Nature in Distress

Things are different this summer.  I have gotten a couple of mosquito bites, the first ever here in my little sanctuary. The reason is that we lost our bat colony.  We had hundreds of bats that would fly out of the pines each evening. It was a sight to witness.  The most we’ve seen at any one time this year has been four.

My grandson found this dead bee. There was damage to the one wing.

My grandson found this dead bee. There was damage to the one wing.

Then there is the field. Where are the bees?  It used to be that I would see my plants covered in bees.  They were every where in the gardens and around the wild plants.  This year I added some bee loving plants such as lambs ears. Nothing. I know we’ve had to have had some bees visit the garden because I have a couple tomatoes forming. Yet I worked in the garden for several hours Sunday and saw not one bee.

We haven’t seen a praying mantis, or a lady bug yet this summer. Where are they? We had one Monarch Butterfly in the field this week, it was the first and so far only one seen this summer.  The milkweed is growing in several spots around the field, I thought it would be good to spread it around.  Am I helping, I don’t know and that’s what has me concerned.

I’ve left more of the field wild than I’ve allowed to be cleared, did we do harm by clearing what we did?  I don’t have any answers.

I think the little ones are picking up on my concern.  They are noticing the lack of insects in the garden.  My granddaughter picked my brain Monday asking me what each insect and animal ate.  She wanted to know which ones were bad and which were good.  Her list began with  birds, including the hawks and crows, bees, deer, groundhogs, snakes, lions, and the list continued to grow.  I explained to her how a bee pollinates our plants, and how birds eat insects (and worms) that keep our field healthy. For example if the birds eat ticks we have less chance of being infected by one. We then talked about scavengers and how their work keeps nature from being smelly and riddled with waste.  She already knew about the worms but wanted confirmation, she got it.

She wanted to know why I put tree branches in the bottom of my garden beds. The best way to answer her was to go into a wild area of the field where we have piled tree branches and I showed her the lovely soil underneath. It was dark, moist and filled with life. The branches were softening and teemed with insects.

But then I need to come back to reality.  The areas left wild so nature can flourish are only partly doing what they should. There still aren’t bees flitting on the flowers.  We haven’t seen any snakes this year other than two dead ones. The butterflies are fewer.

My granddaughter surprised us by walking so silently and slowly she was able to pick up this moth she still calls a butterfly.  She gently held it felt how soft then let it go "to eat".

My granddaughter surprised us by walking so silently and slowly she was able to pick up this moth she still calls a butterfly. She gently held it felt how soft then let it go “to eat”.

I hoped to be comforted by taking a look at my neighbor’s garden beds. She started most of her plants in cold frames so they are much bigger than mine.  Her squashes and pumpkins flowered weeks ago but still nothing beyond the flowers. I’m getting worried.

Then I catch this article on impotent roosters, reading through the article I learn that roosters aren’t the only problems coming to light.

The rooster problem comes from a genetic tweaking that causes the roosters to overeat and become impotent, this has reduced the poultry production estimate by 195 million pounds.

What about pigs? There has been a deadly pig virus that has taken it’s toll on available pork products. It was believed that once a pig contracted the virus it would be immune but that turned out to be just wishful thinking.

Domestic cattle (cows) is at it’s lowest numbers in 60 years. Just when in the US meat consumption has risen.  Add to the consumption burden is the increase in exports of beef to China a country where people want to eat beef but not raise it.

Back to the bees.  California supplies the nation with almonds, 80% of the world’s almonds come from California along with many more foods (see this I wrote earlier on the droughts effects on food supply).  What I didn’t know when I wrote that was that bee hives are traveled across the country to California to pollinate almond trees each year.  This year there weren’t enough hives to do the job.

While I don’t buy meat, I do need my protein from somewhere, one of my main sources has been nuts and seeds.  But what do we do when our crops fail, when the bees are gone and we no longer have fruits, vegetables or nuts?

Aside from the question of my diet, there is the question of the planet itself.  Each of these insects and animals plays a very important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Just like the conversation with my granddaughter we need every animal and insect nature provided. We need wild areas where decomposition can replenish the earth and give habitats for life of all sorts to flourish.

