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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 truth about bugs: It's all about perspective

Sunday, August 11, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald In the world of bugs, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Not all insects are horrible. In fact, most have some redeeming qualities (except maybe bed bugs). While a bee sting hurts, bees are the world's best pollinators. And even though roaches are extremely creepy in the house, they are fabulous decomposers. It all depends on perspective. And a plant's perspective is a very important one. These bugs can be the...

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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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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—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 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 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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FIU-Biology Faculty Organizes Florida Algal Diversity Workshop with Support from Science Village Laboratories

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dr. Ligia Collado-Vides, faculty member of the Department of Biological Sciences of FIU organized a workshop on Florida Algal Diversity between August 10-13, 2013. The workshop included Dr. Mutue Toyota Fujii (Brazil), Dr. Valeria Cassano (Brazil), Dr. Jhoana D az-Larrea (Mexico), and Dr. Juan Lopez Bautista (Alabama). Three students from FIU and four from Alabama University also joined the workshop. Most of the field work was conducted at the Deering Estate Park. The laboratory...

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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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Let us praise the fauna of the compost pile

Sunday, August 18, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Composting is good. Very good, in fact. You get to avoid tossing vegetable scraps in the garbage so the bin doesn't fill as quickly; there's less garden debris to dispose of; and the end result is a rich soil amendment you couldn't even buy. A compost bin is a simple box allowing for drainage and air circulation. I think all gardeners are clear on the "why" of composting, and I definitely want to go over the "how." But...

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New EPA label for bee-toxic pesticides

Sunday, August 18, 2013

EPA's bee icon to appear on four pesticidelabels that will kill bees and other insect pollinators. The Environmental Protection Agency has released a new pesticide label that prohibits use of four chemicals "when bees are present." The label will contain a bee symbol and information about spray drift and timing for use to avoid bees. The pesticides include are imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, all neonicotinoides.The new label will state this product can kill bees ...

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Crab for Lunch

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I had quite the little adventure one day last week during a midmorning break. I've become fascinated with the many land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) living here at the Garden. It makes sense they're here. They like low-lying areas near the coast, and usually aren't found more than five miles from the coast, having to return to the ocean to disburse their eggs. (Note: I once saw one in my backyard in Country Walk, a good eight miles or so from the nearest salt water as the crow...

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A small tree for tough landscapes: joewood

Sunday, August 25, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Joewood (Jacquinia keyensis) is a somewhat uncommon South Florida native shrub or small tree. Though found in the Keys, preferring the ecotone - transition area - between coastal thickets and hammocks (sometimes called maritime hammock), it is rare elsewhere, listed as "threatened" by the state. Besides southeast Florida, Everglades National Park and the Keys, it has also been documented in Lee County's coastal strand on the west...

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Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund Supports Research in Jamaica

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mrs. Tracy Commock (Director of the Natural History Museum of Jamaica, Institute of Jamaica) is being supported with a grant from the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund to undertake studies pertinent to the systematics and conservation biology of the Jamaican endemic genus Dendrocousinia (Euphorbiaceae). The project is led by Mrs. Tracy Commock and it is being performed in partnership with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Herbarium Curator of Fairchild, Dr. Brett Jestrow) and ...

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Director of Museum of Natural History of Jamaica Performs Research at the Science Village

Monday, August 26, 2013

Supported by a grant from the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Mrs. Tracy Commock (Director of the Natural History Museum of Jamaica - Institute of Jamaica) is conducting research on the systematics of the Jamaican endemic genus Dendrocousinia (Euphorbiaceae) between August 25 and September 15. Mrs. Tracy Commock is the Principal Investigator of this project. The research is being performed in the FIU-Fairchild Molecular Systematics and the Fairchild Anatomy and Morphology...

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Snakes, snails and rainfall tales

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This summer in South Florida, rain has put our plants on liquid steroids. Lucky for them, but maintenance has kept us running with pruners. On those occasions when the sun appears, a good day's work has meant several changes of appropriate attire - T-shirts and shorts designated for gardening by telltale stains of plant blood. (I know that bananas and crotons can stain, but they cannot possibly account for all the drips and drabs I manage to accumulate.) In times like this, we must...

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Can't Wait for Fall—Veggies, Fruit and All

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

So I always plan to garden in the fall, but usually fail. "What? It's April already? I thought it was still September," I'll often be heard to say. Not this fall though. I've started the garden already and there's no turning back now-money has been spent! I definitely want tomatoes, the old standard. But I want something really, really good. I don't know exactly what that is, but I am pretty certain I can't get it locally. I therefore ordered...

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