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25 plants to draw native bees to Oregon gardens in honor of National Pollinator Week

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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Honeybees get all the attention, but they aren’t the only bees pollinating our gardens. In Oregon, over 500 native bees are out doing their part, tooAs National Pollinator Week (June 17-23) nears, it’s time to bring them into the limelight. Many are beautiful – like the metallic sweat bee with emerald green head and thorax or the cute ball of fluff called a digger bee. They’re also docile, leaving people alone as they move from plant to plant gathering and depositing pollen.Without insect pollinators cucumbers, apples and berries – along with thousands of other plants – wouldn’t bear fruit or vegetables. That makes conservation vital, said Gail Langellotto, entomologist and professor in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences. To help make this happen she surveyed bee species from 24 Portland-area gardens, all tended by a cadre of OSU Extension master gardeners.For this Garden Ecology Lab research project, Langellotto visited the gardens monthly to collect bees. They are then sent to experts at the American Museum of Natural History in New York for identification. The information collected enhances the Oregon Bee Atlas, a volunteer program charged with surveying the whole state.“We want to generate a species list from Oregon gardens,” she said. “Other states have them, but we don’t know what native bees appear in Oregon. If we know which bees we have, we can determine their health and how we might help them.”The Oregon Bee Atlas is one of several projects undertaken by the Oregon Bee Project, a collaboration of OSU Extension, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Forestry. The project was undertaken by mandate of the Oregon Legislature after 50,000 bumble bees were killed five years ago when blooming linden trees in a parking lot were sprayed with pesticide.“The Oregon Bee Project is about putting tools in people’s hands to literally build and care for native bee pollinator habitat, and gardeners are really at the forefront of that effort,” said Andony Melathopoulos, OSU Extension bee specialist and leader of OSU’s participation in the project.On the Oregon State campus in Corvallis, Al Shay, a horticulture instructor at OSU, has led a campaign to show how to be kind to bees. He and his students build pollinator houses and plant accompanying gardens. They’ve installed them, not only on campus, but around town at the Corvallis Fire Department downtown, the Methodist Church and Sunset Park.Shay hopes to have 20 more pollinator houses placed in public locations by next year, some accompanied by gardens.“As we become more urbanized, it makes sense to provide habitat for pollinators,” he said. “We’re trying to get the word out and tell people to do the same things in their own backyards.”Langellotto agrees. Part of her research is looking at volunteer gardens and noting what conditions pollinators thrive in. They use mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) to see what’s adjacent to the gardens – highways, forests, waterways, shopping centers, farms or any other land use that may be nearby.“We expect gardens can be a fantastic habitat for bees,” she said. “Gardens can be incredible for conservation in general. If we’re able to identify garden features that help conserve bees we will communicate that and hopefully get gardeners to do some of these things.”Plant selection is the biggie, she said. One tiny garden in her study is right up against Interstate 5 but had the second most number of bees of the 24 they surveyed. And most likely it will rank first or second in diversity.“It suggests that intentional plant choices make a difference,” Langellotto said. “If you plant it, they will come.”Native plants play a large role, but there are many exotics that do just as well. Look for single flowers with flat faces; fluffy double flowers deter bees. Choose a diversity of plants and have some that bloom at different times of the year – some plants like Oregon grape even bloom in winter.Plant in swaths. Planting something is better than nothing, but you’ll notice that a single plant rarely has pollinators visiting.One of the most important things gardeners can put into practice is limiting use of pesticides (check with your local Extension office or Master Gardeners to determine what is wrong with your plants before treating).Native bees are solitary and live in ground nests, so leave a little bare ground for them.“Bees are crucial to the food we eat,” Langellotto said. “They help maintain the plants we love. Something as simple as planting a sustainable garden can help with conservation.”Top 25 plants for attracting pollinatorsOregon grape flowers bloom at Camassia Nature Preserve in West Linn, a 26-acre natural area managed by international environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy. Jamie Hale/The OregonianBloom winter through early spring (February through April)Vine maple (Acer circinatum): Native, deciduous large shrub or small tree that can be trained to a single or multi-trunked form. Good as an understory plant under tall evergreens. Zone 7.Tall Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium, formerly Mahonia): The Oregon State flower, this native evergreen shrub busts out with huge can’t-miss-them clusters of yellow flowers. Zone 7.Camas (Camassia spp.): A native bulb with tall foliage and an even taller stalk of blue flowers.Crabapple (Malus floribunda): Deciduous tree with masses of pink or white blooms, followed by red berries. Zone 4.Willow (Salix spp.): Many different types of this deciduous shrub or tree, depending on which you choose. Some have a graceful weeping form. Zone 6.Bloom spring through early summer (April through June)Western serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia spp.): Native deciduous shrub or small tree with star-shaped white flowers followed by maroon-purple berries. Zone 4.Borage (Borago officinalis): An annual herb with fuzzy foliage and delightful clusters of blue flowers; will reseed year to year. An ancient plant that is used for medicinal purposes.California lilac (Ceanothus spp.): Tough evergreen shrub with knobs of blue flowers that cover the plant like a blanket. Drought tolerant. There are many cultivars. Zone 7-8.Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.): An adaptable perennial prized for its bright yellow flowers, often with a red eye, and drought tolerance. Various zones.Geranium (Geramium spp.): These perennials are not the blustery blooming annual plants that we’re all familiar with; they are tough, hardy perennials with five-petaled flowers in many shades of purple and pink. Zone 3.Globe gilia (Gilia capitata): A native annual that’s very adaptable to different situations. Sports puffs of lavender flowers. May reseed.Lupine (Lupinus spp.): Tall spikes of flowers make these perennials, annuals, and biennials distinctive plants in the garden. The most common is blue, but hybrids run the gamut from pink and red, yellow and white and even bi-colors. Zone 3.Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana): A native deciduous shrub or small tree with pendulous white flowers and attractive bark. Zone 2.California poppy (Eschscholzia californica).StaffBloom mid- to late summer (July through September)Blue giant hyssop (Agastache foeniculum and spp.) A drought-tolerant perennial with rods of lavender-blue flowers. Smells like anise when crushed. Zone 4.California poppy (Eschscholzia californica): The familiar, friendly orange perennial wildflower that’s as tough as it comes. Drought tolerant. Zone 5.Oregon gumweed (Grindelia stricta or integrifolia): A native perennial bearing school-bus yellow, daisylike flowers. Great for the beach. Zone 8.Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale): Another native, yellow-blooming perennial with daisylike flowers and a big cone in the center. Zone 3.Showy tarweed (Madia elegans): This yellow-blooming native plant is an annual herb, and a beautiful one at that. Flowers are centered with a red ring.Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii): A pretty, pest-free perennial with gray-green, fragrant foliage and spikes of small flowers in shades of blue and purple. Zone 5.Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia): Airy clouds of lavender flowers distinguish this heat-loving, low-water perennial. Zone 4.Phacelia (Phacelia spp.): A fast-growing annual with fernlike foliage topped with fascinating blue flowers that unfurl in a fiddlehead shape. Zone 7.Stonecrop (Sedum spp.): There are any species of this succulent, both tall and low. Groundcovers normally put out small yellow flowers; tall have blooms in shades of pink. Drought tolerant. Various hardiness, some as low as Zone 4.Bloom late summer to fall (September through November)Michaelmas daisy (Aster amellus): An easy-to-grow perennial with daisylike flowers in various shades of purple and pink. There’s even a white one. Zone 4.Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis): A native perennial with abundant sprays of sunshine yellow. Zone 4.Douglas aster (Symphyotrichum subspicatum): An adaptable, very-long blooming native perennial with lavender-blue, daisylike flowers. Zone 5.– List compiled by Signe Danler, OSU Horticulture Department

