Spreading the news: Environmental Health News says we can learn from saving eagles, to save honeybees now

July 5, 2015

Environmental Health News invites repostings of this story, with attribution and links back to EHN’s original story.

It’s a good article. Can’t improve on it much, so let’s save time and pass it directly.

Can we learn from the success in saving the bald eagle from extinction, to save our domestic bee industry and native American pollinators?

Unintended consequences

How a law that failed to protect eagles could offer a lesson to save honeybees

June 6, 2015

By Peter Dykstra
Environmental Health News

Spraying DDT on a beach

Historic photo from EPA

The Bald Eagle Protection Act, signed into law 75 years ago on June 8, 1940, was well-intended. A multi-pronged assault on the raptors was taking its toll — habitat loss, lead-shot poisoning, and bounty-hunting by ranchers and fishermen all contributed to a growing threat. (Click here to see how this played out in Alaska.)

Congress passed, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed, the act to outlaw the “taking” of eagles and their eggs, disruption of their nests, or sale or possession of eagle feathers or parts.

It didn’t work. Bald eagle populations accelerated their decline, for reasons that Congress, wildlife officials, and FDR couldn’t possibly anticipate.

Throughout the late 1930’s Swiss chemist Paul Müller labored to find the right mix of synthetic chemicals to control moths. Not only did dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane do the trick, but Müller’s lab work found it was effective against lice, houseflies, beetles, and the dreaded mosquito. Müller’s employers, J.R. Geigy AG, applied for the first DDT permit about two months before the Eagle Act passed.

Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame

Swiss chemist Paul Muller, of A. G. Geigy corporation; the man who discovered DDT kills.  Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame

The rest is natural and human history. Cheap to produce and an effective defense against lice-borne typhus and mosquito-borne malaria, DDT quickly became a fixture in farm fields, living rooms, and World War II battle theaters. Müller became a science rock star, garnering a Nobel in 1948 and — wait for it — membership in the Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame in 2004.

But bald eagles continued to decline. So did hummingbirds, robins, ospreys, pelicans and peregrine falcons. Years of science, met with serious blowback from the chemical industry, eventually proved that DDT was thinning birds’ eggshells, not to mention causing impacts in fish, humans, and other mammals. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring drew international attention to the threat, and in the U.S., DDT was outlawed on the last day of 1972. Bald eagles, ospreys, brown pelicans and peregrine falcons have all since staged remarkable comebacks from the Endangered Species list.

Which brings us to today’s threat to other ecologically priceless wildlife — pollinators. Honeybee populations have been in freefall for more than a decade. Like the threats to eagles, the potential causes are multiple: loss of habitat and native plants, parasites, and a mix of insecticides and fungicides. Newest, and most notable among the suspects, are neonicotinoid pesticides. Like DDT, neonics were developed in the 1980’s and 1990’s and welcomed as a step forward, since they were thought to be effective on insect pests but relatively benign on non-target wildlife and ecosystems. Today they are a billion-dollar agricultural product, ubiquitous on common crops like corn and soybeans.

But mounting evidence shows that neonicotinoids may be part of the frontal assault on bees and other pollinators. In 2013, the European Union banned the use of three of the most contentious types of neonicotinoids, citing a clear and immediate risk.

In 2014, President Obama ordered the creation of a federal pollinator strategy. Its first draft came out last month, calling for everything from creating bee-friendly habitat to further study on neonics and other agricultural chemicals. The first edition of the strategy, issued in May, outlines a multi-year process for re-examining use of neonics.

If the EPA and other federal agencies concur with other studies on the potential harm of neonicotinoids, the U.S. will issue assessments for neonics in 2016 and 2017, and may or may not take action until 2018 to 2020. All of this will take place under a new president who may or may not take interest in protecting bees.

That timetable may work. Or not. Or, with a president with little more than a year left in office and a hostile Congress, it may be a moot point.

