From OPB.org article by Ken Christensen, August 17, 2015
Honeybees need a healthy diet of pollen, nectar and water. But at a bee laboratory in Eastern Washington, Steve Sheppard fills their feeding tubes with murky brown liquid from the forest.
His bees are getting a healthy dose of mushroom juice.
“If this does what we hope, it will be truly revolutionary,” said Sheppard, who heads the Department of Entomology at Washington State University. “Beekeepers are running out of options.”
Commercial honeybees, which pollinate $15 billion worth of crops in the United States annually, have teetered on the brink of collapse for nearly a decade. A third of all bee colonies have died each year since 2006, on average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Like a pancake ‘feeding on you’
Beekeepers, however, say the honeybee’s single greatest threat is a virus-carrying parasite called the varroa mite. If left untreated, varroa mites typically destroy a colony of honeybees in less than two years.
Sheppard has spent decades breeding western honeybees to better tolerate the mite and its viruses. But he hasn’t had much success, he said.
Varroa mites have devastated U.S. beehives since the late 1980s, when they arrived here from Asia. In 1996, half of colonies east of the Mississippi River died due to mite infestations.
The reddish-brown pests, which are no bigger than the head of a pin, invade colonies and multiply rapidly. They hide among bee larvae developing in the honeycomb, feed on infant bee blood and lay several eggs each.
“It would be like having something the size of pancake feeding on you,” Sheppard said.
Varroa mites feed on honeybees and transmit several viruses to their hosts. -photo Ken Christensen, EarthFix/KCTS 9
Honeybees that emerge from the infected hives typically carry illnesses, like a virus that results in deformed wings that prevent bees from flying.
If beekeepers don’t intervene, the varroa mite can destroy a colony in less than two years. Meanwhile, the pest reproduces so rapidly it builds resistance to chemical pesticides more quickly than solutions can be invented, Sheppard said.
That’s why he decided to try an unconventional approach last year, after local mushroom expert Paul Stamets called him with an idea to help arm the honeybee in its fight against the mite.
Learning the way of the bee
“We’ve gone to the moon, we’ve gone to Mars, but we don’t know the way of the bee?” asked Stamets, who owns the medicinal mushroom company Fungi Perfecti near Olympia, Washington.
The self-taught mycologist said he noticed a relationship between honeybees and mushrooms when he observed bees sipping on sugar-rich fungal roots growing in his backyard.
“I looked down, and they were sucking on my mycelium,” he said.
Now he thinks he knows why.
In recent years, his research has shown that rare fungi found in the old-growth forests of Western Washington can help fight other viruses, including tuberculosis, smallpox and bird flu. He wondered if the honeybee would see similar health benefits from wood-rotting mushrooms.
The red-belted polypore mushroom is among five species of fungi that have been shown to improve the honeybee’s immune system. -photo Katja Schulz, Flickr Commons
“Bees have immune systems, just like we do,” he said. “These mushrooms are like miniature pharmaceutical factories.”
Stamets and Sheppard are feeding liquid extracts of those forest mushrooms to mite-infected honeybees. Initial findings suggest that five species of the wood-rotting fungi can reduce the honeybees’ viruses and increase their lifespans.
In addition, the scientists are trying to fight honeybee viruses by taking aim at the varroa mite itself. Insect-killing fungi have been used as an alternative to synthetic chemical pesticides for years, and previous studies show that one type of entomopathogenic fungus can weaken varroa mites in beehives.
Killing parasites without harming bees
Paul Stamets thinks his version of the fungus will be more effective. So far, the results of the experiments in Sheppard’s lab look promising.
“The product seems to be killing mites without harming bees,” Sheppard said.
Paul Stamets cultures mycelium at his laboratory near Olympia, Washington. -photo Ken Christensen, EarthFix/KCTS 9
This fall, the scientists plan to expand both experiments by partnering with commercial beekeepers like Eric Olson, who runs the largest commercial beekeeping operation in Washington.
Olson said two-thirds of his beehives died five years ago because of a varroa mite infestation. After several years successfully controlling the pest, he arrived this year in California for almond pollination season and nearly half of his bees had died during the winter.
He spent $770,000 to buy replacement hives, he said.
“I was lucky that I had the cash and the connections to recover from that,” he said.
