SCIENTISTS DISCOVER OPTICAL ILLUSION SOME FLOWERS USE TO ATTRACT BEES

Posted by on November 14, 2017 in Our Environment | 1 comment

SCIENTISTS DISCOVER OPTICAL ILLUSION SOME FLOWERS  USE TO ATTRACT BEES

  by LORENZO TANOS New research suggests that there are certain flowers that attract bees with a rather unusual optical illusion that’s visible to the insects, but not to human observers in most cases. Typically, gardeners attract bumblebees by planting blue flowers such as hydrangeas and delphiniums, as noted on a report from the Daily Mail. These flowers are high in nectar and are easily capable of attracting bees on their own. But the new discovery points to something different altogether — flowers luring the insects with microscopic ridges found on their petals. These ridges spread out a “blue halo” of light, creating an “aura” that could also be used as a bee signal. “The exciting thing is that it is a new optical trick – we didn’t know that flowers could use disorder to generate a specific color, and that is quite clever,” said study co-author Beverley Glover, from the University of Cambridge in England. The Guardian wrote that the discovery of how flowers attract bees via optical effects builds on previous research from Glover and her colleagues, who had found that the small ridges on the petals of select flowers are capable of bending light — a phenomenon known as diffracting. Having discovered some plants that could diffract, the researchers examined the petals of 12 different flower species to see if the phenomenon also occurred in them. Using artificial flowers with and without blue halos and testing them on bees, the researchers later found that the bees tended to go to the flowers with halos, while also using the blue hue to inform them which of the artificial flowers came with a sugar solution reward. Based on their findings, Glover’s team found that each of the flowers’ ridges had their own unique architecture, with the heights and spacings of the ridges tending to vary in particular. And while it was found that all 12 flowers only gave off a weak sheen, the researchers discovered that the ridges were also capable of dispersing blue and ultraviolet light. With that established, the flowers were revealed to have a “blue halo” effect, one that can only be seen by people in darkly-pigmented flowers, and one that differed based on the ridges’ degree of variation in height or spacing. Humans can’t see the blue hue emitted by the evening primrose’s petal ridges, but bees can. [Image by High Mountain/Shutterstock] The Daily Mail further noted that flowers that attract bees with the blue halo have been around for millions of years. Fossils of flowering plants, or angiosperms, from over 200 million years ago did not yield any proof of petal ridges capable of such optical illusions. But there were “several” examples of blue halo-generating ridges found in examples from two flower groups that had first appeared about 100 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. These flowers reportedly existed just as bees and other “flower-visiting insects” were beginning to evolve. “Our findings suggest the petal ridges that produce ‘blue halos’ evolved many times across different flower lineages, all converging on this optical signal for pollinators,” said Glover. According to the Daily Mail, the Venice Mallow (Hibiscus trionum), Queen of the Night tulips, a species of daisy (Ursinia speciosa), and a species of evening primrose (Oenothera stricta) are among the examples of blue halo-emitting flowers that attract bees. [Featured Image by Lucia...

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EU on brink of historic decision on pervasive glyphosate weedkiller

Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Our Environment | 2 comments

EU on brink of historic decision on pervasive glyphosate  weedkiller

Glyphosate is found in 60% of UK bread and environmentalists welcome a ban but industry warn of uproar among farmers if herbicide is phased out.  Glyphosate is a weedkiller so pervasive that its residues were recently found in 45% of Europe’s topsoil and in the urine of three quarters of Germans tested. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images BY Arthur Neslen (The Guardian) Tuesday 24 October 2017 11.11 BSTFirst published on Tuesday 24 October 2017 08.00 BST A pivotal EU vote this week could revoke the licence for the most widely used herbicide in human history, with fateful consequences for global agriculture and its regulation. Glyphosate is a weedkiller so pervasive that its residues were recently found in 45% of Europe’s topsoil – and in the urine of three quarters of Germans tested, at five times the legal limit for drinking water. Since 1974, almost enough of the enzyme-blocking herbicide has been sprayed to cover every cultivable acre of the planet. Its residues have been found in biscuits, crackers, crisps, breakfast cereals and in 60% of breads sold in the UK. But environmentalists claim that glyphosate is so non-selective that it can even kill large trees and is destructive to wild and semi-natural habitats, and to biodiversity. Ben & Jerry’s to launch glyphosate-free ice-cream after tests find traces of weedkiller The CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust, Patrick Holden, has said that a ban “could be the beginning of the end of herbicide use in agriculture as we know it, leading to a new chapter of innovation and diversity”. But industry officials warn of farmers in open revolt, environmental degradation and crops rotting in the fields if glyphosate is banned. Alarm at glyphosate’s ubiquity has grown since a 2015 study by the World Health Organisation’s IARC cancer agency found that it was “probably carcinogenic to humans”. More than a million people have petitioned Brussels for a moratorium. On Tuesday, MEPs will vote on a ban of the chemical by 2020 in a signal to the EU’s deadlocked expert committee, which is due to vote on a new lease the next day. Anca Paduraru, an EC spokeswoman, said that a decision was needed before 15 December or “for sure the European commission will be taken to court by Monsanto and other industry and agricultural trade representatives for failing to act. We have received letters from Monsanto and others saying this.” Industry officials warn of farmers in revolt, environmental degradation and crops rotting in the fields if glyphosate is banned France is resisting a new 10-year licence. Spain is in favour. Germany is in coalition talks and likely to abstain. The UK would normally push for a new lease of the licence but is less engaged due to Brexit. There may not be a qualified majority for any outcome. A mooted French phase-out of glyphosate was “not realistic”, Paduraru said, although a shorter authorisation might be possible. Several famers’ associations have threatened lawsuits if the weedkiller is not given a new licence, while the NFU has warned it would entirely “change the way we farm”. FacebookTwitterPinterest Some research indicates that the surfactants mixed with glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup may increase the pesticide’s toxicity by a factor of up to 100. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA Glyphosate is now so widely used in Europe that any ban would have radical consequences. Most herbicides sold in the UK are glyphosate-based and it is integral to the GM industry. The broad spectrum weedkiller makes up a...