Mainstream media downplays the severity of what’s happening in nature. Children don’t understand the need for bugs they don’t like, who likes being stung?  I believe we need to look at nature differently.  This year my son and I watched Cosmos (new television program) in which one episode it was shown that trees, and every other living thing on earth has the same DNA components humans do, just arranged differently. We are connected down to our DNA but we don’t stop to think about that connection and how much we need nature to survive.

Today my grandchildren asked me about air. I told them how trees and other plants breathe in the air, cleaning it, using what they need and breathing out cleaner air that we human’s need.  They picked a leaf, studied it together for a few minutes, then brought it to me to ask if the veins were what carried the air inside the tree to clean.  They were amazed to think a leaf with no nose can breathe.

Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers — for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. ~Osho

 

What about your area have you noticed changes that have you concerned?

44 thoughts on “Nature in Distress

  1. Lois you are right, so many things now in nature are not in balance… The bee’s last year were in abundance, if you remember I said we had a nest in our garden and one in our allotment under the shed,, this year no signs, and not that many have visited my flower garden at home as last year..
    In the allotments near ours we have someone who keeps bees, they swarmed for some reason maybe the Queen wanted to move and they came en-mass across the gardens.. Luckily they went back..
    We have noticed more brown common butterfly this year and the red admiral is around not as many Cabbage whites.. which is really surprising given the amount of caterpillars which we had on our cabbages leaves and Brussels leaves last year which we left and just put on the compost pile to be devoured by them.. ..
    What I did notice more of, almost like a plague was black spiders around the size of your one cent piece which ran across the allotment soil just after we had dug over in the spring.. Lots of spiders around so maybe that why I haven’t seen as many insects?? too.. Ladybugs I have only seen around 12 all summer…

    Once upon a time we would have lots of bats flying overhead, but I have not seen any here in the last 3 or 4 yrs..
    The birds we have had lots of sparrows and we had a blackbird nest as I posted . But what has been in decline are the starlings, we would get droves of them swoop in the garden to feed at once… They too seem to have gone..

    But then again lots of hedgerows have been taken up and fields are now filled with new housing estates. people cut down conifers when they get too high so roosting places are becoming less.. We have two ever green large bushes and some conifer bushes which they love to shelter in..

    Its very worrying Lois… And the food chains are going to take an impact…

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    • Sue your observations mimic mine and it worries me. I can see where development may have had some effect in your area, but in my area we have not lost any of our open land. There has been a stay on new development as it was determined we needed to upgrade the infrastructure first, such as improved sewage facilities.

      We have always had a lot of spiders here and I haven’t noticed a change in that, thankfully as we have plenty.

      I did notice that I have lots of ants around my garden and at first wasn’t happy, but hearing that they can pollinate plants I am now happy to see them walking over my plants. Things are starting to flower so I can use all the help I can get.

      Hopefully this is a warning that those in power will take seriously and we will see a return of the animals and insects we need so much return.

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  2. Lois, I loved this piece. Your grandchildren are so lucky to have you–I can feel your warmth and patience whenever you write about them. It is depressing how nature is getting so hammered by the earth’s supposed caretakers. But your grandchildren and their concern for nature gives me some glimmer of hope (sort of like in the story “The Lorax.”) In any case, I included your post in my round-up of “Joyful Reads for the Weekend” today–the link to it is here, if you want to take a look: http://www.joyfullygreen.com/2014/07/joyful-reads-for-the-weekend-vol-27-a-mixed-bag-of-loveliness.html.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    Joy

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    • Hi Joy thank you for sharing my post. I stopped by and left comments on two blogs already, although I’m not sure if the second took as I was using my phone and it died just as I clicked submit. You have such interesting reads this week. I’ll be by and visit you again later today I’m heading out now to catch my bus.

