Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Producers of Bee Killing pesticides attempting to divert public attention away from their business practices

Save the Bees! [link]

"Pesticide Producers Turn to 'Bee-Washing' to Fight Backlash"
2013-05-22 by Andrea Germanos from "Common Dreams" []:
Pesticide makers have taken to framing themselves as stewards of the bees as backlash over their products' links to mass bee deaths grows.
"Scientists, consumer groups, beekeepers and others blame the devastating rate of bee deaths on the growing use of pesticides sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops such as corn," Reuters' Carey Gillam reports [], and this "uproar worries officials at Bayer and Syngenta, who make the pesticides, as well as Monsanto, DuPont and other companies who used them as coatings for the seed they sell."
So just as some companies have tried to "greenwash" their toxic products, these agrichemical companies are engaging in "bee-washing." Gillam continues: [begin excerpt] Monsanto Co is hosting a "Bee Summit." Bayer AG is breaking ground on a "Bee Care Center." And Sygenta AG is funding grants for research into the accelerating demise of honeybees in the United States, where the insects pollinate fruits and vegetables that make up roughly a quarter of the American diet. The agrichemical companies are taking these initiatives at a time when their best-selling pesticides are under fire from environmental and food activists who say the chemicals are killing off millions of bees. The companies say their pesticides are not the problem, but critics say science shows the opposite. [end excerpt]
The “Bayer Bee Care Centers”—one in Germany, the other in North Carolina—are an attempt to show the company's commitment to bees and sustainable agriculture, it says.
“Bayer is committed to environmental stewardship and sustainable agricultural practices, including the protection of beneficial insects such as honey bees,” Professsor Wolfgang Plischke, the member of the Bayer AG Board of Management responsible for Technology, Innovation and Sustainability, announced in a statement on the company's website last year []. “We have been providing products specifically designed to ensure bee health for more than 25 years,” Plischke said.
Monsanto, too, has stated [] that it "knows that honey bees are a key component to successful sustainable agriculture globally" and that it "is committed to sustainable agriculture."
In April the European Union put a two-year ban on the use of a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids []. The decision "disappointed" neonicotinoid maker Bayer CropScience []. The company "shares the concerns surrounding bee health," it says, and believes that continued use of such pesticide products is "vital."
The agrichemical companies have dismissed numerous studies linking the pesticides to bee deaths, instead pointing to other factors such as mites.
The use of this group of pesticides continues in the U.S., however, despite a recent EPA and USDA study that showed a strong link between the pesticides and mass bee deaths [].

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Boy Scout Camp Pico Blanco (Monterey, Calif.) promotes destruction of indigenous flowers, destroys old-growth trees