Choose a diversity of plants and have some that bloom at different times of the year.

Honeybees get all the attention, but they aren’t the only bees pollinating our gardens. In Oregon, over 500 native bees are out doing their part, too

As National Pollinator Week (June 17-23) nears, it’s time to bring them into the limelight. Many are beautiful – like the metallic sweat bee with emerald green head and thorax or the cute ball of fluff called a digger bee. They’re also docile, leaving people alone as they move from plant to plant gathering and depositing pollen.

Without insect pollinators cucumbers, apples and berries – along with thousands of other plants – wouldn’t bear fruit or vegetables. That makes conservation vital, said Gail Langellotto, entomologist and professor in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences. To help make this happen she surveyed bee species from 24 Portland-area gardens, all tended by a cadre of OSU Extension master gardeners.

For this Garden Ecology Lab research project, Langellotto visited the gardens monthly to collect bees. They are then sent to experts at the American Museum of Natural History in New York for identification. The information collected enhances the Oregon Bee Atlas, a volunteer program charged with surveying the whole state.

“We want to generate a species list from Oregon gardens,” she said. “Other states have them, but we don’t know what native bees appear in Oregon. If we know which bees we have, we can determine their health and how we might help them.”

The Oregon Bee Atlas is one of several projects undertaken by the Oregon Bee Project, a collaboration of OSU Extension, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Forestry. The project was undertaken by mandate of the Oregon Legislature after 50,000 bumble bees were killed five years ago when blooming linden trees in a parking lot were sprayed with pesticide.

“The Oregon Bee Project is about putting tools in people’s hands to literally build and care for native bee pollinator habitat, and gardeners are really at the forefront of that effort,” said Andony Melathopoulos, OSU Extension bee specialist and leader of OSU’s participation in the project.

On the Oregon State campus in Corvallis, Al Shay, a horticulture instructor at OSU, has led a campaign to show how to be kind to bees. He and his students build pollinator houses and plant accompanying gardens. They’ve installed them, not only on campus, but around town at the Corvallis Fire Department downtown, the Methodist Church and Sunset Park.

Shay hopes to have 20 more pollinator houses placed in public locations by next year, some accompanied by gardens.

“As we become more urbanized, it makes sense to provide habitat for pollinators,” he said. “We’re trying to get the word out and tell people to do the same things in their own backyards.”

Langellotto agrees. Part of her research is looking at volunteer gardens and noting what conditions pollinators thrive in. They use mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) to see what’s adjacent to the gardens – highways, forests, waterways, shopping centers, farms or any other land use that may be nearby.

“We expect gardens can be a fantastic habitat for bees,” she said. “Gardens can be incredible for conservation in general. If we’re able to identify garden features that help conserve bees we will communicate that and hopefully get gardeners to do some of these things.”

Plant selection is the biggie, she said. One tiny garden in her study is right up against Interstate 5 but had the second most number of bees of the 24 they surveyed. And most likely it will rank first or second in diversity.

“It suggests that intentional plant choices make a difference,” Langellotto said. “If you plant it, they will come.”

Native plants play a large role, but there are many exotics that do just as well. Look for single flowers with flat faces; fluffy double flowers deter bees. Choose a diversity of plants and have some that bloom at different times of the year – some plants like Oregon grape even bloom in winter.

Plant in swaths. Planting something is better than nothing, but you’ll notice that a single plant rarely has pollinators visiting.

One of the most important things gardeners can put into practice is limiting use of pesticides (check with your local Extension office or Master Gardeners to determine what is wrong with your plants before treating).

Native bees are solitary and live in ground nests, so leave a little bare ground for them.

“Bees are crucial to the food we eat,” Langellotto said. “They help maintain the plants we love. Something as simple as planting a sustainable garden can help with conservation.”

Top 25 plants for attracting pollinators

Camassia Nature Preserve

Oregon grape flowers bloom at Camassia Nature Preserve in West Linn, a 26-acre natural area managed by international environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy. Jamie Hale/The Oregonian

Bloom winter through early spring (February through April)

Vine maple (Acer circinatum): Native, deciduous large shrub or small tree that can be trained to a single or multi-trunked form. Good as an understory plant under tall evergreens. Zone 7.