But perhaps a more important point is that in 1940, the President and Congress took action on the known threats to eagles. They didn’t know about the chemical risk from DDT. If neonics are as big a threat as the science suggests, the current president and Congress won’t have ignorance as an excuse for waiting.


EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

Prior to the 20th century, all eagles, including bald eagles were regarded as pest predators and pest carrion eaters.  Populations of the birds plunged between 1492 and 1900.  The first eagle protection law in 1918 did little to stop the decline in eagle populations.  A harder-toothed anti-hunting law in 1941 helped, as discussed above. Anti-environmentalists often seize on these historic facts to claim that DDT was not to blame for the failure of the eagles to recover after 1941.  But recovery of the birds started as soon as DDT was banned.  Fecundity of bald eagle populations rose in direct proportion to the drop in residual DDT and DDT breakdown products in the flesh and fat of eagles.

In Silent Spring Rachel Carson provided 53 pages of notes and citations to science journals, documenting the dangers and the unknowns of DDT and a variety of other chemicals. The book was published in 1962.  It is a tribute to Carson’s meticulous research that every study she pulled from is still accurate today. Later research only supported her conclusions, or in the case of bird damage and eggshell thinning, provided documentation of even more and greater harms.

Do we learn from history?


Bright lights far away, small lights close by

October 23, 2014

Capturing stars and fireflies in the same shot takes some great skill and planning in a photographer.

Alex Wild did it.

From his Twitter feed:

Alex Wild @Myrmecos

Alex Wild @Myrmecos: And also trying more challenging lighting environments, like night shots of fireflies.


Not an emerald ash borer — but what is it?

August 21, 2013

Emerald green beetle, looks a lot like a longhorn.  I feared it to be a dreaded emerald ash borer, but it’s not.

Okay.  What is it?  Any body know?

From our Backyard Collection, two weeks ago:

What is this one? Looks like a longhorn beetle, emerald green.

What is this one? Looks like a longhorn beetle, emerald green. Not an emerald ash borer. Anyone know?

It’s too big to be an emerald ash borer.

Our mystery beetle is too big to be an emerald ash borer.

Our mystery beetle is too big to be an emerald ash borer. Brilliant orange underside.

Perhaps a flower longhorn beetle?

Caption from Field and Swamp Animals and their habitats:  Flower longhorn beetle (Encyclops caerulea), Glassmine Gap Trail, Macon County, NC, 5/28/13

Caption from Field and Swamp Animals and their habitats: Flower longhorn beetle (Encyclops caerulea), Glassmine Gap Trail, Macon County, NC, 5/28/13

Where’s Bug Girl when we need her?  (Moving?)  Roused Bear? Beetles in the Bush?

Update, mystery solved:  Ted C. MacRae said (see comments) it’s the bumelia borer (Plinthocoelium suaveolens).  He wrote about it here. So, Kathryn, what are they eating in our backyard? Bumelia lanuginosa is a Texas native; do we have one, or a relative, in the garden?  Dallas-area Dirt Doctor Howard Garrett says they’re mostly harmless in the garden.  (Here’s a closeup, from MacRae’s blog):

Brumelia borer, from Beetles in the Bush.  Photo by Ted C. MacRae

Bumelia borer, Plinthocoelium suaveolens,  from Beetles in the Bush. Photo by Ted C. MacRae

 


Joy of pollination, according to Louie Schwartzberg

November 21, 2011

It’s a TEDS Talk, of course

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it.  Plants do it, too, but often with the help of animals.

Here are some of the most glorious pictures of sex you’ll ever see, filmed by Louie Schwartzberg.  Anyone who has ever tried to take a good photograph should marvel at these shots, and the skill and artistry and luck it took to get them:

What will we do if the bees vanish?

The lowdown:

http://www.ted.com Pollination: it’s vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg [of Moving Art] shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film “Wings of Life,” inspired by the vanishing of one of nature’s primary pollinators, the honeybee.


Theological disproof of evolution? Hornworms and braconid wasps

November 7, 2011

“Nature red in tooth and claw,” the poet Tennyson said.