2013-05-21 "Boy Scouts put rare plant in danger"
by Susanne Rust []:
Expulsion from the Boy Scouts of America is a dishonor few Scouts endure. But that was the punishment imposed on Kim Kuska, a self-taught naturalist and former biology teacher who had been with the organization for more than 50 years.
His crime: an obsession with the rare, and unfortunately named, Dudley’s lousewort.
Since the 1970s, the Eagle Scout and adult Scout leader-turned-whistle-blower has worked to protect the plant from extinction at Camp Pico Blanco, a Boy Scout camp nestled in the mountains along the Little Sur River south of Monterey, Calif.
The camp is home to nearly 50 percent of all known specimens of Dudley’s lousewort, a flowering fern-like plant found in only three places in the world.
But over the past four decades, Scout officials and camp staff have threatened its existence repeatedly by harvesting old-growth trees it needs to survive, crushing some of the few remaining plants and introducing potentially competitive species. Under state law, it is illegal to harm a plant that is classified as rare.
The camp also cut down several trees in the old-growth forest in 2011 without a permit, a Scout official acknowledged.
At each turn, Kuska was there to document the misdeeds.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is investigating the 2011 incident as a result of questions from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
While the Boy Scouts has drawn national attention for its intolerance toward gays, the organization also has compiled a poor record on environmental protection. In 2009, Hearst Newspapers reported that the Scouts clear-cut tens of thousands of acres of forestland across the country and operated a dam at Camp Pico Blanco that killed at least 30 federally protected steelhead trout. The camp installed a fish ladder as part of a no-fault settlement.
At the camp, which is surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest, state environmental agencies and conservationists repeatedly have warned the Scouts to protect the lousewort. Yet the Scouts have continued to harm the plants, according to records spanning more than 30 years.
In 1989, for instance, Monterey County cited the Scouts for their “repeated destruction of Dudley’s lousewort and its habitat,” the documents show.
And in 2012, Brian LeNeve, president of the California Native Plant Society’s Monterey Bay chapter, informed the organization that he was “deeply concerned” that the lousewort’s territory was shrinking dramatically because of the camp’s habitat “disruption.”
“There have been some well-documented concerns,” Ron Schoenmehl, director of support services for the Boy Scouts’ Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, acknowledged during a recent camp tour.
But Schoenmehl said the Boy Scouts are now determined to “coexist peacefully” with the plant and are creating a camp management plan.
Kuska, 60, has been helping the Native Plant Society study the plant with its delicate white and purple flowers since the 1970s, when he served as the Scouts’ nature director at Pico Blanco.
In May 2012, before his expulsion, Kuska marked a lousewort near the dining hall with an orange flag. Two weeks later, he noticed that someone had rolled a wheelbarrow over the plant. Concerned, he added another flag to mark the plant and surrounded it with a circle of fist-sized rocks. Weeks later, he saw someone had placed the rocks on top of the plant.
“It was an unbelievably hostile move,” he said.
Schoenmehl said he was unaware of the incident.
The lousewort takes its name from the folk belief that the plant infested sheep with lice. The Pico Blanco species was named for 19th-century Stanford University botanist William Dudley. Thriving only among old-growth trees, it depends on leaf litter produced by the redwoods and on a complex array of fungi that grows on the roots of the firs.
After the Basin Complex fire swept through the area in 2008, the Scouts applied for a permit to cut 43 damaged trees. Monterey County officials granted the permit without considering how it would affect the lousewort, Associate Planner Joseph Sidor acknowledged in an interview.
The camp cut 38, including some in 2011 after the permit expired, Schoenmehl said.
“We shouldn’t have been taking down trees that weren’t covered under a permit,” he said.
Some of the trees likely were more than 200 years old, including four redwoods with diameters exceeding 6 feet, according to the Scouts’ permit application. The forest was considered old growth because it had remained largely untouched.
In April, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found that the Boy Scouts had harvested at least one large tree in 2010 not covered under the permit.
In photos taken during the tree felling, which were posted on a Boy Scout’s Facebook page, wood cuttings could be seen piled on top of the lousewort.
The heavyset, 6-foot-4 Kuska has carefully tracked the camp’s blunders. He keeps meticulous records in boxes in the back of his covered pickup truck.
In September, the Monterey Bay Area Council declined to renew his Scouting membership, effectively expelling him without explanation. (The Monterey Bay Area and Santa Clara County councils merged in January, forming the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council.)
Kuska says he was kicked out for being a whistle-blower and exposing the Scouts’ environmental transgressions.
Schoenmehl says it was because Kuska was planting lousewort seeds in places where the plant did not already grow, including high-traffic areas near the infirmary and camping area.
These “reckless” and “unapproved” actions, he said, could compromise the camp’s activities by creating new areas that must be protected.
In August, the Scouts’ lawyers told Kuska that he could come to the camp only during supervised visits. But on May 1, Schoenmehl notified him that the council had revoked even that permission after he contacted CIR.
“This has only created further hostilities between you and our council,” Schoenmehl wrote in a letter to Kuska.
Kuska, for his part, is crushed by his banishment from the plants he loves.
“Someone needs to be protecting this plant,” he said. “Somebody’s going to have to defend it.”