Tall Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium, formerly Mahonia): The Oregon State flower, this native evergreen shrub busts out with huge can’t-miss-them clusters of yellow flowers. Zone 7.

Camas (Camassia spp.): A native bulb with tall foliage and an even taller stalk of blue flowers.

Crabapple (Malus floribunda): Deciduous tree with masses of pink or white blooms, followed by red berries. Zone 4.

Willow (Salix spp.): Many different types of this deciduous shrub or tree, depending on which you choose. Some have a graceful weeping form. Zone 6.

Bloom spring through early summer (April through June)

Western serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia spp.): Native deciduous shrub or small tree with star-shaped white flowers followed by maroon-purple berries. Zone 4.

Borage (Borago officinalis): An annual herb with fuzzy foliage and delightful clusters of blue flowers; will reseed year to year. An ancient plant that is used for medicinal purposes.

California lilac (Ceanothus spp.): Tough evergreen shrub with knobs of blue flowers that cover the plant like a blanket. Drought tolerant. There are many cultivars. Zone 7-8.

Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.): An adaptable perennial prized for its bright yellow flowers, often with a red eye, and drought tolerance. Various zones.

Geranium (Geramium spp.): These perennials are not the blustery blooming annual plants that we’re all familiar with; they are tough, hardy perennials with five-petaled flowers in many shades of purple and pink. Zone 3.

Globe gilia (Gilia capitata): A native annual that’s very adaptable to different situations. Sports puffs of lavender flowers. May reseed.

Lupine (Lupinus spp.): Tall spikes of flowers make these perennials, annuals, and biennials distinctive plants in the garden. The most common is blue, but hybrids run the gamut from pink and red, yellow and white and even bi-colors. Zone 3.

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana): A native deciduous shrub or small tree with pendulous white flowers and attractive bark. Zone 2.

Native annual wildflowers

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica).Staff

Bloom mid- to late summer (July through September)

Blue giant hyssop (Agastache foeniculum and spp.) A drought-tolerant perennial with rods of lavender-blue flowers. Smells like anise when crushed. Zone 4.

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica): The familiar, friendly orange perennial wildflower that’s as tough as it comes. Drought tolerant. Zone 5.

Oregon gumweed (Grindelia stricta or integrifolia): A native perennial bearing school-bus yellow, daisylike flowers. Great for the beach. Zone 8.

Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale): Another native, yellow-blooming perennial with daisylike flowers and a big cone in the center. Zone 3.

Showy tarweed (Madia elegans): This yellow-blooming native plant is an annual herb, and a beautiful one at that. Flowers are centered with a red ring.

Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii): A pretty, pest-free perennial with gray-green, fragrant foliage and spikes of small flowers in shades of blue and purple. Zone 5.

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia): Airy clouds of lavender flowers distinguish this heat-loving, low-water perennial. Zone 4.

Phacelia (Phacelia spp.): A fast-growing annual with fernlike foliage topped with fascinating blue flowers that unfurl in a fiddlehead shape. Zone 7.

Stonecrop (Sedum spp.): There are any species of this succulent, both tall and low. Groundcovers normally put out small yellow flowers; tall have blooms in shades of pink. Drought tolerant. Various hardiness, some as low as Zone 4.

Bloom late summer to fall (September through November)

Michaelmas daisy (Aster amellus): An easy-to-grow perennial with daisylike flowers in various shades of purple and pink. There’s even a white one. Zone 4.

Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis): A native perennial with abundant sprays of sunshine yellow. Zone 4.

Douglas aster (Symphyotrichum subspicatum): An adaptable, very-long blooming native perennial with lavender-blue, daisylike flowers. Zone 5.

– List compiled by Signe Danler, OSU Horticulture Department

Read the full story here.
Photos courtesy of

You Have Every Reason to Avoid Breathing Wildfire Smoke

The hazards are only becoming clearer; what the U.S. will do to protect people is not.