Darwin thought these critters a clear disproof of creationism — no god would make such creatures intentionally!

Mark reports at The Divine Afflatus:

Hornworm Hosts its Destruction

While admiring some ground cherries outside my front door, I noticed a number of leaves had been stripped off. Not grazed on by the deer that frequent the area, more like eaten by caterpillars. After a brief search I spotted a hornworm munching away. I didn’t bother killing the hornworm because, after all, the ground cherries are weeds growing amongst the black-eyed susans, and it’s less work for me if they take care of the weeds.

I looked again a few days later, and saw that the hornworm had sprouted numerous white appendages. These are the cocoons of pupating braconid wasps. Braconid wasps are parasitoids that inject their eggs beneath the skin of the host (hornworms are favored by the braconid wasp Contesia congregatus). After feeding on the convenient meal surrounding them, the wasp larvae emerge and spin their coccons, attached to the body of the unfortunate hornworm. In a few days, adult wasps emerge from their cocoons, leaving a dead caterpillar.

I later spotted a second hornworm, which suffered the same fate as the first.

Ewwwwwwww!


Burt Folsom’s blog distorts history of DDT

October 13, 2011

I hadn’t thought Burt Folsom, author of FDR Goes to War, much of an ideologue, but a post at his blog makes me wonder about whether he is so grossly inaccurate on other things, too.

The post, written by Anita Folsom, said:

Fast-forward to the post-World War II period. In 1962, Rachel Carson published her best-selling text, Silent Spring, in which she protested the effects of pesticides on the environment.  Ten years later, DDT was banned.

Thomas Sowell points out that such bans, while passed with the best of intentions, have unleashed growth in the numbers of mosquitoes and a huge recurrence of malaria in parts of the world where it had been under control. The same is true of modern pesticides in the U.S. today.  One reason for the rise in the incidence of bedbugs, which bite humans and  spread disease, is that the federal government has banned the use of chemicals that were effective against such insects.

The issue is one of balance.  While it is every citizen’s responsibility to take an interest in a clean environment, it is also a responsibility to avoid over-zealous regulators who cause harm by banning useful chemicals.  Perhaps what is needed is a substance that will cause bureaucrats to leave citizens alone, both immediately and in the future.

Perhaps the trouble comes from relying on Thomas Sowell as a source here — on DDT and Rachel Carson, Sowell appears to be  just making up false stuff.

Thomas Sowell has come unstuck in history, at least with regard to DDT and malaria.

Thomas Sowell has come unstuck in history, at least with regard to DDT and malaria.

First, the “DDT ban” mentioned here was by U.S. EPA.  Consequently, it applies ONLY to the U.S., and not to any nation where malaria is a problem.

Second, the order banning DDT in the U.S. restricted the ban to agricultural use on agricultural crops, almost solely cotton at the time.  DDT use to fight malaria would still be legal in the U.S.

Third, the order banning DDT use in the U.S. specifically exempted manufacture of DDT — so in effect, the order more than doubled the amount of DDT available to fight malaria mosquitoes because all U.S. production was dedicated to export, specifically to allow DDT to be used to fight malaria.

Fourth, and probably most critically, it is simply false that malaria resurged when DDT was banned.  By 1972, malaria infections were about 500 million annually, worldwide.  Malaria deaths were about 2 million.  Even without U.S. spraying DDT on cotton crops in Texas and Arkansas, and to be honest, without a lot of DDT use except in indoor residual spraying as promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria infections have been reduced by 50%, to about 250 million annually — and malaria deaths were reduced by more than 50%, to fewer than 900,000 annually, worldwide.  WHO estimates more than 700,000 African children were saved from malaria deaths in the decade from 2001 through 2010.

Malaria deaths and malaria infections decreased after DDT was banned in the U.S., and continue to decline.

dsc4436-nosmile-300x200

Burt and Anita Folsom should have checked Sowell’s claims on DDT, rather than accepting them as gospel.

