Study links neonicotinoids to CCD

It’s getting harder and harder for Bayer to continue to deny the link between neonicotinoids and bee decline, especially with this new study from Harvard. Unlike the “facts” from Bayer — which claims insecticides are perfectly harmless when it comes to bees — Harvard scientists have used actual field studies to come to their conclusions. Mother Jones called the report a “smoking gun” that targets the neonics imidacloprid and clothianidin as causes of Colony Collapse Disorder.

The study tracked the progress of 18 hives beginning in July 2012. Twelve hives were fed sublethal amounts of pesticides via sugar syrup over 13 weeks, and the other six hives were kept as controls. According to the report, all 18 hives exhibited similar behavior throughout the summer months, but during the winter, bees from six of the 12 contaminated colonies failed to return to their hives, demonstrating classic behavior of CCD. On the other hand, none of the control hives displayed signs of CCD, but one showed symptoms of nosema.

What’s exciting about this study is scientists were able to replicate Colony Collapse Disorder through the experiment. Previous tests — like the ones cited by Bayer — have just occurred in laboratories and often only focused on bees in one stage of life. The Harvard study actually administered the insecticide to full colonies from July through September and monitored their response.

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Slow assimilation

Never have I had such an appreciation for suburban living. The city of Plano — outside of Dallas — is ringed with 1970s planned neighborhoods, where the one-story houses look out at each other across sidewalks and huge, empty streets.

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Their backyards are enclosed in a series of tall, wooden fences that create a maze of alleys to connect driveways and garages. It’s like everyone has their very own miniature palace. Each yard could very easily hold all your livestock — chickens, rabbits, turkeys, a pig or two — and maybe even grow some corn to feed them all.

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Inside the house is another marvel. The living room is the size of an entire house in San Lucas, Guatemala, and there are more light bulbs than probably the entire pueblo of Patchitulul. But the best part is the kitchen. There’s an oven that isn’t wood-fired or solar powered, a microwave and a refrigerator! I’ve completely adopted the domestic, Texan-housewife role and have made baked goods every day since our arrival.

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While these were all things I was looking forward to, one unexpected perk of the ‘burbs is its absolute silence. There are no wild, barking dogs at night, no roosters who chime every quarter-hour, and when you go for walks, at most you’ll encounter three other pedestrians. In fact, walking is so rare that the one time I meandered through the neighborhood without Dave — for no more than 10 minutes — I was asked if I needed a ride by a southern gentleman in a red pick-up truck. Sean later explained to me that no one walks, anywhere, and if you happen upon a lady on-foot, it’s assumed that her car has broken down.

All these sudden changes have been slightly overwhelming, but because we chose Texas to be our entry-point back into the states, becoming an American again is actually quite easy. We’ve already hit up two Mexican supermarkets and talked to a butcher, a waitress and a cashier in Spanish. Plus, we’re back on our Mexico City diet of delicious, cheap tacos!

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With everything at your disposal, it’s easy to miss the rigors of homesteading. But thankfully, Fiesta the Latino supermarket, is bringing do-it-yourself back to suburbanites. Just like in Ecuador, you can even make your own rope out of sisal. Only this time, there’s no need to grow the actual plant, just pick up a large chunk of it at the store. Same deal for tortillas. Why make your own? There are nearly 20 brands of corn or flour ones piled high at Fiesta.

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Smooth sailing

After deciding to cut our stay at IMAP short, or, rather, in half, Dave and I left San Lucas this week and headed off to the touristy side of Lake Atitlan in search of food we didn’t have to cook ourselves. One can only eat so many hard-boiled eggs. Remembering the cheap happy hour at La Iguana Perdida, we set our sights on Santa Cruz and those rum and cokes for 10 Quetzal — about $1.30 USD.

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Like the chicken bus that we took from Guatemala City, the kitschy mode of transportation on the lake – really the only way to get around between towns along the water – is by small motor boats. Aside from the occasional lake spray that escapes the confines of the boats’ flappy, plastic windows, the experience is pretty much like any other 9-to-5, public transit commute. Often times you’re sitting next to locals who caught the rush-hour boat after work, and the rumbling motor lulls them to sleep after a tough day at the office.

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As a tourist, however, you may ride the rush-hour boat, but you’ll have to pay the gringo premium for the service. Supposedly there are two types of boat taxis — public and private. According to the guidebook, the public operation is “semi-regulated,” which, I suppose, explains the men in matching white polo shirts, and the sign at the dock that lists the prices for various destinations. However, these numbers are pretty much meaningless, as the public boat drivers will make up endless excuses as to why today’s price is doubled. At first we believed them — it was Semana Santa, after all. But after a few days of this routine runaround, their excuses began sounding more and more like paltry attempts just to make more money. They ranged from “Oh, those are our morning prices,” while trying to explain the sign, to “the water is choppy right now.”

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Still, you don’t have many options when it comes to transportation around Lake Atitlan, and the rides are pretty fun. Toward the end we learned to hold out for a better price and they usually took pity on us.