Summertime in North America is becoming smoke season. Last summer, when a haze from catastrophic Canadian wildfires hung over the continent—turning Montreal, where I lived at the time, an unearthly gray and my home city of New York a putrid orange—plenty of people seemed untroubled by this reality. Relatively few people wore masks; infamously, an outdoor yoga class continued on a skyscraper terrace in Manhattan. Research has long shown that exposure to the tiny particles that make up wildfire smoke is a major health hazard; it kills thousands of people prematurely each year and is linked to a range of maladies. Yet the message—that smoke is a legitimate health emergency—seems not to be getting through.Now, in mid-June, the smoke is creeping back. Ninety-four fires are currently burning in Canada, of which seven are uncontrolled. Last month, officials in Minnesota and Wisconsin issued air-quality warnings when smoke drifted south. The West is expecting an intense fire season. And smoke travels far beyond burn sites: Research from UC Davis published this month found that 99 percent of North America was covered by smoke at some point from 2019 to 2021, and that almost every lake on the continent spent at least 10 days a year under such haze.New evidence is starting to show more clearly just how devastating a public-health crisis this is. Smoke from California wildfires prematurely killed more than 50,000 people from 2008 to 2018, according to research published last week in the journal Science Advances. The researchers estimated that the health expenses of that exposure totaled $432 billion. And a recent analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that, given the march of climate change, smoke-related deaths in the U.S. will rise considerably: In the worst-case scenario, by mid-century, cumulative excess deaths from wildfire-smoke exposure could top 700,000, a two-thirds increase over current numbers. Measured in economic terms, pegged to the price people put on avoiding real health risks, these deaths amount to monetary damage on par with that of all other previous climate-related damage in the U.S. combined.Among the hazards of wildfire smoke, researchers know the most about tiny particles called PM2.5, which are small enough to slip into the bloodstream and infiltrate the lungs and other organs, causing inflammation and increasing the risk of a cascade of interrelated problems, including cognitive issues, breathing and heart conditions, and premature death. But wildfire smoke contains far more than one form of pollutant; its dangers are likely as complex a cocktail as whatever is burning. Smoke from a burning tree looks different than smoke from a burning town, and in a wildfire there may be both, with perhaps a few industrial sites thrown in. “There’s a lot of chemicals in that. There’s all sorts of things in the pollution that you might not see in other sources of PM2.5,” says Marissa Childs, an environmental-health researcher at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health who was a co-author of the NBER paper. “We’re still unclear on what that means for health.” But no one expects it to be anything good.The health hazards of smoke don’t yet show up in the cost-benefit analyses of climate policy, either, says Minghao Qiu, a researcher at Stanford University who studies air quality and climate change and was the lead author of the NBER paper. The social cost of carbon, for example, a metric meant to help weigh whether a climate policy is cost-effective, tries to estimate the societal damages of one extra ton of emissions by accounting for mortality related to extreme temperature, agriculture outputs, labor productivity, and other such factors, Qui told me. But measures like that do not at present include wildfire-smoke deaths. A large part of the climate-damage pie is simply missing.Until recently, air quality in the U.S. had been improving for decades, thanks to legislation regulating industrial sources of PM2.5. But fires are eating away at those gains. About a quarter of the PM2.5 pollution in the U.S. is now connected to wildfire smoke—“maybe 50 percent of [it] in the West in a bad year,” Qiu said. The bad year he has in mind is 2020, California’s worst season on record. Climate change will turn that from an outlier into a norm. “Every year in the 2050s will look somewhat like 2020,” he said. And even a season that’s not the worst on record poses a danger: One revelation from the work he and his colleagues did, Qiu said, was that “there really is no safe level” of smoke—even a relatively low level can increase a county’s mortality rate dramatically. Perhaps because of this dynamic, from 2011 to 2020 almost half of wildfire-smoke deaths happened in the eastern United States. The East might have fewer, smaller wildfires and lower smoke concentrations overall, but more people live there. And if more people are exposed to even low levels of smoke, mortality rates rise. (Qiu expects this particular dynamic to shift as western fires intensify further.)  Yet despite the risks, most Americans are left to deal with the threat on their own. The CDC recommends staying home, closing windows, and running an air filter, or—if you must go outside—wearing a respirator. But not everyone can stay inside without fear of losing their jobs; the federal government has done little more than urge employers to have a plan for their outdoor workers in a smoke event, and only three states—California, Oregon, and Washington—have rules regulating on-the-job smoke exposure. The CDC also recommends that all Americans follow the directions of local emergency managers, but New York City Mayor Eric Adams was widely criticized for having neither a plan nor any fast instructions for New Yorkers when last summer’s smoke crisis hit. If a government’s main policy approach is to suggest that people figure it out with little tangible support, “that’s going to have unequal impacts,” Childs told me.The Clean Air Act, which was largely crafted in the 1960s and ’70s, considers wildfire an “exceptional event,” leaving it beyond the burden of regulation. But now, with wildfire smoke representing a larger share of the PM2.5 to which Americans are exposed, that logic may no longer hold. As more frequent wildfires bear down on the American West and as temperatures rise across the country, fires will negate some of the air-quality gains from combatting other forms of air pollution, such as emissions from cars and power plants. Regaining that lost ground will be impossible without curbing one of the primary underlying causes of today’s supercharged fires: our use of fossil fuels.This is all new, in a way.“It took us a long time in the research perspective to come to a consensus that wildfire smoke is increasing,” Childs told me. Now it’s clear that it is. The open question is what governments will do about it—how cities, states, and the country will try to protect people from the smoke, or try to change the trajectory of a future in which it grows only more common.

Why Your Migraines Get Worse When It’s Hot Outside

A recent study involving multiple research institutions found that increases in temperature significantly raise the likelihood of migraine attacks. The research highlighted the effectiveness of...

Rising temperatures are linked to increased migraine occurrences, as shown in a comprehensive study. Credit: SciTechDaily.comA recent study involving multiple research institutions found that increases in temperature significantly raise the likelihood of migraine attacks.The research highlighted the effectiveness of Fremanezumab, a drug that counters migraines by inhibiting a pain-transmitting protein, showing that it can nullify temperature-related migraine triggers. These findings offer potential for broader migraine relief influenced by weather conditions.Migraine and TemperatureAs temperatures rise, so do chances for migraine attacks, according to a new study from a team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Errex Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA. Inc. “Weather change is one of the most common trigger factors for migraine,” says Vincent Martin, MD, director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at UC’s Gardner Neuroscience Institute and UC Health physician. He is the study’s lead author and president of the National Headache Foundation.Vincent Martin, MD, shown at the University of Cincinnati. Credit: University of CincinnatiKey Findings From the Fremanezumab StudyThese findings from the study, which looked at use of Fremanezumab and whether it could prevent headaches caused by temperature increases, will be presented at the American Headache Society’s 66th Annual Scientific Meeting, June 13-16 in San Diego, California.Produced by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA. Inc., Fremanezumab is sold under the brand name AJOVY®, administered by injection under the skin, and is part of a set of monoclonal antibodies that have hit the market in the past six years to treat migraine in patients. This class of drugs blocks a protein known as CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide) which is responsible for transmission of pain in the brain and nervous system.MigrainesA migraine is not just a bad headache; it’s a severe medical condition that can profoundly impact quality of life. It presents as a recurrent, pulsating pain usually confined to one side of the head, often triggered by various factors including stress, hormonal changes, dietary choices, and environmental changes. People suffering from migraines might experience aura, visual or sensory disturbances that precede the headache, signaling its onset.Impact of Temperature on Migraine FrequencyResearchers cross-referenced 71,030 daily diary records of 660 migraine patients with regional weather data and found that for every temperature increase of 10 degrees Fahrenheit daily, there was a 6% increase in occurrence of any headache. However, during the time periods of Fremanezumab treatment the association completely disappeared.“This study is the first to suggest that migraine specific therapies that block CGRP may treat weather associated headaches,” says Fred Cohen, a study co-author and assistant professor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY.Broader Implications and Historical ContextMartin adds that if the results are confirmed in future studies the drug therapy has the potential to help many people with weather triggered migraine.“What we found was that increases in temperature were a significant factor in migraine occurrence across all regions of the United States,” says Martin, also a professor within UC’s College of Medicine. “It’s pretty amazing because you think of all the varying weather patterns that occur across the entire country that we’re able to find one that is so significant.”Reflection on Historical ViewsAl Peterlin, who retired as chief meteorologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and co-author of the study, added another thought.“Hippocrates, the father of medicine, believed that weather and medicine were intimately linked,” he says. “A couple thousand of years later, we are proving that weather matters in human health.”Other authors include Di Zhang, Mario Ortega and Ying Zhang, PhD.The research study was funded by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA. Inc. Medical writing support was provided by Niamh Scott of Ashfield MedComms, an Inizio company, and editorial support was provided by Laura Colbran of Ashfield MedComms, an Inizio company, and funded by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.Disclosures: Vincent Martin has received consulting fees from Eli Lilly, Tonix and Pfizer, along with speaking fees from Pfizer and AbbVie. Martin has research funding from Eli Lilly, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. and AbbVie.Fred Cohen has received consulting fees from Pfizer, AbbVie and Eli Lilly along with honoraria from Springer Nature and MedLink Neurology.Ying Zhang, Di Zhang and Mario Ortega are employees of Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. and Teva Branded Pharmaceutical Products R&D, Inc. (collectively, “Teva”).