Fifth, while it is true that reports generally claim that DDT limited bedbug infestations in the 1960s, the truth is that bedbugs became immune to DDT in the 1950s, and DDT is perfectly useless against almost all populations of the beasties today, and since 1960, 51 years ago.  Also, the evolution to be immune to DDT primed bedbugs to evolve resistance to other pesticides very quickly.  DDT didn’t stop bedbugs, and lack of DDT didn’t contribute to bedbug infestations after 1960.

(Maybe worst, and odder, 111 people have been injured by pesticides used to control bedbugs, one fatally, in the past ten years.  Which is worse?)

Sixth, bedbugs do not spread disease, at least not so far as is known to medical and entomological science.

Sowell’s claims endorsed by Folsom are exactly wrong, 180-degrees different from the truth.  Sowell and Folsom are victims of the DDT Good/Rachel Carson Bad Hoaxes.

Since malaria has been so dramatically reduced since the U.S. banned the use of DDT, perhaps Rachel Carson should be given full credit for every life saved.  It’s important to remember that Carson herself did not suggest that DDT be banned, but instead warned that unless DDT use were restricted, mosquitoes and bedbugs would evolve resistance and immunity to it.  DDT use was not restricted enough, soon enough, and both of those pests developed resistance and immunity to DDT.

Ms. Folsom urges restraint in regulation, she says, because over-enthusiastic banning of DDT brought harm.  Since her premise is exactly wrong, would she like to correct the piece to urge more regulation of the reasonable kind that EPA demonstrated?  That would be just.

Good sources of information on malaria, DDT, and Rachel Carson and EPA:

Africa had a surplus of DDT from 1970s through 1990s, creating a massive toxic cleanup problem for today. This FAO photograph shows

Africa had a surplus of DDT from 1970s through 1990s, creating a massive toxic cleanup problem for today. This FAO photograph shows “TN before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN.” DDT was not used because it was largely ineffective; but had any nation wished to use it, there was plenty to use.

Save


Crazy ants? Hey, I warned you . . .

October 2, 2011

Just over two years ago I noted the pending, rolling disaster of the introduction of Caribbean Crazy Ants, or Rasberry Crazy Ants, to the American South.

Associated Press is catching up.

Now, will you listen to me when I tell you not to vote for Rick Perry?   Will you listen when I tell you we need to control CO² emissions?


Red dragonfly in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

August 9, 2011

Dragon flies are not my area of expertise:  Can anyone identify this beauty?

Red Dragonfly in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas (photo by Ed Darrell)

Red dragonfly in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas - photo by Ed Darrell

_____________

Kate wrote in to say it’s probably Libella saturata.  From other photos I’ve found, that seems a good, accurate identification.  Citizens of Arizona have been urged to help identify dragon flies, odonates,  in their state, and this site explains how to do it with a camera and a notepad — with a fine picture of a Libella saturata for illustration.  And, as a reward to Kate and yourself, you may want to hop over to her blog, The Radula, and see what she’s got to look at.


DDT “costly for Uganda”

July 22, 2011

To aid researchers looking for news from Africa on malaria and DDT, I’ll reproduce the entire news story from Uganda’s New Vision here.  Stories from this outlet frequently trouble me, in the unquestioning way writers take quotes from people where a more probing reporter might be more skeptical.  I am not sure of the status of New Vision among Uganda’s media, but it’s one of the few available to us here on a regular basis.

So, here’s the story, on DDT usage to fight malaria.  A couple of points we need to remember:  First, it’s clear that DDT is not banned in Uganda, and that DDT usage goes on, despite the crocodile tears of Richard Tren, Roger Bate, and the Africa Fighting Malaria, Astroturf™ group; second, this story relates difficulties in using DDT, including cost.  It’s not that the stuff itself is expensive.  DDT doesn’t work on all mosquitoes anymore, and it’s dangerous to much other wildlife.  Malaria fighters must do serious work in advance to be sure the populations of mosquitoes targeted will be reduced by DDT — that is, that the bugs are not immune to DDT — and care must be taken to control the applications, to be sure it’s applied in great enough concentrations, and only indoors, where it won’t contaminate the wild.