Olson recently donated about $50,000 to Sheppard’s department to help find a solution to the mite. Looking at the bees in one of his hives, he said, “I’m really concerned about whether these little girls will survive.”
By the end of today, all 19 government requests for bans of GM crop cultivation are expected to go unchallenged by biotech companies, pathing the way for two thirds of the EU’s farmland and population to remain GM-free. The growing opposition to GM crops coincides with a new Greenpeace report reviewing evidence of GM environmental risks, market failures, and increased pesticide use.
According to information obtained from the Commission, biotech companies have so far accepted all requests for opt-out bans, except for Denmark, Luxembourg and Malta, for which the deadline expires today.
Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “Over the past 20 years, GM technology has only been taken up by a handful of countries for a handful of crops, so no wonder two thirds of Europe have decided to ban it. Where GM crops are grown, they lead to increased pesticide use and the entrenchment of industrial farming systems that in turn exacerbate hunger, malnutrition and climate change.”
Around 85 per cent of GM crops are cultivated in just four countries in the Americas (US, Brazil, Argentina and Canada), representing only three per cent of global agricultural land. The Greenpeace report – 20 years of failure – highlights the main problems associated with GM crops, including:
GM crops increase pesticide use – Practically all GM crops are either engineered to produce a pesticide or to withstand the spraying of certain herbicides. Pests and weeds are developing resistance to these toxins, creating new superbugs and superweeds. This leads farmers to use even more chemicals.
GM crops do not feed the world – Studies show that GM crops do no increase yields and can affect the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, representing a threat to food security.
There is no scientific consensus about the safety of GM crops – Despite the biotech industry’s attempts to reassure consumers about the safety of GM crops, over 300 independent scientists dispute these claims . Genetic engineering remains a risky technology that can trigger unintended and irreversible impacts on the environment and human health.
While GM crops struggle to live up to the claims of the biotech industry, innovative sustainable farming methods offer a viable alternative. Modern ecological farming practices are a proven and sustainable solution to the challenges facing farming. They prevent soil erosion and degradation, increase soil fertility, conserve water quality and protect biodiversity. Moreover, scientific evidence shows that growing different crops and single crop varieties in one field, as is done in ecological farming, is highly reliable in increasing resilience to erratic weather changes.
Similarly, modern biotechnology, like Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), can produce crops which resist floods, droughts and diseases and presents limited safety concerns compared to GM crops. MAS is also faster than GM in delivering new crops onto the market . However, these alternatives will continue to be ignored if we get locked in the GM-industrial agriculture system, says Greenpeace.
Is Custodianship a possible way forward in creating reconciliation between settlers and indigenous people?
The colonisation of indigenous lands worldwide has created many conflicts and frustrations about the use and abuse of traditional lands. The consequences of this have also been that much traditional knowledge for the management and maintenance of lands has been ignored, or dismissed. On the other side of the equation, many settlers are suffering from a sense of disconnection and increasing unease at the dominant culture’s treatment of both the land they inhabit, as well as the original inhabitants. Is a sense of shared custodianship potentially a way forward?
Jarmbi Githabul is a Ngarakwal / Githabul man living in the Byron Bay area of New South Wales. A community activist, traditional ceremonialist and land custodian, he is one of the founders of the R.E.A.C.H. project ‘Radical Empowerment of Australia’s Cultural Heart’. One of the principle goals of R.E.A.C.H. and its Rise Up Wise Up program is ‘to awaken the birth right role of Custodianship in all indigenous peoples, connecting them to Source and Country, recognising ceremony and connection, standing tall and proud in heritage and honouring our ancestors, to create a better, abundant world for all.’
What is your perspective on how custodianship works in the R.E.A.C.H. Model?
‘In the Reach ‘business model’ – I suppose it is, we bring in the understanding of custodianship as not just being board members to a company but being responsible for everything that company does; being responsible for everything your people do; for everything that comes out of your tribe. That’s how it works for us in the real world. When you’re responsible for something you take care of it. We’re responsible for our country even. Like the elders say in Uluru, if you fall off that mountain they feel bad, because their country is them, and they’re responsible; as if they did it themselves. As if it doesn’t matter that someone was silly and made an error in judgement and hurt themselves. The fact is that someone died on their country.
