Bee colony collapse disorder affecting Michigan

A bee pollinates a peach flower. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org.

A bee pollinates a peach flower. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org.

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

With summer in Michigan comes the hot sun along with plenty of critters coming out of their habitats. Among animals and insects that emerge, the honey bee is one of them, essential to maintain life of plants in ecosystems and the creator of sweet, gooey, golden honey.

The importance of bees

Bees are one of the main pollinators for several plants including flowers, fruits and vegetables. Bees have a hand in much of the produce Americans eat. Pollination is the process of moving pollen from one part of flowers to another, causing fertilization. This contributes to growth and production of flowers, fruits and vegetables. This process is important to maintaining ecosystems and natural plant communities.  Without insects like bees to pollinate flowers and other crops, the entire ecosystem is affected, causing a decline in natural flora in Michigan, an issue that has already arisen due to many other factors. Click here for more facts about bees.

A large honeycomb. Photo by Julie Grant courtesy of Michiganradio.org.

A large honeycomb. Photo by Julie Grant courtesy of Michiganradio.org.

Colony collapse disorder

Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, is a disorder in bee colonies connected to their decline in recent years. Scientists have not pinpointed a specific cause of this decrease but infer that climate change, pesticides, mite infestations and bee disease have all contributed to CCD, according to an article in the Washington Post. Hives have been dying each year, and it’s not uncommon to lose at least five percent of colonies in a winter, said a 2011 article from Michiganradio.org. According to the article, there was an overall 30 percent nation-wide decline at the time.

Repercussions in Michigan

With CCD on the rise, the amount of crops produced annually falls. This affects the entire U.S. but is a large problem in Michigan because of the state’s agricultural industry. Farmers have seen a decline in their crops. Michigan fell in pollen production in 2013, to ninth in the nation from seventh. Not only is CCD bad for crops and honey production, it can cost beekeepers thousands of dollars.

Restoration programs

President Obama showed his support for stopping CCD in his launch of a task force related to this specific issue on June 23, according to CNN.  $50 million will be allocated for the purpose of research to stop CCD and help restore bee colonies and the economy. According to a statement from the White House, bees contribute “more than $15 billion through their vital role in keeping fruits, nuts and vegetables in our diets.” Programs like this will help the overall nation to try and stop the decline of bees and boost the economy.

Back in February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the allocation of $3 million to Midwestern states including Michigan for the assistance of farmers who would participate in projects aimed at improving pollinator health.  “The future security of America’s food supply depends on healthy honey bees,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in an MLive article.

Fishing for plastic, algae threats and California’s drought policies: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

A University of Michigan research scientist and her research assistant sift through debris from the water. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

A University of Michigan research scientist and her research assistant sift through debris from the water. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Researchers troll for plastic on Great Lakes fishing boat (Great Lakes Echo): Captain David Brooks of the Nancy K boat headed out to Lake St. Clair in pursuit of catching bits of plastic in the water. His curiosity was piqued by the fact that a sweater he owned was made of plastic and bits of plastic washed down the drain when he cleaned it. His intention with the plastic hunt in the water was to find out how harmful these bits of plastic can really be to the environment.

Bracing for Lake Erie algae threats to drinking water (Great Lakes Echo): The 2011 all-time high record of the algae blooms in Lake Erie was followed up by a close second high in 2013. Scientists and government organizations are becoming more concerned about the dangers posed by the toxic algae crowding the lake. Researchers take a closer look at the water, algae and problems surrounding it.

California approves forceful steps amid drought (New York Times): State officials have moved forward with implementing harsh repercussions for over-using water. Citizens could be fined $500 per day for simply washing a car or watering a garden. Still, convincing urban residents of the seriousness of the drought has been a difficult task.

3-D images captured with help from a panda, California condor pair and a dugong,.

3-D images captured with help from a panda, California condor pair and a dugong,.

Animals live in 3-D, now scientists do, too (Conservation Magazine): Finding animals’ home ranges have been part of recent studies. These home ranges would help scientists study animals and their habitats and employing 3-D mechanisms has helped them to get a closer look at animal life.