Here’s the story from New Visions:

DDT spraying costly for Uganda

Tuesday, 5th July, 2011

By Raymond Baguma and Gerald Kawemba

INDOOR residual spraying as a strategy to control malaria in Uganda is too costly and has affected the programme countrywide.

According to Dr. Seraphine Adibaku, the head of the Malaria Control Programme, this is why other malaria control strategies such as use of insecticide-treated nets and Artemisinin-based combination therapy are considered to be ahead of indoor residual spraying.

The Government is implementing the indoor residual spraying using pyrethrum-based and carbon-based insecticides in 10 malaria-endemic districts in the northern and eastern regions.

They include Amolatar, Apac, Kitgum, Kumi and Bukedea.

“About three million people in the 10 districts have been covered. We have reached over 90% of the population,” Adibaku said.

She added that under the Presidential Malaria Initiative, the budget for indoor residual spraying is sh4.5b per district each year.

Adibaku said it would be much cheaper if the ministry distributed insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

She, however, said indoor spraying has an advantage of delivering immediate impact compared to treated nets.

Adibaku disclosed that the health ministry is re-evaluating the effectiveness of using DDT for malaria control.

Dr. Joaquim Saweka, the World Health Organisation (WHO) resident representative in Uganda, said indoor residual spraying is highly effective and has been successful in Zanzibar and Rwanda.

He, however, added that it is capital intensive and needs a lot of money for each application done twice a year.

Saweka cited his previous posting in Ghana during which a town of 300,000 inhabitants required $3m for spraying each year.

He said with the high cost of spraying and low financial resources available, Uganda needs to prioritise usage of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Saweka added that Uganda is on the right path to eradicating malaria with efforts in prevention, diagnosis and treatment as well as universal coverage of insecticide-treated nets.

Health minister Dr. Richard Nduhura yesterday kicked off a nationwide programme to distribute 11,000 bicycles to health volunteers who will diagnose and treat malaria in homes. The programme is supported by the Global Fund.

It is part of the Government’s home-based management of malaria, which is part of a larger national strategy to deliver treatment to children within 24 hours after diagnosis.

 


Cicada killers, 2011 edition

July 6, 2011

It’s slower population growth than in the past, but earlier, too.

In earlier years we’ve had cicada killer wasps — cicada hawks, in some parlance — as early as July 7.  Rains fell all spring in 2010, which discouraged the emergence of cicadas and their predators.  First certified sighting in our backyard did not occur until July 18.

Cicada Killer, with cicada - photo by Ronald F. Billings, Texas Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Cicada Killer, with cicada - photo by Ronald F. Billings, Texas Forest Service, Bugwood.org, via University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

We had modified a planter, and that may have killed some of the larvae.  Generally 2010 was a slow year for the large wasps.  My guess is that they were less active locally because the ground remained wet through July and into August.  I still get e-mails asking about how to get rid of them, and I still recommend watering the spots you want them to leave.  The females sting and paralyze a cicada, then plant that cicada in a tunnel underground with one wasp egg.  The young wasp hatches and feeds on the cicada, emerging usually the next summer to carry on the cycle (in a long summer, there may be a couple of hatchings, I imagine).  Females do not like to tunnel in wet ground, partly because it collapses on them, and I suspect wet ground is conducive to fungi and other pests that kill the eggs or hatchlings. Our wet weather kept them away last year.

I waited to say anything this year because I wanted more, but we saw the first cicada killer wasps this year on June 27, 2011, the earliest date we recorded here.  I had hoped to get a good photo, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Down at Colorado Bend State Park, the cicada killers greeted our arrival, much to the panic of the little kids in the campsite next door.  They were happy to learn the wasps don’t aim to sting them, and the kids actually watched them at work.  One of the wasps reminded me of just how much they like dry ground — she kept tunneling into the fire pit, unused now because of the fire bans that cover 252 of Texas’s 254 counties.  Covering the holes, putting objects over the holes, nothing could dissuade her from using that site.  I hope for the sake of the larvae that they hatch soon, and get out, before someone builds a fire in the pit.  Some of the cicadas in that area hit 110 decibels at least, and they badly need the discipline of a force of cicada killers, if you ask me.