Then you should be responsible for your own actions, but not responsible to the point where it gets handed onto a government or a legal system to sort out your matters. It’s up to you. It’s too easy to lay blame or pass the buck. In today’s society there’s always someone else who can fix it up, there’s insurance companies that can patch up your accidents or whatever, you don’t have to take it personally. Anything that you do you can lay it down to the corporate structure and don’t have any personal hardship out of it.’
The real law of the land is that you are responsible for yourself and when you are recognised as being someone that is responsible it means something.
Jarmbi looking towards Uluru
What do you think about the role of custodianship in creating some reconciliation between the settlers of Australia and the Original Peoples?
‘We have that understanding that the Spirit of the Earth is being born into our youth, into everybody’s youth, everybody here today. Everyone who’s born in this country inherently comes with a bit of that spirit. The only thing I feel that gets in the way of them making something of it, or taking responsibility for it, is that they’re not supported to think that way. They’re supported to dig it up, to put it quite bluntly. They’re not supported to think of it as something that we should be taking care of. It basically comes down to people seeing indigenous people and the understandings and wisdom, and connection to spirit is not just something they go and watch a little show on – ‘someone’s playing a didgeridoo, let’s go and have a look’, like a little bit of entertainment.
Our culture is the key to the future; without it – everything is going to shit. It’s going right along the track that it’s going and everybody that stops and looks can tell it’s going to shit. But we’re sitting here, we’re waiting for people to come and talk. People like the climate council, (when) the government booted the climate council, the climate council shoulda went straight to the indigenous elders and said ‘right, let’s start linking up’. Let’s put the wisdom behind the science and we’ll start showing the world exactly what’s going on. There’s all the stories, all the star lore and all that sort of stuff that comes into the climate and everything to do with everything. We engender all parts of life.’
That sort of understanding needs to come in. Let’s have a look underneath our feet for the answers. There’s plenty of answers there, it’s all there. We’ve just gotta look. People have got to be supported to look.
A Welcome to Country ceremony at Limmen National Park in Western Australia
What is the relationship between sovereignty and custodianship?
‘As sovereign beings we know our connection to the Earth. We know that we are custodians because we are born of the mother and the father. So we know. We know where we are, we know where we stand, we know our responsibility here and we also know our responsibility to each other. So for custodianship to be fully recognised your sovereignty does need to be recognised as well.
Where were you born, you were born in that area, that’s where you’re a custodian from. Where’s your bloodline, where’s your heritage? All of that comes in to making you who you are. There you go, you’re recognised, we receive you. Are you a respectful person, can we have a look? Yes, we see what you do. You do good things, you don’t talk bad about people. If you have an issue with someone you go straight up to them. There’s no need to run anyone down or do anything stupid because you know yourself, you know what you’re about. There’s no need to lash out, no craziness. You’re responsible for yourself and everything around you.
People get that from an understanding of sovereignty, that you are that. When we had our initiation stages, it was recognising that you are a sovereign spirit. That you are respectful, you are someone who looks after their own affairs. We can proudly send you out into the world to go walk-about and know that you can carry our name and you’re not going to dirty our name up. When you walk through someone else’s country you’re not going to do something stupid. You’re not going to do something stupid, you’re not going to steal their women. Or if you do you’re going to take responsibility, you’re not going to lie about. That’s the thing, you stand there and you say ‘yeah I did it, I mucked up – I’m gonna get boondy, I’m gonna get speared in the leg, yeah’. Take responsibility.
If someone’s thinking about custodianship for the first time, what would do you say to them. What’s the first step that you need to take?’
Who are you, or what are you? Sovereign spirit, born between a mother and father. put here on this place to learn and to take care of it as you go through. So taking care of this Earth, sacred sites. You know, doing the ceremonies that it takes in order to put back in. It’s just the basic stuff.
‘Connect in. Figure out who you are first and then walk it. Walk as you, and other people who walk as themselves and have respect in themselves will find it easy to respect you. Otherwise, if people who are giving you respect don’t respect themselves, it’s not true respect. Because true respect can only be given by someone who is respectful.’
You can find out more about R.E.A.C.H. and Jarmbi’s work at their website: R.E.A.C.H.