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  3. Thanks, Lois; When I was in my 20s and lived on South Pender Island for two winters with my sons’ dad and our eldest boy, we had neighbours who began fighting DDT before WWII. They gave me ‘Silent Spring’ to read and were instrumental in raising my ecological consciousness. I still read on the subject from time to time; most recently a handful of books about GMOs, their effects and what is being done to discredit the whistle-blowers. It’s all very frightening and sometimes so overwhelming, isn’t it? I’m glad you are teaching your grandchildren what you can. I see people taking steps in a positive direction (Edmonton city council recently approved a small pilot project to allow a few people to have bees in their backyards), but my fear is that it’s too little, too late . . . I sure hope I’m wrong! ~ Linne

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    • Linne, I hope we are both wrong but I fear the outcome. You were very lucky to have had neighbors who introduced you to the environmental problems. I wish I had known earlier than I did.

      The treatment of whistle blowers is horrible. Can you imagine the outcomes of our historical events had whistle blowers been persecuted so harshly. Look at the Nixon impeachment for one.

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  4. I wonder if the very hard winter you had, has something to do with the lack of insects you are seeing? Last winter was hard on a lot of things–I lost a lot of plants. Overall, I haven’t seen much difference in wildlife in my little slice of the world. I still see plenty of ants, bees, and I saw my first preying mantis the other day. I usually see them later in the summer. Also, ants do a fair of amount of pollinating. Maybe they are helping when you’re not looking.

    The deer, squirrel, rabbits, foxes, groundhogs, and birds are still around in about the same numbers although the numbers vary from year to year. I will say that we have a fair number of trees and a fair number of bee attracting plants around. That may help.

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    • I am glad your wildlife and insects weren’t affected much. We do have ants, and quite a few, so maybe that’s who’s been pollinating my plants?

      Our birds have stayed pretty much the same, we still have the eagles, robins, mourning doves, chickadees, etc. but this year also had a couple varieties of black birds move in which was a first here. Oh and turkey vultures have been seen more and more recently. We had one swoop down within a few feet of our heads today. The rabbits are missing but we think they were eaten.

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  5. I really like to hear about how you are educating your curious grandchildren about the natural world. I try to do the same with mine, and I think it’s a very important thing we can do. Each one teach one and we can make a dire situation better maybe.
    My raspberry patch was buzzing in the sun today when I went out to cover some of the berries to keep the robins from pecking every last one. I thanked all the bees for being there and doing their job. :-)

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    • Cynthia, I found myself smiling as I read about your buzzing berries. It made my day to know there is an area still doing well with the bees.

      I read a great quote by John Holt years ago (he was an educator) who said you can’t teach children unless they want to learn. So I’ve been answering questions as they come up and then try to build on them but only if the children show an interest. My son tells me I taught his children organic is the only way simply by letting them eat from the garden. I am thrilled to be meeting so many online, you for one, who are taking the time to work with our grandchildren in hopes it will make a difference. Thank you.

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  6. I am in NY and I definitely noticed less bees, ants , butterflies, lightening bugs etc this year. I have not seen one monarch and I plant butterfly attracting shrubs/plants. I saw one swallowtail a few weeks ago and that’s it. Several of our neighbors make no effort to hide that they kill wildlife here. I am so disgusted. We had a family of groundhogs for several years here and my neighbor got rid of them a couple of weeks ago– makes me sick!!! Another neighbor kills chipmunks because they mess up her garden. I get really upset about all of this! People don’t get it.

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    • I am so sorry for you and your groundhogs. I am in the minority here but I find them gentle and cute. They watch us just as we watch them but have never harmed anyone. And you have a neighbor who kills chipmunks! I can be easily entertained for hours watching their antics. Our chipmunks like to pick up the birdseed the birds knock down and for some reason have decided we are no threat. I’m waiting for the day one climbs right up into our laps.

      I have milkweed which is the only plant the Monarchs will eat from and still we’ve only seen one. We’ve seen the white moths, which the children call butterflies but no other butterflies yet this year and there is a lot of both wild and annual flowers planted just for them.

      I wonder, have you seen a dwindling of your bat population as well? I don’t know which areas of NY have been affected or if it’s the whole state.