Still poison: Lead bullets remain a big problem for birds (Conservation Magazine): The Bipartisan Sportsman Act of 2014 may have given different parties a chance to unite in support, but would have had other implications for birds during hunting season. The bill would have called for an exemption for lead ammunition and fishing tackle from “longstanding regulations.” Recent studies have shown a growing issue with lead poisoning leading to the death of birds.

 

School’s out for summer: fun activities for kids

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

The final bell has rung and students of all ages have rushed out the door to greet the warm summer season.

There are plenty of fun outdoor activities to do while enjoying Michigan’s lush foliage from now through September that can be great for kids of all ages and their families.

Here are some entertaining activities to keep healthy and energized during summer break:

MNA members and stewards gather at the Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary in Mackinac County to take pictures. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

MNA members and stewards gather at the Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary in Mackinac County to take pictures. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

Plan your visit to an MNA sanctuary near you

MNA has over 170 nature sanctuaries in both peninsulas throughout the Great Lakes State. Each sanctuary is unique with its own type of habitat and fauna. Visiting a sanctuary is a great way to explore Michigan’s nature and learn about native plants and animals. There are also several opportunities to volunteer to preserve native plants and animals with the upcoming volunteer days in different sanctuaries.

When planning your visit to an MNA nature sanctuary remember that only foot travel is permitted so leave bikes and motorized vehicles at home. Remember to be respectful of the plants in the sanctuary and do not pull plants or collect seeds. Also remember to stay on trails and, if guided by a steward, remain close. More detailed information about sanctuary visitation policies can be found here.

Find out about upcoming events here. Visitors may also bring cameras and take photos but are asked to be aware to not accidentally harm plants or animals. Here’s your chance to showcase those photography skills and enter the MNA photo contest, submissions due August 1.

A view of Kent Lake in Kensington Metropark.

A view of Kent Lake in Kensington Metropark.

Visit parks

Michigan has many local parks which can provide an array of fun activities. For those living in the metro-Detroit area, Huron-Clinton Metroparks offer several opportunities to get out and have fun. One notable park is Kensington Metropark, located in Milford Township. Kensington offers nature trails, a biking/walking 8-mile loop, play-scapes, a farm center, boating, golfing, swimming and water slides. Click here for more details on pricing and permit fees.

For a statewide searchable listing of parks across Michigan, check out the Pure Michigan website.

Join an outdoor recreational sports team

For something fun to commit to, joining a sports team can be fun and beneficial for health. Baseball, softball, soccer and other outdoor sports might be offered in summer leagues locally. Check local websites to find out more information. Arranging just-for-fun groups to play in parks or other public areas can be fun too.

Go for a swim

Sometimes the only way to beat the heat is to take a dip. Michigan offers many lakes and public pools for residents to cool off in the hot summer season. Making a visit to one of the Great Lakes is also fun for the whole family. Be sure you check for open public beach spots. Also take note of beaches with or without lifeguards. Make sure to take proper precautions like water-wings and supervision for small children. Check out Pure Michigan’s guide for the Great Lakes here.

Explore Michigan’s history

The coast of Mackinac Island, a motor-vehicle-free spot. Photo courtesy of missionpoint.com.

The coast of Mackinac Island, a motor-vehicle-free spot. Photo courtesy of missionpoint.com.

There are many different parts of Michigan with rich histories and stories behind them. Planning a visit to local areas or museums can be fun and educational. Here are some fun, popular places to check out:

On your visit to any lake, park or nature sanctuary make sure you abide by their individual rules and respect the nature around you.

 

Droughts, natural gas flaring cuts, insect art: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

 

Drought in the southwest. Photo by Mark Henle courtesy of the Guardian.

Drought in the southwest. Photo by Mark Henle courtesy of the Guardian.

US drought to deplete Lake Mead to levels not seen since 1930s (The Guardian): Federal water managers said the drought in the southwest will drop water levels below 1,082 feet. Officials from the US Bureau of Reclamation said water obligations would be met for at least the next year with no shortages and supply will continue to be monitored.

When beliefs and facts collide (New York Times): Americans continue to stay divided in their belief of theory on how the earth was created, global warming and other issues. Surveys have concluded that many Americans don’t know all of the facts.

