a decrease in learning and foraging ability. Sublethal effects on native bees, such as bumblebees and solitary bees, include reduced food consumption and reproduction success, decreased worker survival, reduced foraging and delayed development.

Environmental stresses are pushing native pollinators to the edge of ecological collapse, with cascading effects seen globally. You can begin helping pollinators right away by conserving and promoting native habitat, gardening with native plants and avoiding insecticide use. Your contributions are essential to curbing the decline of native pollinators and invertebrates. Over one-third of your food supply hangs in the balance.

Reference sources for information on this page were publications of the Xerces Society. For more information visit the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation at http://www.xerces.org, or view their special reports on Neonicotinoids (also available in printed form) at http://www.xerces.org/neonicotinoids-and-bees/ and http://www.xerces.org/beyond-the-birds-and-the-bees/

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Bombus auricomus on Penstemon digitalis

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The connections around us are seemingly endless. Without acute awareness the transmissions of understanding are squandered. Every relationship tells a history, native or forced. We must keep our eyes and ears tuned to the truth.

Comments on the Wisconsin DNR Species Status Assessment

May 20th, 2013

The recently proposed changes to the Wisconsin DNR endangered species list are a troubling distortion of wildlife vigor.  The proposed removal of species such as Blanding’s Turtle, American fever-few and Prairie Indian-Plantain, among others, favors unsustainable development, and leaves even more of our native species increasingly vulnerable to extinction.

The Wisconsin DNR Species Status Assessment Worksheet (SAW) for Blanding’s Turtle acknowledges a long-term population decline of 30-50% over the past 200 years. The declines of American fever-few correlate with the expansion of human settlement: “American fever-few presumably suffered significant reductions in the state when the original prairies of southern Wisconsin were reduced by over 99% between 1850 and 1900”. The fate of Prairie Indian-Plantain shared similar reductions, as stated in the DNR-SAW: “Prairie Indian-plantain has likely suffered steep declines over the past 100 years due to conversion of habitat for agriculture, wetland draining and filling, and fire suppression”. Even a small examination of prairie or wetland ecosystems would prompt one to ask, why is Wisconsin willing to let these native species go unprotected by taking them off of the endangered species list?

The Wisconsin DNR Species Status Assessment Worksheet for Prairie Indian-Plantain acknowledges the likely motivation on Line 15 of Economic Impacts: “Probable costs from the proposed status change include removing legal protection would likely have small economic benefits by removing legal requirements to avoid or transplant individuals during pipeline or road construction projects, though transportation departments and utility corporations would still be strongly encouraged to do so.” Do these “small economic benefits by removing legal requirements” justify the permitted destruction of important native species? Incidentally, I am skeptical that most transportation departments or utility corporations will take the importance of these conservation recommendations seriously.

Why are we continuing to destroy precious plant and animal species for “small economic benefits”? I can only hope the citizens of Wisconsin and neighboring states will ask these questions. If you would like to review the species reports listed under the Wisconsin DNR “Recommended For Delisting” page visit http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/etlist.html. Aldo Leopold said “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”. If you agree with ongoing and expanded protection for at-risk species let your opinions be heard. We are all members of the same community.

Daniel Barron
Freeport, IL

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Agapostemon on Ranunculus fascicularis

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Agapostemon on Ranunculus fascicularis

Green Sweat Bee on Early Buttercup

When the ground thaws,

for just a few weeks,

and the balance between sunlight and precipitation begins to mediate,

one can find the reassurance of sights once seen,

one year ago.

Botany study 130428.01

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Fracking is a shortsighted solution to our energy needs

October 3, 2012
Daniel Barron
Freeport, Illinois

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a shortsighted approach to solving our economic and energy needs. The deeper implications of the fracking process and natural gas consumption boom establish a weak and misleading justification for unfounded benefits the industry, and their interest groups, would like us to believe.

1. As a source of jobs, the sustainability of fracking would seemingly rival that of asbestos installation. The boom in natural gas production is supplying jobs to workers displaced by the economic recession, but does that mean these are “good” sustainable jobs? What are the long-term health risks for this occupation? Perhaps one day these same energy companies will get rich again, starting businesses that accept public grants to clean up their own poison. Given this pollution is being injected directly into deep wells, this would be an impossible undertaking, though from a corporate perspective this would be a very lucrative and long-term (endless) profit source.

2. As a proposed clean energy source, the entire spectrum of natural gas bleeds inefficiencies. Exploration and collection processes utilize dangerous chemical mixtures requiring thousands of gallons of fresh water. The exposure and transfer of these chemicals to potable groundwater is almost certain. The entire process from gas well development to transportation incurs massive fuel consumption, and the end product, though cleaner than dirty coal, is still a fossil fuel and a net emitter of damaging greenhouse gases.

3. On claims of safety, the natural gas producers have been very public, but say very little. The human health implications masked in secrecy and defended as trade secrets are no different than the historic concealment of severe health implications from other industrial processes, DDTs, PCBs and sulfur dioxide, to name a few. This invasion on our human right to a healthy and safe environment has happened in the past and continues to occur under the profits-before-people paradigm. The ugly truth of this process is being suppressed, and industry lawyers have health care professionals and the public locked up in an expensive legal cage.

What are better alternatives to natural gas and the shortsighted methods in which it is derived? Alternative energy sources such as solar and wind are very promising in the growth of old and new industries alike. Of course, the best, and unpopular, route to sustainability is to use less energy and waste fewer resources (much less).

The American citizen must exercise vigilance and responsibility for the issues that impact our environment. Future generations will be critical of our decision to act, or to not act. Significant and important change is made in the individual and must come from the bottom up.

Daniel Barron is a Freeport, Ill., resident.

Rock River Times, From the Oct. 3-9, 2012, issue

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