Mission Blue is excited to partner with Blue Ventures, a science-led social enterprise that works with coastal communities to develop transformative approaches for nurturing and sustaining locally led marine conservation. In cooperation with their many partners, the Blue Ventures team works in places where the ocean is vital to local people, cultures and economies, and where there is a fundamental need to support human development. Over the last decade, their models have guided national fisheries policy and been replicated by communities, NGOs, businesses, donors and government agencies along thousands of kilometers of coastline. Blue Ventures have created the largest locally managed marine protected area (LMMA) in the Indian Ocean, catalyzed a sea change in community-led fisheries management, established sustainable aquaculture and ecotourism businesses, and developed new approaches to financing and incentivizing marine conservation. So far their work has impacted the lives of more than 200,000 coastal people.
Blue Ventures have contributed more than 20 stories to the Mission Blue curated Google Earth Explore the Ocean layer, visible on our website here (search for Blue Ventures). From community conservation, small-scale fisheries, blue forests and aquaculture, to community health and education, these stories represent the diverse range of transformative community-centered conservation initiatives, which engage communities towards long-term solutions for decreasing poverty, preparing for climate change and safeguarding biodiversity. Finalizing these stories for submission to Explore the Ocean was greatly aided by dedicated volunteers from Portland State University (Adam Zaremba, Kendra Lynn).
Through their partnership with Google, Blue Ventures are pioneering the use of and providing proof of concept for a number of emerging online mapping tools and storytelling resources. These tools are providing substantial practical benefits to ongoing marine research and conservation efforts in diverse ways, from influencing regulatory frameworks (e.g., securing municipal-level legal resource management rights; influencing REDD+ policy for mangroves), to facilitating conservation efforts (e.g., improving existing livelihoods through mangrove restoration, conservation and reduced-impact use), and contributing to predictive ecological models (e.g., future mangrove deforestation scenarios). Most recently, through the Trekker program, Blue Ventures have collected the first Street View imagery for Madagascar. The imagery resulting from the Trekker program is hoped to specifically help further bring attention to all of Blue Venture’s ongoing community-centered initiatives, and more generally, increase global awareness of Madagascar, showcasing in panoramic detail the incredible cultures and biodiversity the island nation is renowned for. What this new Trekker imagery means for the people of Madagascar is previously unavailable representation to a global audience. Through this additional exposure, it is hoped that further attention will be brought to the many challenges faced by the Malagasy, and the organizations and institutions engaged with local communities towards tangible long-term solutions.
Blue Ventures initiatives are generously supported by funding and in-kind contributions from organizations and institutions listed here.
For overviews of the themes within which Blue Ventures is working with coastal communities, view these Factsheets.
It is With Good Reason That Some Call Hopi-land in Arizona,
the Tibet of the West
Secluded in the Painted Desert of the Southwest, the Hopi are a private, but kind, indigenous Nation that have preserved one of the most ancient cultures in North America. They are essentially an oral tradition people which means that they have other ways of keeping their history than written words that includes dances, songs, and storytelling. They even have a word, ‘Navoti’, which refers to the information that can only be exchanged through the spoken word, it has to do with the silent space between words, the feelings and gestures that can not be transmitted in the written form. This why I am usually hesitant to write about my experiences with the Hopi (along with a history of cultural appropriation and misunderstanding from anthropologists and spiritual seekers from the ‘New-Age’). So rather than attempt to write about the Hopi culture, which I am not qualified to do, I am compelled to share a story from my 20 years of experience and friendships on the Hopi Mesas.
“Hope” is a video representation of Hopi Prophecy Rock
Tribal culture is often more focused on the community than individuals, and any wisdom that individuals posses is generally considered the collective wisdom of the tribe. This can be a sensitive issue when elders speak out beyond the village, or draw attention to themselves, but there are times when it is necessary. Famed Hopi artist, mythical archaeologist, and poet, Michael Kaboti once explained to me, “Sometimes, in order to keep a tradition alive, you have to break the tradition. For that reason we have clowns as the accepted tradition-breakers.”
Nature, the First People and the spirit of our ancestors are giving you loud warnings. Today, December 10, 1992, you see increasing floods, more damaging hurricanes, hail storms, climate changes and earthquakes as our prophecies said would come. Even animals and birds are warning us with strange changes in their behavior such as the beaching of whales. Why do animals act like they know about the earth’s problems and most humans act like they know nothing? If we humans do not wake up to the warnings, the Great Purification will come to destroy this world just as the previous worlds were destroyed.