Prowling the yard this morning I found two more emergence holes.  The wasps leave a smaller hole than the cicadas, so I’m pretty sure they are back in force.

Nature, red in tooth and claw, the poets say.  Or in this case, moist in sting.

It’s summer.  By the weather, it’s late summer.   Hello, cicada killers, Sphecius speciosa.

Earlier at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

More:


Dragon fly on a Saturday walk in the park

June 28, 2011

Lions Park in Duncanville, Texas, to be more precise.  The dragon fly appears to me to be Neurothemis tullia, a Pied Paddy Skimmer, though I believe that is considered an Asian species.  [But see note at the end of the post.]

Closely related?   An exotic introduced to Texas?  Here we had cotton fields, not rice paddies.  The wings look like those of a Pied Paddy Skimmer, but most of the photos I’ve found show a black body, and this one is definitely gray.  Hmmmm.

Dragon fly, Pied Paddy Skimmer, Neurothemis tullia - photo by Ed Darrell copyright 2011, use permitted with attribution

Dragon fly, Pied Paddy Skimmer, Neurothemis tullia - photo by Ed Darrell; copyright 2011, use permitted with attribution

Dragon flies look mean.  As a very young child I was terrified of them, growing up on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho.  My mother, a farm-raised girl, took me out for a walk among the diving, softly-humming aerobats, and explained they had no stingers, they ate other insects, and they seemed to like humans, if we’d watch them.  As we watched, she held out her hand and a dragon fly landed, as if to say, “Hello!  Listen to your mother.  She knows us.”

Dragon fly in Duncanville Lions Park, photo by Ed Darrell - use permitted with attribution

Dragon fly takes a higher vantage point. Is this species exotic in Texas?

Up Payson Canyon, in Utah, at Scout Lake I passed many early morning hours, and many noon siestas, in the reeds watching the dragon flies.  When we were in our canoes or rowboats they’d fly at us like rockets, appearing to think they were torpedo planes, then fly up, or right or left, at the last possible second, to avoid colliding with our craft.  Through July they’d fly tandem, mating.  This intrigued Scouts, and delighted them beyond measure when the nature merit badge counselor explained they were having sex.  Red ones, blue ones, yellow, brown and black ones.  Big ones, little ones.

Shortly after we moved to Texas, we discovered that a swarm of dragon flies probably meant a local colony of fire ants was casting off females, to mate and start a new mound of exotic, stinging terror.  The dragon flies would catch and eat the queens-to-be.  I had to use a broom to shoo off a neighbor with a can of insecticide, trying to kill the dragon flies in their work to keep us safe and happy.  “But they look so mean,” she explained.

Judge no book by its cover (except Jaws); judge no insect by its eye apparel, or human eye appeal.

Dragon fly, Neurothemis Tullia (perhaps), Duncanville Lions Park, 6-25-2011 - Photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

Pied Paddy Skimmer rests from hunting

_____________

Update:  In comments below, Roused Bear wonders if this isn’t the Widow Skimmer, which is native to Texas.  That would make a lot more sense, wouldn’t it?  What do you think, Dear Reader:  Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa?


But the Earth still warms

January 18, 2011

Political activists who oppose working to stop or slow greenhouse gas emissions in order to slow global warming find themselves in awkward positions recently.

Before, during and after the Copenhagen meeting in December 2009 they predicted that warming had stopped, and that we are entering a period of global cooling.  Alas for their claim, the planet refuses to cool.  The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest in human history; 2010 itself turned out to be one of the warmest years in history, worldwide.

