Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Bees and honest scientists: under attack

Honey bee, WesternHoney bee, Western.  Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Bees keep us alive.  They and other insects pollinate two-thirds of all food crops.  No pollination, no food crops.

Bees and other pollinators are in great peril, their populations in sharp decline worldwide. A growing body of evidence identifies neonicotinoids, chemical pesticides that impair the neurological systems of insects, as a key factor in the decline.

Some of these chemicals are already banned or restricted in several European countries.  Yet neonicotinoids remain the most widely used pesticides on earth, generating enormous profits.

Scientists gather and interpret data to make the necessary links between neonicotinoids and bee collapse.  But in Canada and the USA scientists whose findings conflict with the corporate agenda are under escalating attack.  Currently in the US:

“Your words are changed, your papers are censored or edited, or you are not allowed to submit them at all.” – a senior scientist at the US Department of Agriculture Research Service.

“Censorship and harassment poison good science and good policy.” – Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Details here.

Follow the Honey, a report from Friends of the Earth, exposes how agrochemical corporations obscure links between their chemicals and pollinator decline, and block government regulation.  Read it here.

For more on the battle for honest science, have a look inside Bold Scientists.


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Greta Garbo

DSCF2288Photo: MR, August 18, 2014

This morning, a Great Spangled Fritillary visited our garden.  Probably a female, according to The Butterflies of Canada, which says males are bright orange, females subtler.  (I’m open to correction.)

Although I kept a respectful distance, at least ten feet, each time I shifted to a better angle she disappeared.  Then finally she permitted a single photo.  I call her Greta Garbo.

Yesterday a Monarch visited.  Only one, but given their perilous state, one is 100% better than none.  I watched it feed for almost an hour on Brazilian verbena, verbena bonariensis.

A tip: Though it rarely appears on how-to-attract-butterflies plant lists, these tall, dignified plants with tiny purple flowers draw many more visitors than any other plant in our garden.  Brazilian verbena self-seeds lavishly, but doesn’t crowd its neighbours.

Perhaps the monarch will return.  And Greta Garbo.

For more on how gardens illuminate our ambiguous place in nature, science and power, see Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science. Available September 4, 2014, from Between the Lines.