• 77°

‘I heard the news today, oh boy …’

By Milly West

It was mentioned on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, but it should have been the headline: Bees are dying right and left, and their colonies are declining at an alarming rate.

According to new information, just out, the nation’s beekeepers lost 44 percent of their bees in 2015.

I found many websites that say that mites are to blame for this catastrophe, yet no one is talking about why those mites are so prolific now. Climate change, anyone? It takes digging deeper to find that honest research can’t leave out NEOICS (Neonicotinoids) when it comes to the causes of the massive bee decline. Neonics are found in many herbicides including (most notably) Roundup.

Neonics kill our bees by penetrating plants from root to flower, to nectar. The bees ingest the chemical and die a slow death. It didn’t take long to find the “Bee Against Monsanto” Facebook page with over 27,000 followers. Monsanto makes Roundup for its Roundup-ready seeds, and sues the old time farmers who want to save seeds as their forefathers did. (Food Inc.) Bee Against Monsanto is a site that promotes natural seeds, organic foods, local farms and asks a very important question — what will happen if the bees die out? Answer: If the bees disappear, the world will have a four-year food supply.

And wine lovers, here is some gloomy news: glyphosate (the primary ingredient in Roundup), has also been found in many California wines, and now the state of California wants to add it to the list of chemicals that cause cancer. (The mice didn’t do so well in lab tests.) Of course, Monsanto is suing to stop the ban, claiming there is no connection, but California can’t risk that there might be, and a lot of research shows a clear connection. People are getting sick lawsuits are being filed, and our precious pollinators are dying off. So why isn’t this a headline?

Back in 2014, the White House announced the formation of a Pollinator Health Task Force, a multi-departmental effort charged with “understanding, preventing and recovering from” mass declines in the U.S. honeybee population. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently designated Monsanto Roundup [glyphosate] weed killer as a probable human carcinogen. Yet, nothing is changing, or at least not fast enough, and this stuff is everywhere.

So, friends and neighbors, there is a natural solution to this tragedy, and it begins at home. Plant native plants and let a weed or two have its day in the sun. After all, weeds are a part of our natural world and provide nectar and pollen for our hungry bees. And parents, if you want a fun way to teach your kids about bees and other environmental issues, check out The Bug Family Band, from Oakland, California. Their new CD, “ABeeCD” has just won a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award.

My friend and avid Environmentalist, Greg Johnson, sent me this dialogue that I want to share with all of you. Thank you, Greg.

God on Lawns

Imagine the conversation The Creator might have had with St. Francis on the subject of lawns:

God: Hey St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the Midwest? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect “no maintenance” garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

St. Francis: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

St. Francis: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

God: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it … sometimes twice a week.

God: They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No, sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

God: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, Sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

St. Francis: You are not going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

St. Francis: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

God: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

St. Francis: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

God: And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

God: Enough. I don’t want to think about this anymore. Sister Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

Sister Catherine: “Dumb and Dumber,” Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about…

God: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

And that’s the news of the day.

Milly West is an Oxford resident and can be reached at millymwest@gmail.com.