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  7. It’s a very, very sad read Lois :( What man has done to the planet, to the Earth, to other species! We, the most “intelligent” species, we have it so wrong!! We are far less affected here, plenty of insect life but had noticed the lack of pollination which is why we got bees ourselves, to try and do our bit. We were really pleased when a neighbour stopped in to thank us for them saying it had been a long time since he had noticed bees in his garden. A sad state indeed.

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  8. We found several dead baby snakes this year as well. We think the very late hard frost did them in. A few weeks ago we saw one other in my neighbor’s garden so that gives hope.
    The ladybugs seem to be thriving here this year, but we haven’t seen any butterflies. We see a few bees in the garden, but not many.
    My neighbor cut down all the trees on her property this spring. While they were cutting them it made me and the kids so anxious we had to leave the house. Two of the trees were dying or dead, but the other two were not. We are thinking of asking her if we can plant a new tree in her yard. We live in a very dense urban neighborhood, and I don’t think people realize how important the trees are for our health and for the urban ecology.

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    • Kathleen, I feel for you living in an urban area and seeing healthy trees cut down. My sister is like that, she cut down all the trees on her property as soon as she moved in because she doesn’t like to rake leaves, one of my favorite things. I pleaded with her not to but it fell on deaf ears.

      I can tell the difference when I visit an urban area with few if any trees, The air smells bad, to me and I wish the big wide sidewalks had trees planted along them to clean it.

      I’m glad you have lady bugs I almost bought some this year but figured the lady bugs would return, they didn’t. Like you said, probably killed off during the winter as this one was bitterly cold and lasted till late April.

      I hope you start seeing more bees. I have begun to research how to pollinate my own plants should it come to that.

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  9. Hello Lois, Great post! I’ve been concerned for several years now about all the things “missing” in nature – hardly ever see a butterfly, or a grasshopper, or a ladybug, not many fireflies this year, etc., etc.

    Love what you learned about “trees, and every other living thing on earth has the same DNA components humans do, just arranged differently.”

    We – meaning all living things – truly are connected.

    Thanks for sharing your concerns.

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    • Hello Carol. I’m sorry you are seeing the same things in your area. We’ve seen a couple grasshoppers but not like we used to and the fireflies were very late this year. We saw our first ones right before July 4th weekend but the numbers aren’t as great.

      Learning we have the same DNA as every other living form on earth was shocking to me, but it makes sense.

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  10. OK, that’s all deeply concerning. Before he had his mountaineering accident 25 years ago, CatMan was very involved in cave exploration, and still keeps in touch with that community. The caving community has been gravely concerned about the White Nose disease for years now. I believe they’ve closed most of the caves in the country to exploration so that cavers don’t inadvertently spread the fungus through their equipment etc.For the caves and mines that are still open, they’ve now implemented stringent decontamination procedures for all clothing and equipment.

    I hope and pray that this is not all a harbinger of things to come, but like you, I am worried. Although, I just heard on the news tonight that the deer population in Colorado is WAY down and that they’re restricting hunting licenses. Though the crows took a pretty hard hit from West Nile a few years back and they’ve rebounded nicely.

    I dunno. I can’t escape the feeling that we humans are playing a very dangerous game when it comes to our environment. So many people seem to still be operating under the pre-industrial revolution model that nature is something to be conquered. It’s like we can’t seem to grasp the idea that we are nature, and everything we do to harm nature harms us. Sigh.

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    • Pennsylvania and New York were hit hard by White Nose and lost a good percentage of our bat population. A grant in excess of a million dollars was just received to study the disease in this area and see if they can find a way to stop it.

      I have never been caving, I have always wanted to but it was something that was too difficult with my disability and I would have needed another person there as help when encountering certain situations. It’s a shame they have had to close the caves but I’m glad the reason is to protect the bats.

      I keep waiting to hear more about the effects of West Nile in humans. I contracted it while living in Arizona, nasty thing. I asked if I was now immune but no one can give me an answer. I’m told I might be immune, or if I am reinfected it could be worse or or. I am one who dislikes not knowing.