– Grandfather Thomas Banyacya, speaking before the United Nations in 1992.
The elder who changed my life is not a clown, but he has always been a trickster in my life. With the exception of Thomas Banyacya, who was the first elder to share Hopi Prophecies with the world, he may be the most well-known Hopi elder to outsiders. His name is Martin Gashweseoma (left), and he is known as the Keeper of the Sacred Fire Clan Tablets. I first met him at an international gathering of indigenous elders called Belonging to Mother Earth in the late 90′s.
Many of the attendees had really hoped that Martin would come to the gathering but he had declined. On the second morning of the week-long event there was a sunrise pipe-ceremony held on the beach. During the ceremony, we were visited by dolphins who swam in a circle just a few feet from the shore during the whole ceremony. I instantly felt they were visiting us and aware of what we were doing though logic would say that it was a coincidence. Still there were no dolphins anywhere else along the beach but right in front of us.
Later that evening we received word at the gathering that Martin had called in and had changed his mind and decided to come after all. His reason? He said that dolphins had visited him in his dream and told him he needed to go to the gathering… Arrangements were made and he arrived the next evening.
I was at the gathering hosting youth activities and workshops all week with my company, Living Folklore. We had been invited because of our history working at schools and reservations using art, circus performers, stilt walkers, and clowns. Every tribe around the world has some sort of clown character, so mimicry, puppets, and playful games are a great way to entertain audiences from different cultural backgrounds that don’t all speak the same language. On the evening of Martins arrival, one of our performers was invited to a birthday celebration that a bunch of elders would be attending. Martin stole the show when he asked her, Giggly Sprout the Clown, to marry him. It was beautiful to see the power of laughter as a universal form of relating between all of these elders, many of whom spoke different languages.
During the next day Martin and his translator, Emory, shared many stories and prophecies to a small gathering of people. It was a profound experience and a great responsibility to hear this wisdom, but it was many months after the gathering that Martin began to work his magic on me. I had a recurring dream for weeks and in it was Martin laughing at me. Sometimes I could hear him laughing but I couldn’t see his face, other times he was looking directly into my eyes and laughing. At first I assumed it was just a strange dream and then I began to wonder what it might symbolize.
Martin Explains the First and Second Prophecy Rock
I went through a lengthy series of initiations that involved clowns and masked characters on various Hopi villages before I was told where Martin lived. After a while I visited him and was greeted at the door of his home with the same laugh that I had heard in my dreams. I asked him if he remembered me and he said that he always remembers his dreams… From this moment I actually began to believe that it might be possible for people to travel in their dreams and visit others. I have continued to study and work with dreams ever since.
Once, while showing me the Second Prophecy Rock, Martin spoke of the “technology that came from our DNA”. At the time I was not a fan of technology, I saw it as the source of so much destruction on our planet. I asked him, “You mean that computers, cell-phones, and internet can help humanity heal the planet?” He responded, “If only those with bad hearts use this technology, we will have big problems. We need people with good hearts to use this technology to benefit Mother Earth.” It is true that the technology we have came from our imaginations, our dreams, our DNA. Computers are nothing more than circuit boards made from crushed rocks and plastic from decaying fossils. Tools aren’t inherently good or bad, it is the intention with which they are used.
On a subsequent visit with Martin he told me that he had just returned from Japan. I teased him saying, “That isn’t very traditional for a Hopi elder to fly on an airplane.” He responded that indeed it was his tradition because they asked him to share the prophecies and that is his job. So I asked him what he told people in Japan and he responded, “I told them to leave before the tsunami comes.” This was over a year before the tsunami that crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant happened.
On the evening before the tsunami in Japan I saw Martin in my dream again. He kept appearing in different dreams saying the same thing. This time he wasn’t laughing. He said again and again, “It is time for these things that we have spoken of, it is time to wake up.” The following day Japan was hit with a devastating tsunami. Many will call this coincidence, or claim that it is a made up story. I do not believe that I have any special powers, I believe we all have the power to pay attention to our dreams. I believe we have much to learn if we do so. I believe that the earth wants us to wake up, I believe traditional elders have much wisdom for us should we choose to open our minds, our hearts, and listen. What do you believe?