Happy National Pollinator Week

By Eugene Kutz, MNA Intern

This year, the Michigan Nature Association is recognizing one decade of National Pollinator Week, put into place by the U.S. Senate to recognize the critical role pollinators have in ecosystem health and agriculture, and to recognize “the value of partnership efforts to increase awareness about pollinators and support for protecting and sustaining pollinators.”

pollinator weekThe U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior have designated June 19-25 as National Pollinator Week in 2017 ─ a statement on how critical pollinators are to food production and ecosystems.

National Pollinator Week is a time to share the news about the need for healthy pollinator populations (bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles) and what can be done to protect them. This important awareness week addresses the devastating effects that declining pollinator populations will continue to have on agriculture and ecosystems that we all rely on.

The National Pollinator Week is now celebrated and recognized by countries across the globe, where many are celebrating healthy ecosystems and the services provided by pollinators and their positive effect on all of our lives, from supporting wildlife to keeping watersheds healthy.

For more information, visit The Pollinator Partnership, the largest non-profit dedicated exclusively to promoting the health of pollinators through conservation, education, and research.

To see a list of events taking place in Michigan this week, check out http://www.pollinator.org/pollinatorweek/events#Michigan:

Michigan BeePalooza 2017 bumble
6/18/2017, 1:00 PM
1066 Bogue Street East Lansing, 48824
“A fun afternoon event on Father’s Day at the MSU Demonstration Gardens in East Lansing, with interactive educational displays about the Bees of Michigan, beekeeping, bee conservation for homeowners, bumble bee ecology, face painting, and more!”
https://www.facebook.com/events/712867558881877 ; http://www.beepalooza.org

Pollinator Day 2017
6/24/2017, 12:00 PM
34051 Ryan Road, Sterling Heights, 48310
“Eckert’s Greenhouse is hosting an Annual Pollinator Day! Go to three different stations to learn about the importance of Butterflies, Bees, Birds and Bats! Let us help you make a friendly pollinator garden from our wide variety of annuals and perennials.” http://www.eckertsgreenhouse.com/specials–events.html

Free Seminar: Create A Garden To Attract Pollinators
6/24/2017, 10:00 AM
English Gardens, West Bloomfield, 48322
“Our experts will share tips on creating a garden that pollinators will love to call home.” http://www.englishgardens.com/events/create-a-garden-to-attract-pollinators/
Contact information: ewinger@englishgardens.com

Stewardship Workday At Bluffs Nature Area
6/24/2017 9:00 AM
222 Sunset Rd, Ann Arbor, 48103
“Bluffs Nature Area offers trails for bikers, walkers and runners along with interesting views of the river and a small hidden prairie. Volunteers are needed to pull invasive plants that provide little food for wildlife and crowd out native wildflowers.”
www.a2gov.org/NAP; 734.794.6627; NAP@a2gov.org

For a complete look at all National Pollinator Week events in the U.S. this week take a look at this map: http://pollinator.org/npw_events.htm.

 

 

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Bee Restoration, Lake Trout, and Birding Apps: this week in environmental news

To save bees, city plans 1,000 acres of prairie (mother nature network): It’s generally a bad time to be a bee in the United States. Populations of the pollinating insects have been declining for more than a decade, including managed honeybee colonies as well as various species of native wild bees. Of course, this isn’t just bad news for bees. Not only do honeybees give us honey and wax, but bees of all stripes play a pivotal role in our food supply. This spring, the city of Cedar Rapids will seed 188 acres with native prairie grasses and wildflowers, part of a broader plan to create a diffuse, 1,000-acre haven for bees and other pollinators. This should help local ecosystems as well as local farms, and if it works as intended, it could become a model for similar projects elsewhere. The 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative in Cedar Rapids is hoping to create a movement to build oases for pollinators across the country.

bee

A bee forages among purple flowers near Iowa City. Photo: Geoffrey Fairchild/Flickr.