Medically Important Antibiotics Are Still Being Used to Fatten Up Pigs

Putting drugs in feed and water to make animals grow bigger and faster, thereby increasing profits, had been a common practice in industrial animal agriculture for decades. While the FDA didn’t end the practice whole hog, the change meant that going forward, farmers would only be able to use specific medically important antibiotics to prevent […] The post Medically Important Antibiotics Are Still Being Used to Fatten Up Pigs appeared first on Civil Eats.

Because scientists have identified antibiotic-resistant infections as a serious public health threat that kills more than 35,000 Americans annually, regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been working to reign in the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture—which contributes to the problem—for more than a decade. Seven years ago, the agency announced the most significant step to date: ending the use of antibiotics also important in human medicine solely for “growth promotion.” Putting drugs in feed and water to make animals grow bigger and faster, thereby increasing profits, had been a common practice in industrial animal agriculture for decades. While the FDA didn’t end the practice whole hog, the change meant that going forward, farmers would only be able to use specific medically important antibiotics to prevent and treat disease, not fatten pigs. In 2017, the change contributed to a significant, immediate drop in antibiotics sold for use in animals. “It was really surprising farmers actually reported their primary reason was growth promotion. Obviously, something is falling through the cracks.” However, new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests some pork producers may be flouting FDA’s regulations by feeding important drugs to pigs primarily to speed their growth. The data comes from USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), which collected information on production practices at hog farms housing 1,000 or more pigs between December 2020 and May 2021. At various facilities raising pigs at different points in their life cycle, a percentage of producers reported feeding chlortetracycline, oxytetracycline, tylosin, neomycin, and sulfamethazine primarily for “growth promotion.” All of these drugs are considered medically important by the FDA because they are used to treat infections in humans and are classified as either “highly important” or “critically important” by the World Health Organization. Public health advocates have long maintained that some farmers would continue to use the drugs for growth promotion because many are still approved to be added to feed for disease prevention. A spike in sales of drugs classified for “therapeutic use” after the FDA ended growth promotion backs up that theory. Now, they see this data as possibly providing more evidence, although they were still confounded by the overt way the practices were reported. “It was really surprising farmers actually reported their primary reason was growth promotion,” said Steven Roach, the Safe and Healthy Food Program Director at the nonprofit Food Animal Concerns Trust, who has been following the issue for years. “Obviously, something is falling through the cracks.” An FDA spokesperson declined to provide an interview and instead emailed a statement that read, in part, “The successful implementation of GFI #213 in 2017 means that it is illegal to use medically important antimicrobials for growth promotion purposes in food-producing animals, and all approved uses of medically important antimicrobials in drinking water or animal feed require the authorization (via a prescription or veterinary feed directive) of a licensed veterinarian. The FDA is reviewing the findings and will evaluate them to further our understanding of this issue and assist in our mission to protect public health.” In response to a request for an interview, a National Pork Producers Council spokesperson sent comments via email. “The pork industry continues to promote judicious antibiotic use of antimicrobials,” they said. “It’s also important to note that veterinarians were not surveyed, and they are the main decision-makers regarding pig health interventions.” The American Association of Swine Veterinarians did not respond to an interview request. Without more specific details on what each farmer’s veterinary feed directive said and how the data was collected, it’s hard to know whether the statistics are pointing to a serious gap in compliance with FDA’s rules. A USDA spokesperson said in an email that the agency’s field veterinarians work with producers to collect “nationally representative, anonymized, standardized data on animal health, biosecurity, vaccination, and antimicrobial use,” and noted that participation in National Animal Health Monitoring Systems (NAHMS) surveys is voluntary. Roach, in analyzing the data, guessed at one explanation. Many of the medically important antibiotics are fed in combination with other drugs that are classified as “non-medically important” or are not antibiotics and therefore can be used for growth promotion. So, for instance, 10 percent of the sites reported feeding chlortetracycline with BMD for “growth promotion.” BMD is not medically important and therefore can be used for that purpose, so it’s possible farmers reported the duo of drugs that way even though one of them was indicated for something else. USDA’s answers also noted the combinations but went a step further in explaining the practices. For each medically important drug identified, the spokesperson noted that while veterinarians are not permitted to prescribe the drugs “solely for growth promotion purposes,” producers were asked to provide the “primary reason for giving these medications in feed.” (Emphasis theirs.) By that reasoning, if a farmer wants to feed one of these drugs to fatten up his pigs first and foremost, it may be considered OK as long as the drug has a secondary disease prevention benefit. For many public health advocates, it’s a clear indication that the dividing line between growth promotion and disease prevention is incredibly thin or invisible in many cases. “We’ve always suspected that for some growers the changes were nominal, not actual, that they said, ‘That’s fine, let’s just call it prevention,’” said Lance Price, the founding director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. “This provides some empirical evidence for that.” “You have these drugs that are in current practice not important anymore, but as we become more and more desperate, other drugs become important,” Price said. In fact, one of the other drugs the data shows pork producers have been feeding for growth