Crane, English expert on the world's bees died recently at age 95.
For more than a half-century Dr. Crane worked in more than 60
countries to learn more and more about the human use of honeybees
from prehistoric times to the present.
found that ancient Babylonians used honey to preserve corpses, that
bees were effectively used as military weapons by the Viet Cong, and
that beekeepers in a remote corner of Pakistan use the same kind of
hives found in excavations of ancient Greece.
review in The Guardian, the author Paul Theroux, himself a beekeeper,
called the book a masterwork “for its enormous scope and
exhaustiveness, for being an up-to-date treasure house of apiaristic
A great mystery surrounds the
disappearance of billions of honeybee across North America.
An estimated 2.4 million bee hives have
been abandoned—that's a quarter of the total known honey-producing
and plant-pollinating bee colonies that keep America's sweet tooth
satisfied and its agriculture producing fruits and vegetables.
As apiary owners and operators like to
point out every third bite of food humans eat is a result of the
activity of honeybees. Our food supply depends on bees.
All the more alarming then that so many
bees have just vanished -- flying away from the hive never to return
and the abandoned hive never re-inhabited by other bees.
What causes the bees to leave their hives
is dubbed colony collapse disorder or CCD by entomologists studying
the phenomena, and is a subject of much speculation and
hypothetical theories. Viral, fungus and bacterial infection was
initially suspected, as are pesticides, especially those used to
control an earlier scourge of mites that endangered honeybees a
decade ago. DNA and other genetic studies continue but so far no
biological cause has been found.
Some researchers suspect radiation from
cell phone towers, genetically modified crops or high-voltage
electrical transmission wires. Sunspots, global warming and other
theories round out the list of suspects, but so far no single cause
has been found leading to some entomologists to look for a
combination of causes.
Whatever the cause, or causes, the
syndrome is clear. Apparently healthy bees spontaneously leave the
hive, somehow become disoriented and never return.
In CCD cases few if any dead bees are
found in or immediately surrounding the hive while the queen and
immature bees needing feeding are left to die of neglect.
CCD has been reported in 27 states so far
with some beekeepers reporting loss of up to 75 percent their hives.
The economic impact of CCD is already enormous. Honey production and
pollination services in the US is worth nearly $15 billion a year.
The US and Canada rely heavily on bees to
pollinate crops including vegetables, fruit, nuts and soybeans.
The $2.2 billion California almond crop
for instance relies 100 percent on bees for pollination.
Bees are essential for the pollination of
90 percent of the cultivated blueberry and apple crops in North
A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia
may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as
Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the United
States, UC San Francisco researchers said Wednesday. More
Wildflowers native to the North Coast are often subtle and easily overlooked unless ones makes an effort to look for them. When I returned here after a world away, I was amazed at the beauty and number of native species.
Alas, my effort to establish a wildflower walk along the historic Erie Canal towpath failed, due in large part, to a lack of interest. All I asked for was a two mile path to be unmowed and kept free of herbicides which are applied routinely on both sides of the towpath.
The Canal Corporation, the authority entrusted with management and maintenance of the 524 mile Erie Canal had myriad excuses for why this was impossible and unlikely to happen. The most amusing of these was the oxymoronic assertion that allowing plants to grow sufficiently to blossom would erode the canal bank. The opposite of course is the truth, that's why knowledgeable managers plant willow and grasses on water embankments--to prevent erosion.
Another excuse was that 'people don't like their nature natural, they like it tidy,' A corollary of this absurd axiom is that wildflowers at the edge of a two mile natural history walk would interfere with cyclists and joggers.
So, instead of a cost-free wildflower nature walk we now have a paved lane with crushed stone covering what once was a native species habitat for wildflowers, ducks, herons, turtles, fox, woodchucks, etc.
Coming soon to lawns across the Eastern United States
After more than 16 years underground, periodical cicadas will begin emerging in late May or early June, as soon as the soil warms up. While they tend to be more widespread in, say, Ohio and Indiana, the bugs - up to two inches long, with orange-veined wings and red beady eyes - should also grace yards farther east, including the New York area. More
The BBC reports the large blue butterfly, extinct in the UK since 1979, is making a dramatic comeback after the species was reintroduced in 1983 by conservationists using butterlies taken from a population native to the island of Oland in Sweden.
I was struck today by a quip I heard on NPR promoting an upcoming program with science writer Tim Friend. Friend writes for USA Today and has a book out entitled Animal Talk. I haven't read it (yet) but based on the tease I heard today I will.
The big picture of animal talk in the wild--of every species-- what they spend so much time chattering to each other about is sex, real estate, who's boss and what's for dinner. Listen if you can.
Baby, it's cold outside. I know we are not alone, but a great winter chill has engulfed the North Coast and locked in a toe-numbing Arctic cold snap. As the saying goes, 'when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.' so what more apt than a look at snowflakes.
It's common on the North Coast to see young men wearing cowrie shell necklaces and wrist or ankle bracelets. I've asked a few times what they are and the reply has always been " I don't know what they are." Surely it's the look that moves them to wear them. But, wouldn't you want to know something about them? Me too.
Money cowries (Cypraea moneta) are small snail-like creatures that live in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They have long been used in various ritual practices and used in clothing and jewelry in African and South Asian cultures.
For centuries before European expansion in the 1500's, cowries were also used as a form of currency in some areas. They were introduced by Arab traders to Uganda where it became the dominant medium of exchange there and elsewhere in Africa.
With the advent of the slave trade to the New World, cowries were among the items that Europeans exchanged with coastal West African groups for slaves. At the beginning of the 19th century a woman cost 2 cowries rising to 1,000 by 1860.
By 1911, in Nigeria 2,500 cowries would fetch a cow, 500 cowries a goat, and 25 a chicken.
Cowrie shell money is thought by some etymologists to have given rise to the phrase, 'shell out' money.