May 15, 2014
Man Gently Works To Reverse
Die-Off Of Honey Bees
By BOB SHAW
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Grant, MN (AP) In Jerry Linser’s apiary rehab clinic, he holds one of his clients between his fingers.
``I know where you’ve been,’’ murmurs Linser to a honeybee, as he gently lifts it to the bee screen around his face. ``You have a honey-tummy full of stuff, I can see it.’’
Linser was tending to one of the 150,000 residents of his Bee Ranch in Grant, checking to see how they survived the harsh winter. In an effort to reverse declines in bee populations, Linser is among the hundreds of Minnesotans who have jumped onto the beekeeping bandwagon.
One sign of the buzz around beekeeping is the success of the Stillwater Honey Bee Club, which has jumped from four members to 160 in 14 months.
The University of Minnesota Extension Service has seen an increase in beekeeping interest, and Bob Sitko, who teaches at Century College, said his beekeeping classes are ``overflowing.’’
Their mission: saving mankind’s best friend in the insect world.
In the past, Linser said, about 10 percent to 15 percent of bee hives in the U.S. died over the winter. In the past several years, the die-off has soared to 40 percent to 80 percent.
Why all the buzz kill?
Bee mites, pesticides and lack of food are three big reasons.
The mites, tiny parasites that attack bees, are widespread. ``It’s the wood tick of honeybees,’’ Linser told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1nH2U8a).
Jerry Linser Pioneer Press: S. Takushi
Common pesticides are suspect, including neonicotinoids. These are among the most popular insecticides in the world, spread widely on commodity crops and available in garden centers.
Linser said the neonicotinoids appear in pollen, where bees can pick it up and take it back to their hives.
Bees’ food sources are disappearing. Bees depend on nectar from flowers, but as suburbia sprawls into natural areas, another source of pollen vanishes.
A neatly mowed lawn? ``That is like the Sahara Desert to a honeybee,’’ Linser said.
The so-called bee-pocalypse is alarming because bees are natural gardeners. As they fly from flower to flower, they transfer pollen—which fertilizes plants and allows them to reproduce.
``Without bees, there would be no melons, no berries, no nuts,’’ said teacher Sitko, one of the founders of the Stillwater club. Bees are responsible, he said, for about a third of the world’s food production.
Bees are so valuable that they have become immigrant farm workers. Roughly half of the nation’s domesticated bees are annually trucked into California, where they are essential to fertilize the state’s almond crop.
Recenty, Linser suited up for his chores, donning a white bee smock, complete with a built-in zip-up helmet.
He loaded some green grass into his smoker, which is like a coffee can with a bellows to fan the flames inside.
Carrying a bucket of tools, he entered the bee pen, about the size of a double garage. He passed through the electric fence, which keeps bears and other critters away.
With the steady monotone buzz of thousands of bees in his ears, he began to check each of the 19 hives. He already had ordered 18,000 replacement bees, about 6 pounds of insects, to make up for the bees lost over the winter. The box, sent from California, included tinier boxes, like thrones, for the queens.
By each hive, Linser squirted a few puffs of smoke to calm the bees. He noted with satisfaction that one experiment had worked _ a hive he insulated last fall survived the winter with few casualties.
Speaking from inside the bee helmet, he explained that he is doing genetic engineering of his own. He picks out which bees to breed, looking for bees that are disease-free, docile, tough enough to survive winter, and good honey producers.
At one hive, Linser suddenly stood up straight. ``Oooh,’’ he said. He held up an index finger with a bee hanging on, stinging him. The finger swelled up like a bratwurst. Other people might have reacted by, say, putting on gloves. But not Linser.
His relationship with bees is not just about business. Even with a swollen finger, he continued to pick them up and feel them wiggling—almost affectionately. He wanted to encourage them, feed them, comfort them and talk to them.
He tenderly held up a small worker bee. ``Why, just look at you,’’ he said proudly, ``all covered with pollen.’’
Mad Men Style Drinking Cars
Closing Down On Metro North
By MICHAEL R. SISAK and JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
Stamford, CT (AP) Last call came Friday for the bar cars on commuter trains between Manhattan and Connecticut, a final run for rolling taverns where city workers gathered for decades to play dice, find jobs and hold annual Christmas parties with a jazz band.
The cars on the Metro-North Railroad are believed to be the last of their kind in the United States. With their faux-wood paneling on the walls and red leather lounges, they evoke New York’s ``Mad Men’’ era of martini lunches.
On the 7:07 p.m. train to New Haven a day earlier, commuters snapped photos and recorded videos of the cars that became much more than places to simply have a drink.
``I moved to Connecticut 10 years ago, but I never would have met as many friends as I’ve met. It all started on the bar car, really,’’ said Nan Buziak Lexow. ``It’s a sad day for all of us.’’