      I agree too many still believe nature can be conquered and even should be conquered. I listen to the arguments here about the coyotes and people not wanting them near where they live, well don’t live there then. Right in my own town people take their guns out to shoot crows and trap then kill groundhogs. It makes me so mad. Even those who don’t garden still kill these animals because they are on their property. Don’t get me started on the rest of the things I see or I’ll have to write another post. :-(

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      • CatMan took me caving a few times back when we first met. It was sorta fun, but not the kind of thing I can see spending a lot of time doing. I enjoy having sunshine with my adventure experiences! But the stuff he was into before we met was more like rock climbing underground – which I guess makes sense since he was also a rock climber before he got hurt. I’ve always been afraid of heights, but the small amount of climbing we did in the caves was oddly enough less frightening for me. I think not being able to see down helped my fear. Anyhow, I think there are some commercial caves that are wheelchair accessible.

        I share your outrage at people feeling the need to kill animals just because they can. I think some of that attitude is slowly changing though. There’s a big prairie dog colony along one of our favorite bike paths and one day there were work crews out there spraying some sort of powder into all of the holes. I was VERY upset… like to the point of tears because I thought they were killing my sweet little “meepers.” But CatMan calmed me down, and it turned out it was actually some sort of flea powder or something to kill the insects that carry the plague – which has destroyed a number of prairie dog colonies out here. So they were actually trying to protect my furry little friends.

        It’s also very interesting to see how urban wildlife populations have changed in my lifetime. Growing up here, you NEVER EVER saw things like foxes, raccoons or coyotes in town, but these days they are commonplace. We even get bears, mountain lions, and elk coming for visits now and then. I think the greenway project has helped because since all the streams and rivers are protected with parks and open space along them, it’s like a wildlife highway.

        Anyhow, I just hope that the enlightened attitude toward cute furry animals can extend to things like bees and bats, and that people will realize that wildlife is not just important as some sort of entertainment for humans, it’s part of the ecosystem upon which we depend.

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        • I’m glad your prairie dogs weren’t being harmed, they are so cute. I’ve been through Denver and it’s packed! I can’t picture you getting bears, mountain lions etc in the city limits. I hope you are right and it’s because of the greenway project. How are the residents handling mountain lions and bears coming into “their” neighborhoods?

          I watched a part of a documentary on Africa where they were saying the only thing keeping the nature reserves operating was the tourism, but that the animals are dwindling that often there are more tourists than wildlife. What’s happening is global but I hold out hope that people will wake up and be upset enough to make changes.

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          • It’s funny about the mountain lions and bears. Usually when there’s a bear sighting it’s a young cub that’s gotten lost and has climbed up some tree. The general response is that people gather around taking pictures and eventually they have to tranquilize it and relocate it. Mountain lions on the other hand, tend to freak people out, because they are much more aggressive especially with small dogs and the like – and they can pose a real danger for small children. So usually they close open space areas when there’s a mountain lion sighting. And sometimes they do end up having to kill the animal. But generally, it’s nice that people are starting to see that they can live with these animals instead of having to shoot them reflexively.

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          • That’s impressive. So many in urban areas are so afraid of wild animals they don’t know how to handle a situation when one is spotted. Gives me hope. ;-)

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  11. Have you read the book “Silent Spring”? I haven’t read the whole thing, but I studied parts of it when I did postgraduate studies in environmental decision-making. Anyway, the reason I ask is because your blog post reminds me very much of this, and I’ve seen a few references recently to “Silent Spring” in relation to declining bee populations. The suggestion is that there might be a second “Silent Spring” coming…and your blog post makes me believe it even more : (

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    • Yes, I did read Silent Spring in the late 90s. Rachel Carson was so far ahead of everyone else and it was sad to see she succumbed to cancer. I wondered if it was due to environmental toxins she so fought against.

      If we have another Silent Spring I think this time it will be much worse. The gmo crops are widespread, and the number of diseases affecting animals and insects of all sizes is so diverse no one even knows what the causes are of some, such as White Nose that is killing off the bats here.

      I so hope to be wrong, but I have to say I am very concerned.

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    • I have just started reading this book. It is hard to believe that it was written 50 years+ ago as what she describes is still happening today. Greed is such a destructive vice with far reaching consequences.

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