Biologist Andrea Edwards inspects a Dudley’s lousewort along a trail at the Boy Scouts' Camp Pico Blanco south of Monterey, Calif. The Boy Scouts have cut down old-growth trees at the camp and trampled specimens of the rare plant. (Credit: Erik Verduzco/For the Center for Investigative Reporting)

Ron Schoenmehl, director of support services for the Boy Scouts’ Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, stands near a flag marking a Dudley’s lousewort at Camp Pico Blanco. (Credit: Erik Verduzco/For the Center for Investigative Reporting)

Kim Kuska, a self-taught naturalist and former biology teacher, was expelled from the Boy Scouts of America last year. He says he was kicked out for exposing the Scouts’ environmental transgressions. An official says it was because Kuska was planting lousewort seeds in places where the rare plant did not already grow. (Credit: Susanne Rust/Center for Investigative Reporting)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

2013-05-09 "Ignoring Bee Crisis, EPA Greenlights New 'Highly Toxic' Pesticide"

"Green group: 'The EPA continues to put industry interests first to exacerbate an already dire pollinator crisis'"
by Lauren McCauley from "Common Dreams" []:
Despite new findings that prove a heightened crisis in US bee populations and a recent ban in Europe on similar chemical applications [], the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to further endanger the population Monday by approving a "highly toxic" new pesticide [].
The "EPA continues to put industry interests first to exacerbate an already dire pollinator crisis," writes the group Beyond Pesticides [].
The agency granted sulfoxaflor, a product of the Dow Chemical Company [], "unconditional registration" for use on vegetables, fruits, barley, canola, ornamentals, soybeans and wheat among others, despite the EPA's own classification of the insecticide as "highly toxic to honey bees."
According to the Washington Examiner [], the EPA's studies on the chemical's long-term effect on bees proved to be "inconclusive due to some issues with the study designs" and thus the EPA has proposed simply reducing the amount applied.
As part of their decision, the EPA approved new language for the sulfoxaflor labels which reads, "Do not apply this product at any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall," during heightened pollinator activity.
Further, they approved an additional 'advisory pollinator statement':
[begin excerpt]
Notifying known beekeepers within 1 mile of the treatment area 48 hours before the product is applied will allow them to take additional steps to protect their bees. Also limiting application to times when managed bees and native pollinators are least active, e.g., before 7 am or after 7pm local time or when temperature is below 55oF at the site of application, will minimize risk to bees.
[end excerpt]
Though the EPA believes this advisory to be “robust” enough to protect pollinators, environmental advocacy groups such as Beyond Pesticides believe such statements "not only underscore the risks to bees" but prove to be unrealistic since systemic pesticides, including sulfoxaflor, "continue to exist in the plant (including pollen and nectar) for longer periods of time that well surpasses the recommended application intervals, and therefore expose bees to residues longer than suggested."
And, in addition to harming bees, sulfoxaflor has been known to cause tumors and carcinomas in mice and rats and has been classified as "suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential."
Dismissing these concerns, the EPA alternately points to the "need for sulfoxaflor by industry and agriculture groups to control insects no longer being controlled by increasingly ineffective pesticide technologies," proving the ongoing and harmful nature of unsustainable techniques such as pesticide sprays.
Following Europe's announcement last week that they would suspend the use of bee-harming neonicotinoids in an effort to combat the rampant colony collapse crisis, many hoped the US would announce similar reforms [].
However, following this week's announcement, groups say it is clear the EPA will continue pursue an "irresponsible" and "counter-intuitive" agenda in regards to bee health and the environment.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

DIY Mosquito Trap

Items needed:
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 gram of yeast
1 2-liter bottle

1. Cut the plastic bottle in half.
2. Mix brown sugar with hot water. Let cool. When cold, pour in the bottom half of the bottle.
3. Add the yeast. No need to mix. It creates carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes.
4. Place the funnel part, upside down, into the other half of the bottle, taping them together if desired.
5. Wrap the bottle with something black, leaving the top uncovered, and place it outside in an area away from your normal gathering area. (Mosquitoes are also drawn to the color black.)
Change the solution every 2 weeks for continuous control.