If you’ve got an aphid problem in your garden and depend on ladybugs for eradication, you might do well to turn down your radio. At least, that’s what’s indicated by a July study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, overturning once and for all AC/DC’s 1980 claim that “rock ‘n’ roll ain’t noise pollution.”
In a unique experiment, researchers at Mississippi State University placed ladybugs and aphid-infested soybean plants in chambers outfitted with computer speakers and an iPhone, which then played everything from rock and country music to folk-punk and just plain industrial sounds like car horns and jackhammers.
It’s no secret that America’s bees are in trouble. From colony-collapse disorder to threats from fungicides and neonicotinoid pesticides, the iconic pollinators’ ranks are so diminished that scientists report more than 700 North American bee species are headed toward extinction.
Near the top of the list of challenges facing bees — especially honeybees — is a tiny, tick-like parasite called the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor). And German scientists think they may have accidentally found a way to eradicate it without pesticides or harm to the bees.
It’s a common October sight in Western coastal cities like Pacific Grove, Santa Cruz and San Diego, California: clusters of thousands of black-and-orange monarch butterflies clinging to pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees after migrating from colder northern states.
According to a new study published in Biological Conservation, however, numbers of migrating monarchs are down more than 90 percent from the 1980s, and if the decline continues at its current rate, monarchs could be extinct on the West Coast in as little as 20 years.
Remember all those dead bugs on your windshield? On summer nights, so many insects were in the air that a speeding car might smash dozens of the delicate winged creatures as a matter of course. That doesn’t happen anymore.
“Just today we had a member of the public phone up and say, unprompted, that ‘the front of my car is now devoid of insects, and there are virtually no moths in the headlights,’” said Matt Shadlow, Chief Executive of British insect conservation charity Buglife. “This is part of the wholesale loss of small animals in recent decades. The public know about bees and butterflies, but these are just the tips of the iceberg. Moths, hoverflies, wasps, beetles and many other groups are now sparse where once they were abundant.”
Everything you eat contains insects. In fact, the FDA permits a certain number of undetected insects, maggots and parasites (three maggots per can of tomatoes is A-OK) in every commercially sold grocery product. However, if humans are going to continue to exist on our increasingly impaired and overpopulated planet, we may need to intentionally eat more bugs.
The Dow Chemical Company, a manufacturer of plastics, chemicals, and agricultural products, has asked the Trump administration to ignore studies from federal scientists about the environmental risks posed by organophosphates, a major class of pesticides. Critics note that Dow recently donated $1 million to help Trump's inauguration ceremony.
Lawyers representing Dow and two other manufacturers of organophosphates sent letters last week to three members of Trump's Cabinet imploring them "to set aside" research indicating that the pesticides are harmful to 1,800 endangered and critically threatened animal species. Dow claims that these findings are flawed and has asked the administration to scrap proposed environmental regulations. Dow hired its own scientists to rebut government studies.
When you bring home your gleaming bags of fresh fruit and vegetables from the market, you might give them a quick rinse under the tap before you proceed to eat. Unfortunately, rinsing in water, or even peeling, only removes surface residue. It can’t remove traces of pesticides or industrial chemicals used in pre-consumer washing and processing. Pesticides are chemicals used to kill pests, including insects, rodents, fungi and weeds that damage crops. They can also pose toxic threats to human health.
To help consumers educate themselves, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit environmental research group based in Washington D.C., recently released its annual pesticide report which includes a Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The EWG Shopper's Guide ranks pesticide contamination of popular fruits and vegetables on more than 36,000 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This year, they found that nearly 70 percent of samples of 48 conventionally grown types of produce contained pesticide residue. Washing did not remove the pesticides, nor, in many cases, did peeling.