Plight of the Honeybees—Part Six

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jeff Pettis leads the Bee Research Lab of the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md. "From the beekeepers standpoint, we're not finding answers fast enough. They're struggling," he says. And more attention on the research side is focused on neonicotinoids because "they move through the system of the plant and can concentrate in the pollen. It's a new route of exposure for pollinators. In general, the jury is out, but pesticide exposure has come up...

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Plight of the Honeybees—Part Five

Friday, August 16, 2013

Eric and Sue Olsen from Yakima, Washington, have been in the beekeeping business 32 years. They lost 65 percent of their bees in 2010 in California. Like others in the bees-on-wheels pollinator business, they transport their hives on trucks to different parts of the country when different crops come into flower. After the California die-off, says Sue Olsen, they had to get a $700,000 bank loan to buy new bees, "They were sprayed with something," she says. "It probably...

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Plight of the Honeybees—Part Four

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bee hive at the Fairchild Farm Dave Mendes says his colonies have grown dramatically to almost 20,000 hives over the last three years because he now is engaged in "high-input beekeeping" that requires far more work than beekeeping did a decade ago. He splits his hives annually, introduces new queens often, and he takes his bees to California in the spring to pollinate almonds, having switched from honey production. California almonds command the biggest pollination event on the...

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Plight of the Honeybees—Part Three

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Habitat loss has depleted bee foraging areas, impacting bee nutrition. "Acreage of corn and soybeans have high dollar value, and the acreage is expanding either into conservation areas or prairies or places good for pollinator habitats," Mendes says. Richard Campbell examines a beehive. In mid-summer at the Fairchild Farm, Campbell's six bee colonies would starve if they weren't fed honey in a landscape altered by nurseries, farms and houses. "That's the...

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Plight of the Honeybees—Part Two

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In April, European regulators suspended for two years the use of systemic pesticides related to nicotine called neonicotinoids, which, in high doses, can cause paralysis and death in insects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not suspended their use - although the Oregon Department of Agriculture stopped the use of 18 products containing one of the related chemicals after two massive bee kills in June while it investigates the incidents. The EPA established a Pollinator...

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Plight of the Honeybees

Monday, August 12, 2013

Richard Campbell sprinkles powdered sugar on his honeybees to control parasitic varroa mites that attach themselves to backs of bees like small ticks and drink hemolymph, or bee blood. Campbell, director of horticulture at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, long has had a hobby of beekeeping and oversees hives at the Fairchild Farm, at the Garden in Coral Gables and at his home in Homestead. The powdered sugar causes honeybees to groom themselves and scrape off the mites. Applying powdered ...

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Risen from the Dead: Cayman Sage

Friday, August 2, 2013

Ants battle inside a Cayman sage flower. Whether caused by human beings, or stemming from a more "natural" cause, there is little sadder than the extinction of an entire species. From my standpoint, it is the loss of ability to simply know the world that particular species experienced-or just the inability to view a beautiful plant or animal in its natural surroundings. That's perhaps selfish, but I think also a normal initial reaction. The greater loss is immeasurable....

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The Destroying Angel—Mushroom Hunting at Fairchild

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It had been raining intensely for a couple days straight as of Friday, July 19, which it often does in South Florida during the summer, our wet season. Time to mushroom hunt! I don't hunt them to eat, but rather to photograph and hopefully identify and research. I first ran across a nice mushroom under the sapodilla tree outside the Glasshouse Cafe. Then I walked a circuit along the path west past the Whitman Tropical Fruit Pavilion, past the Edible Garden, until soon the path turns...

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Meet Our Oldest Resident

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Plants and trees can be notoriously long lived (except perhaps the ones you buy at home improvement stores). California's own Great Basin bristlecone pines are undoubtedly exemplary, with "Methusaleh" (Pinus longaeva) so far at 4,844 years old. There is reportedly an even older bristlecone pine, but its identity and location are kept undisclosed. And these pines aren't clones of the original (like the 9,550-year-old spruce tree in Sweden or Pando, the ancient quaking...

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The rewards of the mango festival

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mango fans crowd the Garden House. It happens every July: mango madness descends on South Florida, with its epicenter at Fairchild's International Mango Festival. Steamy, rainy, sunny, then steamy again. No matter. The pure joy of tasting. The fun of tasting and rating, sniffing, holding mangoes fills the garden to the brim with lovers of this exquisite fruit. And the tastes can come in many forms, as visitors sampled mango and Key lime pie, mango smoothies, mango-orange drink, mango...

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