Her husband, Fred Lexow, was a regular bar car rider for more than 20 years and was one of the original dice players. When he died in September 2012, she described him in his obituary as ``a former regular rider of the 523 Club from Grand Central.’’ Fellow bar car riders attended his wake. Bartenders sent flowers.
The bar cars, which date back at least 50 years, are being retired because they cannot be coupled to a new fleet of train cars on the New Haven line. Transportation officials are hoping to buy new bar cars or retrofit some, but no decisions have been made yet.
Recent party on a Metro North bar car
Amtrak still serves alcohol in its dining cars. But the American Public Transportation Association says Metro-North is believed to be the last commuter rail line with bar cars.
``It was part of the commuter railroad experience,’’ said Art Guzzetti, the group’s vice president for policy. ``One by one they’ve been going away.’’
The annual Christmas party until a few years ago featured a five-piece jazz band underwritten by a rider. The bar cars were also a place to make contacts for new jobs and for pranks, like gluing cans to the bar to trick one man who would come through and guzzle half-drunk beers, riders say.
Kyle Elliott said he started riding in the bar car 10 years ago but a job change two years ago has kept him away. He returned Thursday after hearing they were making their last runs.
``I know all these people,’’ Elliott said. ``I’ve been to parties in the summer at their homes. I know their children. I’ve been to funerals of people that I’ve known in this bar car. We’ve shared all the things that you share with your friends in life through meeting each other in this bar car.’’
Meghan Miller, of Branford, who’s been riding the bar car since 1997, said she showed up for the birth of a fellow rider’s child before he did because she was on an earlier train and the rider’s wife had called her as his emergency contact. She said bar car riders would buy her drinks and smoking used to be allowed.
``This is very much 1963. It is a very `Mad Men’ vibe,’’ she said. ``That would be incredibly appropriate. If females are going to be on the bar car, you’re expected to hold your own.’’
Mark DeMonte, of Wallingford, was known as the ``mayor of the 5:48,’’ sending email alerts to fellow bar car regulars updating them on which of the dwindling number of bar cars was rolling.
``I wanted to take one of these cars, because they’re going away, and put it in my backyard,’’ DeMonte said. ``It’s ugly. It’s orange. But it’s nostalgic, and we love it.’’
Christoffersen reported from New Haven. Associated Press writer Stephen Singer in Hartford contributed.
Oregon’s Gray Wolf, OR-7,
May Have Found A Sweetie
Medford, OR (AP) -- Oregon's famous wandering gray wolf, dubbed OR-7, may have found the mate he has trekked thousands of miles looking for, wildlife authorities said Monday. It's likely the pair spawned pups, and if confirmed, the rare predators would be the first breeding pair of wolves in the Oregon's Cascade Range since the early 1900s.
Officials said cameras in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in the southern Cascades captured several images of what appears to be a female wolf in the same area where OR-7's GPS collar shows he has been living.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Stephenson said it is not proof, but it is likely the two wolves mated over the winter and are rearing pups that would have been born in April. Biologists won't start looking for a den until June, to avoid endangering the pups.
"It's amazing that he appears to have found a mate," Stephenson said. "I didn't think it would happen. It makes me more impressed with the ability of wolves to survive and find one another."
Young wolves typically leave their pack and strike out for a new territory, hoping to find a mate and start a new pack.
OR-7 has been looking for a mate since leaving the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon in September 2011. His travels have taken him thousands of miles as he crossed highways, deserts and ranches in Oregon, moved down the spine of the Cascade Range deep into Northern California and then back to Oregon, all without getting shot, having an accident or starving.
Federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves have been lifted in eastern Oregon, where the bulk of them reside, but they remain in force in the Cascades. Protections for the animals have also ended in the last several years in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed ending the listing across most of the rest of the country as populations have rebounded. A final decision is expected later this year.
If a wolf was going to start a pack in a new part of Oregon, ranchers should be glad it is OR-7, who has no history of preying on livestock, said Bill Hoyt, past president of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association. The group supports Oregon's wolf recovery plan and is looking forward to the day the predator's numbers and range expand enough for their protections to be removed.
Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild, said the news was "spectacular." The conservation group won a court ruling barring the state from killing two members of OR-7's home pack for preying on livestock and later won a settlement strictly limiting when wolves can be killed.
"It goes to show that when we act on America's best impulses for the environment, amazing things can happen. We can bring endangered species back," he said.
Stephenson expected the battery on OR-7's GPS collar to die soon, so the biologist set up trail cameras based on the wolf's most recent whereabouts. The GPS locations also showed OR-7 was staying within a smaller area, common behavior when wolves have pups to feed.
When he checked the cameras last week, Stephenson said one had recorded a black wolf he had not seen before. An hour later, OR-7 was photographed on the same camera. The black wolf was confirmed to be female because she squatted to urinate.
Officials had planned to let OR-7's collar die, but now that he appears to have found a mate, he will be fitted with a new one this summer to monitor the pack.
Stephenson said officials had no idea where the female came from.