Searching for bee veterinarians (Great Lakes Echo): Michigan State University is searching for veterinarians willing to treat bees. The Pollinator Initiative at Michigan State launched the search after a recent FDA decision outlawed over-the-counter antibiotics for all food-producing animals. That means a veterinarian has to give beekeepers a prescription for antibiotics. Meghan Milbrath, a beekeeper of 23 years, has a list of 22 Michigan veterinarians who are willing to work with beekeepers, and it is online for beekeepers to find and pick from, depending on their location. In the meantime, Milbrath will train the veterinarians on how to write bee prescriptions. She is teaching online courses and hosting monthly webinars. Eventually, she hopes to create a bee health elective in the College of Veterinary Medicine at MSU.

Unique lake trout could help restore Lake Michigan population (Great Lakes Echo): Scientists have found a potential new ally in the fight to restore lake trout in Lake Michigan. Elk Lake in Northwest Michigan is home to a strain of that fish that researchers believe can contribute uniquely to restoring it. Elk Lake trout have been self-sustaining and reproducing for years. Scientists have been attempting for decades to reintroduce strains from Lake Superior and other areas in the basin–with mixed success. Stocking from Elk Lake may be more successful. Diversity benefits reintroduction efforts because different strains survive in different habitats. Improving lake trout stocking has broad public support.

It’s like Shazam for birds: Song Sleuth app IDs birds by their song (treehugger): The Song Sleuth app was just released for iOS, with an Android version in the works for this fall, and it not only helps people become better birders by helping them identify birds by their songs, but it also includes access to The David Sibley Bird Reference, which offers additional details about the birds, including the birds’ seasonal range maps, song samples, and illustrations of their appearance. Song Sleuth users need merely open the app, push the record button, and allow the app to listen in and record the bird’s song, after which the users are presented with the three most probable birds that the song belongs to. Users can geotag their recordings, add custom notes to them, download the audio files for future reference, or even send their recordings to others via email of messaging apps, further adding to the social nature of the birding community (or used to attract more people to the art and science of birding).

song-sleuth-app

Song Sleuth App. © Wildlife Acoustics.

MI Invasive Species, Poweshiek Skipperlings, and Bees: this week in environmental news

Michigan Invasive Species (MI.gov): Does your work take you to several outdoor sites in one day? Do you fish or hunt at different locations in the same week? If so, your actions could be considered high-risk for spreading species around the state. Want to learn more? Take a few minutes to watch this new video that briefly explains the best ways to look for and remove invasive species.

poweshiek skipperling

Poweshiek skipperling. Photo: Erik Runquist/Minnesota Zoo.

The Poweshiek Skipperling: A Prairie Butterfly on the Brink (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species): Poweshiek skipperlings are small butterflies that live only in native prairies that have never been plowed, which makes them vulnerable. Until recently, the species (Oarisma poweshiek) was one of the most common prairie-obligate skipper in the Midwest. Yet, in the last decade, surveyors observed an abrupt and rapid decline in the species, and population after population began to vanish. Despite extensive surveys, the skipperling appears to exist in critically low numbers at just a handful of sites scattered between Wisconsin, Michigan, and Manitoba.

sleeping-bear-bike trail

The proposed trail. Image: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Trail segment installed at Sleeping Bear (Great Lakes Echo): A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held recently for a new segment of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The trail will eventually run 27 miles from Empire northeast about halfway up the Leelanau Peninsula. To limit environmental impact, the trail follows existing utility corridors, abandoned roads and a narrow gauge railroad. That minimizes its impact on forested areas and wetlands. Boardwalks are built with helical piles, a more environmentally friendly alternative to cement foundations. Instead of digging up landscape and pouring permanent cement, the piles screw directly into the ground and can be unscrewed if needed.

MSU researcher: more wild bee habitat would benefit growers (Great Lakes Echo): For farmers across Michigan and the country, pollination is essential for making their crops grow. For years now, they’ve kept a close eye on a key pollinator, bees, mainly because their numbers have been declining. Listen to the podcast with Rufus Isaacs, a professor of entomology at MSU, to learn more.