NOAA graphic: Indicators of global warming: “Seven of these indicators would be expected to increase in a warming world, and observations show that they are, in fact, increasing. Three would be expected to decrease and they are, in fact, decreasing.”

Somebody stole hundreds of e-mails from one of the climate research clusters in England, and the anti-action activists claimed that the messages would reveal wrong-doing on the part of scientists, perhaps even criminal action.  Instead, five separate investigations discovered no wrong-doing on the parts of scientists, but a lot of hard work gone for too little action because of the anti-science shenanigans of the anti-action crew.  The science showing global warming remains untouched, with no significant body of research showing contrary.

One of the loudest voices against claims of global warming, Christopher Monckton, was unmasked as a blowhard and a fraud.    Scientists organized to refute the hoax claims of the anti-action activists.

So, the anti-action activists are sore.  They don’t take criticism well, and they especially don’t like anyone who points out their errors.

Sadly, they didn’t learn from the their past hoaxes.  So if even a lowly high school teacher should point out an error of history, they resort to making false claims and censorship against the teacher.  They have no data to back their case, nothing but invective to rebut with.

And so it was that a rather new site, hauntingthelibrary, took my comment noting where they could find the data to disabuse their wild claims, stripped it out, and substituted words I did not and would not write.

Fraud again, this time from hauntingthelibraryHoaxFraud even in small things.

The movement against the science of global warming is rotten to its core.  (Seriously — most sites would be happy to note the pingback from this blog; the blogger had to act to block the pingback from showing up.  What are they so afraid of?)

Legend says that Galileo, backing out of the audience with the Pope in which he was put under house arrest after having “recanted” any claim that the Earth orbits the Sun, said quietly, “Still, it moves.”  Even the Pope’s powers through the Inquisition could not stop the Earth orbiting the Sun.  No matter how powerful the denial propaganda machines, no matter how many anti-science bloggers they recruit, the Earth keeps on stubbornly warming up.

Or, as Galileo might have said, “Eppure, lei si scalda!”

_____________

Update: Then there is Anti-Gore Effect Sillies Syndrome — claiming Gore erred, when he didn’t.  It’s demonstrated with the infection fully affecting the judgment of its victims at this odd place, XD Talk Forums.

 

More:

Earlier at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Photo by W. W. MacFarlane - Pine bark beetle damage in Teton National Forest

Photo by W. W. MacFarlane – NPR caption: “Many dead trees appear gray and red on the high-mountain slopes of Union Pass Bridger in Teton National Forest in Wyoming”


Butterflies are free, to move about the country

October 24, 2010

Great mysteries of science, history and spirit call to us:  How do the monarch butterflies do it?

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) fly north from their enclave in Mexico every spring, stopping to lay eggs on milkweed plants.  After a migration of several hundred miles, that first group that left Mexico dies off.  Their offspring hatch in a few days, devour the milkweed, make a chrysalis, metamorphose into butterflies, then fly farther north, where they repeat their parents’ behavior:  Lay some eggs, and die.  Within three generations, they’ve spread north into Canada.

Kathryn's butterfly plantings, October 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell

Inviting the monarchs in: You can see how Kathryn worked to attract butterflies. In this photo, you can see the butterfly weed (a milkweed), red Turk's cap, and blue ageratum especially for the monarchs.

Then the fourth generation does something so strange and wonderful people can’t stop talking about it:  They fly back to Mexico, to the same trees their great-great-great grandparents left.  There they sip some nectar, get some water, and spend a lot of time hanging in great globs, huddling over the winter, to start life for generations of monarch butterflies the next spring.

Sometimes in Texas in October, we can see clouds of monarch butterflies winging south.  If we’re lucky, they stop to visit our backyards and gardens, and we might provide some water and nectar to urge them homeward.  Kathryn, of course, plants the stuff the monarchs like, to help them, and to give us a chance to see them.

Monarch habitat in Mexico is under severe stress and threat.  Late storms and early freezes decimated monarch populations over the last decade [yes, that’s the proper use of “decimated;” look it up].  Human plantings are more critical to the monarch butterflies than ever before.