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Flying Insects Are Disappearing and That’s Not a Good Thing.

Posted by on October 22, 2017 in Our Environment | 0 comments

Flying Insects Are Disappearing and That’s Not a Good Thing.

October 18, 20176:00 pm. Adam K Raymond. Mosquitos! Photo: ranplett/Getty Images Flying insects, an annoying but necessary part of life, are disappearing, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One. For the study, researchers evaluated 27 years of insect collection data from German nature preserves and found the biomass of flying insects had fallen by a seasonal average of 76 percent, the Washington Post reports. “This is very alarming!” ecologist Caspar Hallmann, who was a part of the research team, told the Post. As detestable as flying insects are, they’re also a vital part of the ecosystem, providing food for animals and playing a vital role in agriculture. As for why the insects are disappearing, researchers appeared stumped. Climate change, they said, seems an unlikely culprit since the increase in temperatures should have helped, not harmed, the insect population. The study out of Germany is not the first to show a decline in airborne bugs. A 2012 survey by the Zoological Society of London concluded that insect populations around the planet are in decline. In 2014, a study in Science showed a 45 percent global decline in insect life. But you don’t have to be a scientist to observe this phenomenon. Just get in a car and start driving. As Hallmann told the Post, going for a drive and then checking the windshield for bug guts is “probably one of the best illustrative ways to realize we are dealing with a decline in flying insects.” Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new...

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The environmental toll of plastics

Posted by on October 22, 2017 in Our Environment | 0 comments

The environmental toll of plastics

By Jessica A. Knoblauch Environmental Health News July 2, 2009 avrenim_acceber/flickr From cell phones and computers to bicycle helmets and hospital IV bags, plastic has molded society in many ways that make life both easier and safer. But the synthetic material also has left harmful imprints on the environment and perhaps human health, according to a new compilation of articles authored by scientists from around the world.More than 60 scientists contributed to the new report, which aims to present the first comprehensive review of the impact of plastics on the environment and human health, and offer possible solutions. “One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics,” wrote David Barnes, a lead author and researcher for the British Antarctic Survey. The report was published this month in a theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B, a scientific journal. As the scrutiny of the environmental toll of plastic increases, so has its usage, the scientists reported. Since its mass production began in the 1940s, plastic’s wide range of unique properties has propelled it to an essential status in society. Next year, more than 300 million tons will be produced worldwide. The amount of plastic manufactured in the first ten years of this century will approach the total produced in the entire last century, according to the report. “Plastics are very long-lived products that could potentially have service over decades, and yet our main use of these lightweight, inexpensive materials are as single-use items that will go to the garbage dump within a year, where they’ll persist for centuries,” Richard Thompson, lead editor of the report, said in an interview. Evidence is mounting that the chemical building blocks that make plastics so versatile are the same components that might harm people and the environment. And its production and disposal contribute to an array of environmental problems, too. For example: • Chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by human bodies. Some of these compounds have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects. • Plastic debris, laced with chemicals and often ingested by marine animals, can injure or poison wildlife. • Floating plastic waste, which can survive for thousands of years in water, serves as mini transportation devices for invasive species, disrupting habitats. • Plastic buried deep in landfills can leach harmful chemicals that spread into groundwater. • Around 4 percent of world oil production is used as a feedstock to make plastics, and a similar amount is consumed as energy in the process. People are exposed to chemicals from plastic multiple times per day through the air, dust, water, food and use of consumer products. For example, phthalates are used as plasticizers in the manufacture of vinyl flooring and wall coverings, food packaging and medical devices. Eight out of every ten babies, and nearly all adults, have measurable levels of phthalates in their bodies. In addition, bisphenol A (BPA), found in polycarbonate bottles and the linings of food and beverage cans, can leach into food and drinks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 93 percent of people had detectable levels of BPA in their urine. The report noted that the high exposure of premature infants in neonatal intensive care units to...

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