Northern lights, rattlesnakes, and city bees: this week in environmental news

An auroral substorm over the Mackinac Bridge. Image: Shawn Malone, Special to Detroit News

An auroral substorm over the Mackinac Bridge. Image: Shawn Malone, Special to Detroit News

Northern lights over northern Michigan (The Detroit News): Skywatchers received a celestial treat Monday and Tuesday nights when northern lights were visible in northern Michigan. A storm on the sun sent waves of solar particles 93 million miles to earth’s magnetic poles to create an aurora borealis. The light show stretched from New Hampshire to Nebraska treating citizens to red and green ribbons that shimmered against the inky sky.

Michigan rattlesnakes face uncertain future (Detroit Free Press): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommend putting the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, Michigan’s only venomous snake, on the threatened species list due to habitat loss and negative human interaction. While most people fear these snakes, only one or two people are bitten by the snakes each year, but there has not been a fatality for decades, according to the DNR. The best way to ensure survival of the rattlesnake is to preserve its habitat and support wetlands conservation.

Urban beekeeping is on the rise, a trend that could help bees and educate people. Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Urban beekeeping is on the rise, a trend that could help bees and educate people. Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

City bees pollinate urban education (Great Lakes Echo): Urban beekeeping is an increasingly popular teaching tool that also provides support for the threatened pollinators. Rooftops and balconies are great places for beehives in the city since the bees will fly above everyone. Programs at Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota are working to provide educational programs and events for various age groups and help support organizations that teach kids about bees. They also provide hands-on mentoring classes about basic beekeeping. They understand that no bees means no food and emphasize the importance of bees as pollinators and the food systems they support.

App shows energy sources, emails preferences to state officials (Great Lakes Echo): PicMyEnergyMix is a new web app that calculates the sources of energy used by people in Michigan and lets them adjust the mix on their screen to reflect their preferences. Users can denote how much of each energy source they would like to use. The website adjusts the other percentages proportionately. If a person favors only solar and wind power and selects exactly 50 percent of each, everything else lowers to zero. Michigan has recently lost ground when it comes to energy waste, so the PicMyEnergyMix app features a switch that people can turn on to convey that energy efficiency is their priority and email Gov. Rick Snyder and Sen. Mike Nofs their preferences and current utility mix.

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.

To bee or not to bee and the role one invasive plant plays

By Tina Patterson

Spotted knapweed, also known as starthistle, is considered an invasive species in the United States. In Michigan, the eradication of this species has stirred up a controversy between those who want it eradicated and Michigan’s beekeeping industry.

Believed to have first arrived from Europe in the 1800s as a contaminant of alfalfa seed, spotted knapweed survives in dry, sandy soil and most climate conditions. It can be found along roadsides and in former farm fields where it grows in clumps.

Estimated to infest more than 8 million acres nationwide, efforts have been underway in many states to control the spread of spotted knapweed, if not completely eliminate it. This biennial plant crowds out native vegetation and produces a poisonous chemical that deters the growth of other desirable vegetation, like wildflowers and sedges.

Some of Michigan’s beekeepers oppose efforts to control knapweed. Honey flavor is determined by the plant from which bees collect nectar. Because spotted knapweed blooms in late July and early August when many other plants are not flowering, beekeepers count on it to produce the buttery-flavored honey and set up hives near large expanses of knapweed. Considering recent hive collapses, any threat to bees raises alarm for beekeepers. Some worry that if knapweed is destroyed, other more desirable, native flowers will not be as available for nectar and pollen.

However, others argue that diverse natural communities support a range of wildflowers throughout the growing season. Some believe that if natural areas were included in the agricultural landscape that these intact communities could support native bee species of pollinating crops.

Michigan is among the nation’s top honey producers and second only to California in diversity of crops. Some fear that if beekeepers left the state due to knapweed control, the bees needed to pollinate red cherries, apples, blueberries and other crops would have to be imported. This could raise cost to farmers, and ultimately, consumers.

While there are bees at many of MNA’s sanctuaries, knapweed grows at Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary, Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary and Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary.

MNA’s policy is to remove invasive species and knapweed falls under that category. However, we acknowledge the concerns of the beekeepers and hope this issue can be resolved.