Save the Bees! post for ecoetsy.com

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When you think about animals vital to human survival, bees and their fellow pollinators are right at the top of the list. Without bees, crops don’t grow, and we don’t get to eat real food. For a few years now, researchers and gardeners alike have been wringing their hands over the mass disappearance of so many bees, known under the collective name Colony Collapse Disorder.

Several culprits were named, including cellphone towers and radio waves, while some organic gardeners quietly began to question the role of pesticides intended to kill harmful insects. Unfortunately, even though the makers of these products promised us they were safe, the evidence is rolling in like a tidal wave, and it’s really no longer possible to believe those assurances. The true killer is looking undoubtedly like a product produced by Bayer Crop Science, called a neonicotinoid, which is a synthetic derivative of nicotine. It works by attacking insects’ nervous systems, and not just the insects you want affected. Tom Phillpot explains how in this Mother Jones article:

Neonicotinoids are what’s known as “systemic,” meaning they suffuse and “express” themselves in the whole plant when it germinates, including nectar and pollen. That’s precisely what makes them so effective at attacking pests—and, unfortunately, “nontarget” species like honeybees and other beneficial insects too.

Now here’s the truly scary news: It’s not just big industrial growers using these harmful products. They’re right in your own lawn and garden center, and quite possibly in your or your neighbor’s yard. Do any of these products look familiar?

bayer

Again, from Mother Jones:

Take a close look at the label, and you’ll find that its one active pesticide ingredient is imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid. “Apply granules to soil around base of plant, sprinkling evenlyin the area under branches,” the instructions state. How does the product work? Bayer provides a helpful explanation right on the label:
This product is absorbed by roots and moves through the entire plant. Even new growth is fed and protected against insects for up to 8 weeks. Rain or watering cannot wash off this internal protection!
That’s great news for your flower garden—and bad news for honeybees and other benign insects that your flowers might be beckoning with pollen and nectar.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a new report out by the American Bird Conservancy indicates that these pesticides may not only be harming bees, but birds and some amphibious species. The synopsis states that “This report reviews the effects on avian species and concludes that neonicotinoids are lethal to birds as well as to the aquatic systems on which they depend.” You can read that report here (PDF) in it’s entirety.

Environmental Agencies in both the US and EU have been pressured by concerned organizations to ban these products, but have so far caved to industry pressure and not done so. According to HuffPo, in the EU, Syngenta and Bayer have proposed a “Bee Health Plan” to try and avoid government action. The plan consists of “the planting of more flowering margins around fields to provide bee habitats as well as monitoring to detect the neonicotinoid pesticides blamed for their decline and more research into the impact of parasites and viruses.”

Here in the US, according to NBC, a group of “four professional beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups… filed a lawsuit against the EPA in the Northern District Court of California, demanding that the regulatory agency suspend the use of pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam.”
“Beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups have demonstrated time and time again over the last several years that EPA needs to protect bees. The agency has refused, so we’ve been compelled to sue,” said Peter Jenkins, a lawyer for the Center for Food Safety who is representing the coalition of plaintiffs.”

If you’d like to make your voice heard, Care has a petition to the EPA over here. Talk to your local garden stores about the products mentioned above, or help educate your friends and neighbors about their potential dangers. Try your hand at natural pest control (more on that in a future post) and plant more pollinator friendly organic flowers like bee balm and butterfly bush.

The effects of these neonicotinoids is immediate, and irreversible. We need our bees and our pollinators for our very survival, so action must be takes as soon as possible to get these products out of our ecosystem.

(this post was originally written for the ecoetsy team blog, and is saved here for my convenience)

Buying Seeds

I saw this post over the weekend, and pretty much had to link over to it since it’s just about the time to start planting seeds and seedlings.

IF YOU ARE THE KIND OF GARDENER who buys vegetable seeds or seedlings (including tomato plants) from a local garden center, as I sometimes do, beware the varieties you select. Otherwise, you could very well be putting money into the hands of the wretched Monsanto Corporation. Forewarned is forearmed, right? Here is the list of Seminis/Monsanto home-garden vegetable varieties, and yes, it even includes zucchini:

I do buy varieties from a couple local nurseries, and while I try to go to the small ones first, sometimes they are out of what I want, so Lowe’s it is. The list over at AGardenForTheHouse blog will go right into my wallet so I can double check before I buy.

(please note: the list is not implying all those varieties are genetically modified. However, I don’t want to give Monsanto a penny if I can help it, so that’s why this list is important. You’ll probably notice there are some heirloom varieties on this list. Don’t panic. Some varieties can be from multiple sources, so if it’s an heirloom and it’s on this list, just ask your seller where they buy from)

Pecan Pie with Agave Nectar

This year, I made my first ever pecan pie, and it only took 6 months!

Heh, just kidding, but it did start in June with a visit by a hrududu:

Under all that insanely overgrown wisteria, were three glorious old pecan trees. We’ve been here 5 years though, and never gotten any edible pecans. Well, apparently the largest of the three trees was sending us a thank-you for rescuing it from the vines’ stranglehold, because I must have picked up close to 15 pounds of pecans in the last month:

So, of course there had to be pie.

However, I couldn’t find any corn syrup I felt good about using, so I decided to see what would happen if I subbed agave nectar for it. The answer? Well, it tasted fantastic, but in the next round I think I might add another egg or chop the pecans up smaller, as the ability of it to maintain a “slice” shape was a little pathetic. Yes, we had pecan cobbler =D

(which is why you only get a photo before it was sliced into, lol)

However, here’s what I put into it, if you bake and have suggestions, I’m all ears for a consistency helper!

1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup agave nectar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp grand marnier
2 1/2 cups pecans

and on this note, I think I’m going to go get another slice! Merry Christmas y’all!

take THAT Monsanto!

While I’m sure this decision is going to go back and forth in the courts for a while, this little bit of good news is certainly worth celebrating:

Purveyors of conventional and genetically-modified (GM) crops — and the pesticides and herbicides that accompany them — are finally getting a taste of their own legal medicine. Minnesota’s Star Tribune has reported that the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that a large organic farm surrounded by chemical-laden conventional farms can seek damages for lost crops, as well as lost profits, caused by the illegal trespassing of pesticides and herbicides on its property.

You can read the rest over on Natural News. and also in the local Star Tribune

Garden 2011

The garden’s been a little slow this year. Things got planted late, and then we realized nothing was getting enough sun, because trees keep growing. Who knew? *cough* Now that the wisteria has been demolished, however, we’re getting back to some awesome growth. Yay.

berries are on the other side and out front, plus there’s an herb garden and more beans up by the patio. so far so good!