promotion, tiamulin, is legal for that use since it’s not considered medically important. However, the FDA is currently reviewing comments on a proposal to move the class of drugs it belongs to—pleuromutilins—to “medically important” status as they’ve are now being used more often in humans. One reason? The drugs are unaffected by resistance that’s developed to other major antibiotic classes, such as tetracyclines and macrolides (which tylosin belongs to). “We’re still using five times as many antibiotics to raise pigs in the U.S. as they do in the U.K. We could use a lot less.” According to the experts, then, the only way to truly move all drugs off the conveyor belt toward no longer being effective is for FDA to go a step further and stop allowing the broader practice of putting antibiotics in feed as a prevention mechanism and only allow farmers to treat sick animals. “We’re still using five times as many antibiotics to raise pigs in the U.S. as they do in the U.K. We could use a lot less,” Roach said. “I would like to see FDA take the next step—and hopefully it won’t take 10 years—to get rid of routine use for disease prevention as well.” Price also said that given this limited data set that relies on voluntary participation and self-reported questionnaires points to a real issue, it bolsters the idea that federal agencies and researchers need better data overall. “This is an industry that can take thousands of pigs, kill them, package them, and ship them in a matter of hours, but they say they couldn’t possibly track actual drug use,” he said. “They do amazing stuff. They just don’t want to do this.” Read More: The FDA Is Still Not Tracking How Farms Use Antibiotics Ads for Livestock Antibiotics Fly in the Face of FDA Rules. Will the Agency Step In? What Happened to Antibiotic-Free Chicken? PFAS Data Debate. The nonprofit organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is demanding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) retract a memo it released last year that reported the agency found no evidence of PFAS in its tests of commonly used pesticides. EPA initiated the tests after an environmental toxicologist found alarming levels of multiple PFAS in six out of 10 agricultural pesticides he tested. Ever since the agency announced no evidence of contamination in the exact same chemicals, scientists and watchdog groups have been working to try to understand and explain the discrepancies. To that end, PEER submitted a FOIA request to EPA. The documents released showed the agency omitted the results of other tests that did find PFAS and left out a detail that could cast doubt on the validity of its tests. EPA maintains confidence in its results, telling PEER that the PFAS found in the other tests was attributable to “background levels” and that the detail on testing did not apply because of differences in testing sensitivity. The debate over which tests should be relied on is likely to rage on, and the stakes are high given PFAS contamination on farms has already occurred due to other sources including sewage sludge. Read More: New Evidence Shows Pesticides Contain PFAS, and the Scale of Contamination Is Unknown PFAS Shut Maine Farms Down. Now, Some Are Rebounding Tackling the Tournament System. Farm groups including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) applauded the USDA for introducing a rule that could significantly change how contract farmers who raise chickens for big companies including Tyson, Mountaire, and Pilgrim’s are paid. “This rule from USDA is a landmark moment for poultry growers in their long struggle for basic fairness in their contracts,” Edna Rodriguez, RAFI’s executive director, said in a press release. The industry has long been known for its “tournament system” that ultimately leaves growers in the dark about how much money they’ll make on each flock and can require them to make expensive upgrades to their infrastructure without warning. The new rule would require companies to set a fixed base price, change how they’re allowed to calculate performance bonuses, and require them to provide a detailed accounting of how and when a grower could reasonably expect to recoup investments made in infrastructure improvements, allowing them to more effectively evaluate their options. It’s the latest in a series of rules related to chicken farmers introduced by USDA as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to increase competition and fairness in the highly consolidated meat industries. The rules are intended to give the agency the tools it needs to enforce the Packers & Stockyards Act, which has been on the books, but with no teeth, for over 100 years. Read More: Just a Few Companies Control the Meat Industry. Could a New Approach to Monopolies Level the Playing Field? Farmers and Ranchers Head to DC to Level the Playing Field Eating Well Is Also Better for the Planet. According to a Harvard study published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who eat more vegetables, legumes, and whole grains and less meat, dairy, and sugar may significantly lower their risk of several diseases and live longer. Researchers used data from the Nurses’ Health Study I and II, which followed 200,000 participants for 34 years, to look at the impact of adhering more or less closely to the “Planetary Health Diet,” which came out of the EAT-Lancet commission’s 2019 report on the best way to align diets with both nutrition and climate goals. They found that people whose diets were most closely aligned with the diet’s recommendations had a 30 percent lower risk of premature death compared to those whose diets were furthest away from the diet’s patterns, and that the Planetary Health Diet produced 29 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions. “Climate change has our planet on track for ecological disaster, and our food system plays a major role,” said author Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a press release. “Shifting how we eat can help slow the process of climate change. And what’s healthiest for the planet is also healthiest for humans.” Since the EAT-Lancet commission first published its recommendations, the diet has ignited significant controversies around meat eating, micronutrients, and cost. Read More: Eat Less Meat: A Small Change With a Big Impact Eating Less Meat Is a Prescription for Better Health The post Medically Important Antibiotics Are Still Being Used to Fatten Up Pigs appeared first on Civil Eats.

40% Surge: Growing Nitrous Oxide Emissions Trigger Scientific Alarm

Over four decades, nitrous oxide emissions have risen sharply, driven mainly by agriculture. Without technologies to remove it, the focus must shift to reducing emissions...

