Pollinators and Power

Beekeeper and activist Terry Oxford has a great new podcast called Pollinators and Power. The premiere episode features Professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University. Goulson is the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and author of many books on native pollinators including A Sting in the Tale, A Buzz in the Meadow, Bee Quest and The Garden Jungle. You can read a transcript of the conversation and subscribe to the podcast using your favorite app.

Terry Oxford was a guest on episodes 107 and 109 of the Root Simple Podcast.

RIP Susan Rudnicki

I’m saddened to report the passing of beekeeper Susan Rudnicki who was a guest on episode 102 of our podcast.

Susan was a tireless activist for local bees and for treatment-free beekeeping. She provided free bee removal services for the city of Manhattan Beach until, unfortunately, she was replaced by a pest control company. And it was Susan who tipped me off to the world of scam bee removal services and sent me regular updates on the story.

Like me, Susan promoted the benefits of robust and mite-resistant Africanized bee stock and worked to debunk the “killer” myths associated with them. For this activism she faced appalling sexism and condescension from the pseudo-scientific mainstream beekeeping establishment and journals. I spent the morning going through the emails she sent me over the past few years and I think I need to do a series of posts on them such as one that I missed which links the editor of a major bee magazine to pesticide manufacturers. I can hear her bold, uncompromising spirit in those emails.

Rob McFarland of HoneyLove says in Facebook,

I lost a good friend today who I loved dearly, and the world lost one of the finest beekeepers to ever wear the veil. Susan was the smartest, fiercest, and most passionate defenders of honeybees I’ve ever been blessed to know. I taught her to rescue bees, taking her on her cutout. I warned her how addictive bees are, and told her I could see her catching bee fever. She almost immediately surpassed me in every aspect of beekeeping, and soon became the person I turned to for mentorship, wisdom, and analysis. She taught me so much about bees and how to fight for what’s right and just. She was formidable in every respect, and she held us all to her incredibly high standards. I’ll miss you Susan Rudnicki, but I’ll never forget the impression you made on my life and the massive dent you made in the world. Now we must conduct the age old tradition of ‘the telling of the bees’ so they may be put into mourning and carry on her tremendous legacy. Love you Susan

Charles Napier, The Widow, 1895.

In Susan’s honor let us all tell the bees.

130 Farm Unfixed with Jessica Rath

In her work artist Jessica Rath examines, as she puts it, “how human containment of the land effects non-human species from the propagation of agricultural plants to the sensoria of bees.” She is on the faculty of the Art Center College of Design and her previous projects include works about apple breeding, co-evolutionary communication between flowering plants and their pollinators and a long term project called Farm Unfixed that we spend most of this conversation discussing. During the podcast Jessica mentions,

You can look at Jessica’s work on her website at jessicarath.com. Sign up for her newsletter to find out about upcoming projects.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Lead in Backyard Eggs: Don’t Freak Out But Don’t Ignore the Issue

Image: UC Cooperative Extension.

Back in 2018 UC Davis began a study of heavy metal contamination of eggs from backyard chicken flocks. The study analyzed eggs from 344 California residences using Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry to look for arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and and nickel.

The overall results for the study show that the main metal to worry about is lead, though some of the samples showed elevated levels of mercury and cadmium that could be a concern. The maximum lead level found was 27.97 ug/egg which is well over the maximum recommended exposure level of 3 ug for children and 12.5 ug for adults. That said, the average was 1.39 ug of lead.

I was eager to participate in this study since we found elevated lead levels in our soil when we did a series of soil tests back in 2011. Thankfully our egg results came in at 1.02 ug, just under the average level in the study. You’d have to eat a lot of eggs as an adult to go beyond the Federal Drug Administration’s maximum recommended lead intake level, though you could bump up against it if a child ate more than three eggs a day.

I’d suggest that if you live in an older urban location, next to a gas station or other industrial site or a recently burned area you may want to get your eggs tested. Odds are that your backyard eggs are safe to eat but, as the study showed, some of the lead results were well over safe levels.

Here’s what UC Cooperative Extension suggests if you have a lead issue,

Once potentially contaminated areas are identified, it is your job to prevent your chickens from coming in contact with those areas! You may choose to completely remove access to these areas or add clean cover material (soil, mulch, etc.) to reduce contact with or ingestion of contaminated soil. If you choose to use cover material, remember to inspect the cover regularly and add/maintain material as needed.

To further prevent ingestion of contaminated soil, provide chickens’ regular feed in feeders, and avoid scattering feed, including scratch grains and food scraps, on bare ground. Also, avoid feeding chickens unwashed garden scraps from these areas.

Consider providing a calcium supplement, which may help to reduce the amount of lead that gets into chickens’ eggs.

While we got a free test out of the study (thank you UC Davis!), you can have your eggs tested for a fee by contacting the California Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) laboratory (phone: 530-752-8700).

123 Beekeeping Mistakes I Have Made

On the podcast this week is a recording of a talk I gave to the Long Beach Beekeepers on Sunday August 5th 2018.

Several times you’ll hear me refer to the “Backwards Beekeepers.” The Backwards Beekeepers were a group in Los Angeles that promoted a radical style of natural beekeeping. The group’s mentor was Kirk Anderson who you can hear on episode 40 of this podcast.

I’d like to thank the Long Beach Beekeepers for inviting me to speak. Unfortunately, I had to cut out the question and answer session because of poor recording quality but I’d like to encourage any of you in the Long Beach area to attend one of their meetings. It’s a great group.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.