Two years ago Kathryn and I spent a September morning outside the library at Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin, watching monarchs sip nectar from local flowers for their journey.  Those same butterflies — we hope — passed through Texas a couple of weeks later.

Two weeks ago . . . well, see for yourself:

Monarch butterfly on blue porterweed, Dallas, TX October 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell IMGP5343

A monarch butterfly feeds on blue porterweed in Kathryn's garden, October 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell

Monarch butterfly on blue porterweed, Dallas, October 20101 - photo by Ed Darrell IMGP5347

. . . we're here with the camera, little guy, just open up those wings, please . . .

Monarch  butterfly on blue porterweed, Dallas, Texas October 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell IMGP5345

That's it! Beautiful! Have a safe trip, and come back next spring, will you?

Resources, more:

Conoclinium coelestinum


Tupper takes up the quill

September 23, 2010

Karl Tupper of the Pesticide Action Network started blogging at PAN’s site, GroundTruth, a few days ago.  His carefully-thought out, informative writing turns to the issue of bedbugs and DDT in his first post.

GroundTruth, the blog of the Pesticide Action Network

Is there room for another blog?  Any blogging about science, with accuracy, is always welcome.

Karl’s second post updates us on EPA’s hearings on atrazine, and the industry campaign to slander any agency who dares to ask the tough questions about chemical safety.  Shades of the 1962 campaign against Rachel Carson, eh?


DDT can’t fight bedbugs

September 19, 2010

Newsweek magazine, even in its much reduced form (bolstered by a good on-line site), still provides essential reporting.

A week or so ago Newsweek published a piece of reporting on the politics of bedbugs.  To wit:

  1. DDT doesn’t work against bedbugs, and hasn’t worked against them since the late 1950s.
  2. Astroturf organizations, so-called “think-tanks” set up by corporate interests jumped on bedbugs as another way of attacking the 46-years dead Rachel Carson, environmentalists, scientists and government — falsely.  The Heartland Institute is singled out as one group spreading false claims in favor of poison and against environmental protection.
  3. The recent resurgence of bedbugs is more related to changes in fighting other pests than in the discontinuation of DDT against them.  Had DDT been the magic answer, bedbugs should have made a resurgence in 1960 when DDT use against them was stopped, not 2010, a full half-century later.
  4. The many screeds in favor of DDT are politically driven, not science driven.

Think about that — every claim that we need DDT to fight bedbugs is a planted, political advertisement, and not a fact-based policy argument.  Each of those claims is based in a political smear, and not based on science.

The really weird part is that so many writers and bloggers spread the false claims without being paid.  Selling one’s soul for money is understandable; giving one’s soul away for nothing is stupid, or evil, or both.

Newsweek reported:

DDT “devastated” bedbug populations when it was introduced in the 1940s, says Richard Cooper, technical director for Cooper Pest Solutions and a widely quoted authority on bedbug control. Mattresses were soaked in it, wallpaper came pre-treated with it. It also killed boll weevils, which fed on cotton buds and flowers (by far, the majority of DDT was applied to cotton fields), and, incidentally, it killed bald eagles and numerous other species of birds, the phenomenon that gave Carson her title. In the laboratory, DDT can cause cancer in animals; its effect on human beings has long been debated, but since it accumulates up the food chain, and stays in the body for years, the consensus among public-health experts was that it was better to act before effects showed up in the population. But long before the United States banned most uses of it in 1972, DDT had lost its effectiveness against bedbugs—which, like many fast-breeding insects, are extremely adept at evolving resistance to pesticides. “Bloggers talk about bringing back DDT,” says Bob Rosenberg, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, “but we had stopped using it even before 1972.”

Resources:

Evolution has bred DDT-resistant bedbugs. Chart from

Evolution has bred DDT-resistant bedbugs. Chart from “Understanding Evolution, Bed Bugs Bite Back Thanks to Evolution,”


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