Natural gas flaring in North Dakota to be significantly reduced by 2020 (Huffington Post): North Dakota’s booming oil industry will face rigid restrictions in attempt to reduce flame waste byproducts from the industry by 2020. Because of the fast pace of oil drilling, much natural gas is burned off rather than given to pipelines and processing facilities who can’t keep up.

 

"Artistic endeavors of leaf cutter bees" Photo by Chris Worden courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

“Artistic endeavors of leaf cutter bees” Photo by Chris Worden courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Insect art: competition sheds new light on garden damage (Great Lakes Echo): Experts from the Canadian Pollination Initiative and the University of Guelph teamed up to start an art contest that brings a new perspective to insect-eaten plants. Their aim is turn frustration into pride — feelings that are all too familiar when gardeners come across holey plants and leaves among other beauties.

Climate change will alter fire patterns, push caribou herds around (Conservation Magazine): Increasing heat and drought have brought on more wildfires, which have been connected to the habitat of the caribou. Although wildfires may mean less trees, the trees are not what’s important to caribou; the lichens growing on them are. These lichens are what caribou subsist on and wildfires are burning them away.

MNA Volunteer Days: Red Cedar River Plant Preserve

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

The Red Cedar River Plant Preserve is more than just a 10-acre sanctuary in Williamston, Michigan, and the only one in Ingham County. This sanctuary is one of five MNA sanctuaries within the boundaries of a city and is close to the MNA’s former headquarters.

Usually land within cities has been far too degraded for MNA to claim as a sanctuary, but because of the floodplains within the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve, this area has surprisingly maintained its natural character so close to an urban area. This sanctuary was historically known as the Williamston Floodplain.

The sanctuary consists of floodplains and wetlands because it is so close to the Red Cedar River. There are also marshy and swamp-like areas as well.

These habitats are home to plant-life like marsh marigold, skunk cabbage and jewelweed. Some types of trees that grow on the floodplain ridge are black cherry and red oak. The ridge is welcoming to visitors, giving them a place to walk and explore during spring flooding season.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

This sanctuary is one of the few that MNA has built a boardwalk on and it is one of the longest and the only with an observation deck included in its design.

The area was donated in 2005 by Doug and Darlene Price, who with the help of engineer David Geyer have worked on protecting important parts of the habitat. MNA collaborated with them to change the future plans of the development of uplands in order to preserve the area within the sanctuary.

The installation of a new boardwalk will help protect the sanctuary’s floodplain. The old design could not withstand the severe flooding so MNA has organized volunteer days to install a new boardwalk with a design engineered to allow it to be more stable and provide more access to the sanctuary. About 40 feet of the boardwalk must be built this year of a total of 150 feet, and MNA is enlisting all the help it can get.

MNA extends its gratitude to engineers Jim Rossman  and Paul Rice for volunteering their time to develop the design, cost estimates and construction phases, and stewards Jim and Besty Pifer who assisted in the planning process.

Upcoming Volunteer Days:

  • Thursday, July 10 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, July 24 at 9 a.m.
  • Wednesday, August 20 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 11 at 10 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 18 at 10 a.m.

Please contact Rachel Maranto for more information about the project and volunteer days at rmaranto@michigannature.org.

Ancient lakes, Grayling fish hatchery, confounded moths: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Turtle River in eastern North Dakota, a remnant of glaciers once covering the area. Photo by Eric Freedman courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Turtle River in eastern North Dakota, a remnant of glaciers once covering the area and Lake Agassiz. Photo by Eric Freedman courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Every week, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Quick, name the greatest of Great Lakes (Great Lakes Echo): Unbeknownst to many Americans, the greatest of lakes that once existed was in North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada. This lake, known as Lake Agassiz, existed 13,000 years ago and was larger than the five current Great Lakes put together.

Michigan allows Grayling fish hatchery despite angler concerns (Detroit Free Press): On Tuesday a permit was issued to a Grayling fish hatchery to set up on Tuesday via the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. This permit proceeded despite anglers’ concern of harm to the Au Sable River.

Photo by Kiley Riffell courtesy of the New York TImes.

Photo by Kiley Riffell courtesy of the New York TImes.