Nitrous oxide emissions, largely from agriculture, have increased significantly from 1980 to 2020. Efforts to reduce these emissions are critical as there are no means to remove the gas from the atmosphere, posing risks to climate and environmental health.Over four decades, nitrous oxide emissions have risen sharply, driven mainly by agriculture. Without technologies to remove it, the focus must shift to reducing emissions to meet the Paris Agreement targets.Recent increases in emissions heighten concerns over their impact on global warming and environmental health.Nitrous Oxide EmissionsBetween 1980 and 2020, emissions of nitrous oxide—a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide or methane—continued unabated, with over 10 million metric tons released into the atmosphere in 2020 alone, predominantly due to farming practices. This finding comes from a new report by the Global Carbon Project. The report, “Global Nitrous Oxide Budget 2024,” led by researchers from Boston College and published today (June 11) in the journal Earth System Science Data, states that agricultural production was responsible for 74 percent of human-driven nitrous oxide emissions in the 2010s. These emissions were mainly due to the use of chemical fertilizers and animal waste on croplands.Like carbon dioxide and methane, the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide plays a significant role in global warming. While naturally occurring, it is also produced primarily by farming activity. Human-driven nitrous oxide emissions flowed unabated between 1980 and 2020, with more than 10-million metric tons released into the atmosphere in 2020, according to a new report led by Boston College researchers for the Global Carbon Project. Credit: Global Carbon ProjectUrgency in Reducing EmissionsIn an era when greenhouse gas emissions must decline to reduce global warming, in 2020 and 2021 nitrous oxide flowed into the atmosphere at a faster rate than at any other time in history, the international team of researchers reported. On Earth, excess nitrogen contributes to soil, water, and air pollution. In the atmosphere, it depletes the ozone layer, and exacerbates climate change.Agricultural emissions reached 8 million metric tons in 2020, a 67 percent increase from the 4.8 million metric tons released in 1980, according to the study, the most comprehensive study of global nitrous oxide emissions and sinks produced by a team of 58 researchers from 55 organizations in 15 countries.Call for Emission Reductions“Nitrous oxide emissions from human activities must decline in order to limit global temperature rise to 2°C as established by the Paris Agreement,” said the report’s lead author, Hanqin Tian, the Schiller Institute Professor of Global Sustainability at Boston College. “Reducing nitrous oxide emissions is the only solution since at this point no technologies exist that can remove nitrous oxide from the atmosphere.”The concentration of atmospheric nitrous oxide reached 336 parts per billion in 2022, a 25 percent increase over pre-industrial levels that far outpaces predictions previously developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Tian, director of the Center for Earth System Science and Global Sustainability at BC’s Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society.Accelerating Emissions Amid Climate Goals“This emission increase is taking place when the global greenhouse gasses should be rapidly declining towards net zero emissions if we have any chances to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” said Tian, who coordinated the research on behalf of the Global Carbon Project.The world’s farmers used 60 million metric tons of commercial nitrogen fertilizers in 1980. By 2020, the sector used 107 million metric tons. That same year, animal manure contributed 101 million metric tons for a combined 2020 usage of 208 million metric tons.The unfettered increase in a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential approximately 300 times larger than carbon dioxide, presents dire consequences for the planet.Drawing on millions of nitrous oxide measurements taken during the past four decades on land and in the atmosphere, freshwater systems, and the ocean, Tian said the researchers have generated the most comprehensive assessment of global nitrous oxide to date.Global Emission InsightsThe researchers examined data collected around the world for all major economic activities that lead to nitrous oxide emissions and reported on 18 anthropogenic and natural sources and three absorbent “sinks” of global nitrous oxide.The top 10 nitrous oxide emission-producing countries are: China, India, the United States, Brazil, Russia, Pakistan, Australia, Indonesia, Turkey, and Canada, the researchers found.Some countries have seen success implementing policies and practices to reduce nitrous oxide emissions, according to the report. Emissions in China have slowed since the mid 2010s; as have emissions in Europe during the past few decades.In the U.S., agricultural emissions continue to creep up while industrial emissions have declined slightly, leaving overall emissions rather flat. Natural sources of nitrous oxide emissions from soil, fresh- and saltwater have remained stableEstablished in 2001, The Global Carbon Project analyzes the impact of human activity on greenhouse gas emissions and Earth systems, producing global budgets for the three dominant greenhouse gasses – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – that assess emissions and sinks to inform further research, policy, and international action.Agricultural Practices and Emission ReductionImproved agricultural practices that limit the use of nitrogen fertilizers and animal waste can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. Tian said there is a need for more frequent assessments so mitigation efforts can target high-emission regions and activities. An improved inventory of sources and sinks will be required if progress is going to be made toward the objectives of the Paris Agreement.“While there have been some successful nitrogen reduction initiatives in different regions, we found an acceleration in the rate of nitrous oxide accumulation in the atmosphere in this decade,” said Global Carbon Project Executive Director Josep Canadell, a research scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. “The growth rates of atmospheric nitrous oxide in 2020 and 2021 were higher than any previous observed year and more than 30 percent higher than the average rate of increase in the previous decade.”Reference: “Global Nitrous Oxide Budget (1980-2020)” 11 June 2024, Earth System Science Data. DOI: 10.5194/essd-2023-401

Op-ed: Neonicotoid Pesticides Keep Killing Pollinators. Here’s How We Can Help.

As a bee veterinarian, I looked for answers. Where had the animals that had helped feed us so reliably gone? I learned that a wetland near our farm had been contaminated by insecticides, which kill pest insects, but they can also kill bees. I also learned that agriculture had been transformed in the last 20 […] The post Op-ed: Neonicotoid Pesticides Keep Killing Pollinators. Here’s How We Can Help. appeared first on Civil Eats.

