Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Spring Visit to Paris Barns

Willie (with the requisite bedhead)  and I got up early this Sunday to head out to Paris Barns in rural Virginia (Paris, Va) to spend some time with their rescue animals and check on their bees.  One of the pleasures of the DC area is that you don't have to travel very far to find working farms and a completely different lifestyle from the stresses of city life or the comfortable vehicular life of the suburbs.

Monday, April 22, 2013

NPR - Rough Winter

Had a rough winter this past season, with large numbers of bees dying?

Check out this NPR story on the suspected sources of the problem.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Making Soap....

Although it was a beautiful day outside, and having performed a couple of installations, Will and I had to switch gears and do a little chemistry making soap.  This soap is our hot process version.  We prefer the hot process because the chemical reaction takes place during the cooking, eliminating a multi-week curing process.  And because of the addition of heat it makes it easier to use fats that are hard at room temperature, specifically beeswax.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Walker Jones Adds Five New Hives

Over the last 12 months we have been training teachers from three DC schools to tend to hives and begin Junior Beekeepers clubs at each.  To kick it off, Walker Jones School, which already has three hives on their property at their urban farm, installed five hives on their green roof of the school building.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Nixing Neonics

You've probably heard about them -- the ubiquitous insecticide that lurks within the plant and isn't sprayed on like traditional pesticides. Neonicotinoids, as the name suggests, are similar in composition to nicotine and cause certain neurological receptors to be over-stimulated in insects. As a result, bugs that feast on plant tissue that has absorbed the chemical soon incur neurological damage, which can cause paralysis and death. This systemic type of pesticide, which includes imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin, is applied to seeds and absorbed into the plant as it grows, creating an life-long resistance to mostly corn- and soybean-hungry insects. Throughout the European Union, they're also applied to sunflowers, oil seed rape (canola) and sugar beets.

While honeybees aren't exactly known for their green-leaf appetites, several studies have delved into the affects of neonics in plant nectar and pollen, as well as "dust dispersal" of the chemical when planting treated seeds. In fact, some studies have drawn the link between this type of systemic pesticide and Colony Collapse Disorder. The entire issue has been a point of contention for the European Union. More recently, several farmers in the U.S. have also banded together and filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, calling for stricter regulations on the use of these insecticides.