City smells confound flower-seeking moths (New York Times):  A new study finds that tobacco hornworm moths which depend on nectar for energy have been adversely affected by fuel exhaust. The exhaust along with other air-pollutants have inhibited the moth from being able to smell flowers, making it difficult to find the nectar they need to survive.

Jones with rhinoceros. Photo via Facebook.

Jones with rhinoceros. Photo via Facebook.

Meet Kendall Jones the Texan cheerleader whose exotic animal hunts outraged the internet (Huffington Post): There has been a large outcry from many activists concerning photos posted by Kendall Jones on Facebook with dead or tranquilized endangered animals. Jones claims her activities are in benefit of these endangered animals, for example posing next to an unconscious rhinoceros in order to place a microchip in it for veterinary tracking purposes.

Duke Energy sued in North Carolina over river-polluting coal plants (Huffington Post): An environmental group announced its plans to sue Duke Energy over a coal ash spill at three plants along rivers in North Carolina.  The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a motion of intent on Tuesday under the federal Clean Water Act.

Uprooting invasive knapweed

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

A moth rests atop a knapweed flower. Photo courtesy of MNA archives.

A moth rests atop a knapweed flower. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

MNA is hosting several stewardship events this summer to remove the invasive knapweed plant from various sanctuaries.

The invasion of knapweed poses a danger to native plant life and must be uprooted. The knapweed’s origins are traced back to southeastern Europe. The plant begins to grow as a rosette of leaves in its first year of life and then later on grows a flower stalk ranging from six to 36 inches in height. The flower is usually pink or purple in color with a spotted head underneath, as knapweed is also referred to as “spotted knapweed.”

Knapweed can be found in well-drained soils, dry prairies and dunes. Knapweed is especially harmful to oak barrens, which are endangered worldwide.

The weed’s invasion has caused a decline in native plant species, which is threatening to the ecosystem. It can also alter water quality by causing an increase in soil runoff and erosion.

Spotted knapweed growing on dry terrain. MNA archives.

Spotted knapweed growing on dry terrain. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

Although the knapweed can be threatening to ecosystems, the removal of it poses some issues. Spotted knapweed is an important resource for honey bees to get pollen and nectar. Its removal must come in conjunction with the restoration of other nectar-producing plant life.

Two common ways of eliminating knapweed are simply pulling the plants or mowing them down. There are also herbicides and chemicals that can also be used for removal but have several regulations and must be used carefully as to not upset any other plant or wildlife.

Two different insects have also been introduced to inhibit the knapweed from spreading seeds: flower weevils and seedhead flies. These insects introduced to the knapweed are a form of biological control of the invasive species.

Of these methods, MNA has most commonly uprooted the weed. Uprooting sounds much easier than it is, involving tools to help pull as many of the knapweed’s roots out of the soil as possible. If left behind, the roots could help the weed grow again and damage native plant life.

The knapweed has a tendency to knock out all other vegetation surrounding it, making many ecosystems bare if it isn’t removed.

MNA has also used prescribed burns and herbicide to remove larger amounts of knapweed in sanctuaries. Simply pulling knapweed when it is extremely abundant wouldn’t prove effective; burns and chemicals have helped to reduce the occurrence of the plant.

For more information on spotted knapweed, see Michigan State University’s Agriculture and Natural Resources website here.

Volunteers and stewards help pick knapweed at an MNA nature sanctuary. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

Volunteers and stewards help pick knapweed at an MNA nature sanctuary. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

MNA is calling for volunteers to help pull spotted knapweed from different sanctuaries. The next pull will be hosted at the Calla Burr Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County on July 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

More upcoming knapweed removal events:

  •  July 22: Volunteer Day: Lefglen Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • July 25: Spotted Knapweed Pull at Calla Burr in Oakland County. Begins 9 a.m.
  • July 26: Spotted Knapweed Pull at Keweenaw Shores II Plant Preserve in Keweenaw County with Nancy Leonard. Begins 11 a.m.
  • August 9: Hike & Volunteer day: Redwyn’s Dunes in Keweenaw County. Begins 11 a.m.

Please contact the MNA office for more information about volunteering and preserving Michigan’s nature.