For years at our farm in central North Carolina, we fed ourselves from our gardens and orchard. We had plenty of food to share, courtesy of the native bees here. Our apple, blueberry, and squash plants all relied upon insect pollination to make fruit. Then, in 2017, our harvests were interrupted because the bees disappeared. As a bee veterinarian, I looked for answers. Where had the animals that had helped feed us so reliably gone? I learned that a wetland near our farm had been contaminated by insecticides, which kill pest insects, but they can also kill bees. I also learned that agriculture had been transformed in the last 20 years. Instead of insecticides being applied when needed, the chemicals were being used most of the time on many row crops—and they were a newer, more persistent type called neonicotinoids, or neonics. Neonics are the most commonly used insecticides in the world. They dissolve in water and can spread over the land, far from the treated fields. Although the poisoned wetland waters never touched our food plants, the pollinators that supported our farm were decimated. Our orchard was barren for years. “Neonics are so potent that one treated corn seed contains enough insecticide to kill more than 80,000 honeybees.” During my investigation, I followed the work of insect scientists and beekeepers who, for over 15 years, had raised the alarm that overuse of neonics was a major cause of insect deaths around the world. This startling decline in populations of pollinators and other insects led to the term “insect apocalypse.” Scientists’ work pointed the way to what had happened at our farm: An analysis of water samples from the wetland revealed a particularly persistent neonic. Neonics are so potent that a single treated corn seed contains enough insecticide to kill more than 80,000 honeybees. If a bee doesn’t die right away, its ability to reproduce, gather food, and fight off disease can be damaged. Among bees, neonic exposure is cumulative: If a meal of contaminated nectar sickens a bee, additional feedings may kill it. Neonics infuse all parts of exposed plants and persist in the soil. They can poison native bee adults and their young as well, disrupting or eliminating whole family lines. In 2022, a multi-year New York state study of native bee populations found that 24 percent of bee species were at risk of loss, and another 11 percent may have disappeared completely. New York officials took action. Last winter, New York became the first state to restrict the planting of neonic-coated crop seeds; the law will take effect in 2027. Although roughly a dozen other states have restrictions of some kind on neonics, they haven’t controlled their largest use: as a coating on crop seeds. By restricting planting neonic-coated crop seed, New York’s law promises to reduce insecticides in New York’s waterways in future years. But cropland outside New York may remain a risky place to be a bee. Critical Pollinators Under Threat In the U.S. and Canada, honeybees kept for honey and crop pollination are all variants of one imported European species: Apis mellifera. But the same region hosts more than 3,600 species of wild bees that pollinate flowering plants and crops alike. Native bees are diverse in numbers, size, and function. Some are specifically adapted to a single species of flowering plant. And among these pairs, the loss of a bee species can mean the loss of the plant dependent upon it. Because native bees are disappearing, I see every one as precious; each animal can contribute its unique genetic makeup to the greater population. We know from studies of other animal populations that size matters: A large population increases the odds for the genetic diversity required for animals to adapt to today’s environmental challenges. A small, inbred bee population is frequently a population in decline. We’re already experiencing the consequences of bee loss. A recent global study published in Environmental Health Perspectives showed how inadequate insect pollination can reduce economic and food security through the loss of valuable foods such as fruits and insect-pollinated nuts and vegetables. Matthew Smith and colleagues estimated that worldwide, almost half a million excess deaths from chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers could be attributed to the loss of these nutritious foods. With fewer bees to do the work, multiple countries now rely upon hand pollination for major crops. In the U.S., gardeners are advised to try hand pollination to grow squashes and pumpkins if they have poor yields. People aren’t the only ones dependent upon bees. Entire ecosystems depend on them. For instance, at our farm, I witnessed the impact of the loss of small, native bees. Native, fruiting viburnum shrubs we’d planted for wildlife weren’t pollinated for years. Eastern carpenter bees, the first bees to return to the farm in 2020 after the barren years, couldn’t pollinate the tiny viburnum flowers because the bees are too big, and our distant neighbor’s honeybees weren’t interested in the musky-scented blooms. The smallest insect pollinators have yet to return, and the loss of wild viburnum fruits has led to fewer local birds. Beside insecticide contamination, bees face other challenges, too. High temperatures threaten native bee families in subsoil nests; sprawling development erases bee homes; and bees starve as the forests, meadows, and shrubland flowers that provide essential nectar and pollen are lost to other land uses. “We know how to support healthy populations of native bees—and we need to act now.” Varroa mites are parasites that attach to honeybees and transmit lethal viruses to their bee hosts. Mites are a major reason that approximately 40 percent of U.S. honeybee colonies have been lost each winter over the last decade. Mite-infested honeybees can spread viruses to native bees, sickening or killing them. We have the information we need to slow bee decline. We know how to support healthy populations of native bees—and we need to act now. How We Can Slow the Decline of Bees If we grow food, have a yard or garden, and we must control pests, pesticides should be the last option―not the first. We can choose organic food options to reduce bee exposures to neonic-treated crops. Organically grown foods don’t use neonics. We can create or leave healthy spaces for bees to live, such as dead wood, bare soil for ground nesting bees, or clusters of undisturbed plants for bumble bees that like to nest in rodent tunnels beneath those plants. In warm years, these habitats may be particularly valuable if they’re located on a north-facing slope, as they provide bees a cooler place to raise their babies. Even without a yard, we can plant more flowers to feed bees. Pots of flowers or herbs can support tiny families. Regardless of the size of a flower garden, choosing flowering plants free of harmful pesticides is crucial. Unfortunately, “pollinator-friendly” plants are not necessarily free of contamination. Plant consumers need to ask questions about how the plants are grown, as there are no rules or signs required to identify pollinator-safe plants. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation offers resources for those who want to better support bees and butterflies. Finally, beekeepers can prioritize timely Varroa mite control to keep honeybee colonies strong through the winter while also protecting native bees that share local flowers. Today, our farm is recovering. More native bees are active, and more fruit trees were pollinated this year. But I fear that we may never enjoy the diversity of animals that used to live here. Native bees have small territories. When populations disappear, new bees must rediscover the land and settle to raise their families. Join me in working to support the native bees who do the work of providing an abundant food future for us and for all the other creatures that depend upon them. The post Op-ed: Neonicotoid Pesticides Keep Killing Pollinators. Here’s How We Can Help. appeared first on Civil Eats.

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