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Australia’s record-breaking winter warmth linked to climate change

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This winter had some extreme low and high temperatures. Daniel Lee/Flickr, CC BY-NC
Andrew King, University of Melbourne

On the first day of spring, it’s time to take stock of the winter that was. It may have felt cold, but Australia’s winter had the highest average daytime temperatures on record. It was also the driest in 15 years.

Back at the start of winter the Bureau of Meteorology forecast a warm, dry season. That proved accurate, as winter has turned out both warmer and drier than average.


Read more: Australia’s dry June is a sign of what’s to come


While we haven’t seen anything close to the weather extremes experienced in other parts of the world, including devastating rainfalls in Niger, the southern US and the Indian subcontinent all in the past week, we have seen a few interesting weather extremes over the past few months across Australia.

Much of the country had drier conditions than average, especially in the southeast and the west. Bureau of Meteorology

Drier weather than normal has led to warmer days and cooler nights, resulting in some extreme temperatures. These include night-time lows falling below -10℃ in the Victorian Alps and -8℃ in Canberra (the coldest nights for those locations since 1974 and 1971, respectively), alongside daytime highs of above 32℃ in Coffs Harbour and 30℃ on the Sunshine Coast.

During the early part of the winter the southern part of the country remained dry as record high pressure over the continent kept cold fronts at bay. Since then we’ve seen more wet weather for our southern capitals and some impressive snow totals for the ski fields, even if the snow was late to arrive.

This warm, dry winter is laying the groundwork for dangerous fire conditions in spring and summer. We have already had early-season fires on the east coast and there are likely to be more to come.

Climate change and record warmth

Australia’s average daytime maximum temperatures were the highest on record for this winter, beating the previous record set in 2009 by 0.3℃. This means Australia has set new seasonal highs for maximum temperatures a remarkable ten times so far this century (across summer, autumn, winter and spring). The increased frequency of heat records in Australia has already been linked to climate change.

Winter 2017 stands out as having the warmest average daytime temperatures by a large margin. Bureau of Meteorology

The record winter warmth is part of a long-term upward trend in Australian winter temperatures. This prompts the question: how much has human-caused climate change altered the likelihood of extremely warm winters in Australia?

I used a standard event attribution methodology to estimate the role of climate change in this event.

I took the same simulations that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses in its assessments of the changing climate, and I put them into two sets: one that represents the climate of today (including the effects of greenhouse gas emissions) and one with simulations representing an alternative world that excludes our influences on the climate.

I used 14 climate models in total, giving me hundreds of years in each of my two groups to study Australian winter temperatures. I then compared the likelihood of record warm winter temperatures like 2017 in those different groups. You can find more details of my method here.

I found a stark difference in the chance of record warm winters across Australia between these two sets of model simulations. By my calculations there has been at least a 60-fold increase in the likelihood of a record warm winter that can be attributed to human-caused climate change. The human influence on the climate has increased Australia’s temperatures during the warmest winters by close to 1℃.

More winter warmth to come

Looking ahead, it’s likely we’re going to see more record warm winters, like we’ve seen this year, as the climate continues to warm.

The likelihood of winter warmth like this year is rising. Best estimate chances are shown with the vertical black lines showing the 90% confidence interval. Author provided

Under the Paris Agreement, the world’s nations are aiming to limit global warming to below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels, with another more ambitious goal of 1.5℃ as well. These targets are designed to prevent the worst potential impacts of climate change. We are currently at around 1℃ of global warming.

Even if global warming is limited to either of these levels, we would see more winter warmth like 2017. In fact, under the 2℃ target, we would likely see these winters occurring in more than 50% of years. The record-setting heat of today would be roughly the average climate of a 2℃ warmed world.

While many people will have enjoyed the unusual winter warmth, it poses risks for the future. Many farmers are struggling with the lack of reliable rainfall, and bad bushfire conditions are forecast for the coming months. More winters like this in the future will not be welcomed by those who have to deal with the consequences.



Climate data provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. For more details about winter 2017, see the Bureau’s Climate Summaries.

The ConversationYou can find more details on the specific methods applied for this analysis here.

Andrew King, Climate Extremes Research Fellow, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Put out water for the wildlife in your garden on hot days

Susan Lawler, La Trobe University
Wildlife need water on hot days. Melanie Thomas, from pixabay.com

Last night I was watering the garden with a hose. It is easy to see how stressed the plants are on a 38 degree day, but then I remembered that the animals in my garden need water too. So I filled some shallow bowls and placed them in quiet shady spots. During a hot Australian summer day, such an act can save a life. A small life, perhaps, but every little bit counts.

I have a small suburban garden but it still supports a range of insects, birds, frogs and reptiles. Whenever we move a pile of wood we disturb some lovely spotted geckos. Even in the city most Australians will have possums moving through the trees and skinks sheltering under the back steps. Suburbs on the edge of town have wombats, wallabies and kangaroos. Birds and insects live everywhere. On hot days all creatures will seek water and shade.

So why not add a routine to your normal gardening chores and put out some water for wildlife? Here are a few hints to ensure that the animals benefit.

Tips for watering wildlife

Use only shallow bowls so small animals do not drown. Alternatively (or additionally) add a few rocks or sticks so they can easily crawl out. Do not use metal bowls as these will become hot and may burn their feet or paws. Place the water in a shady spot, out of the way of human activity and protected from domestic pets.

Birds and tree dwelling animals will appreciate water hung at various levels. You can nail a plastic tub to a fence, or hang a modified water bottle in a tree.
If you are able to set up a hose to mist a shady corner in the garden, you will create a small haven for wildlife. I did this last night with the excuse that the lemon tree needed a good drink anyway.

Don’t worry if you don’t see the animals using your water. It is likely that they prefer privacy and will use it when you are not looking.

On the other hand, if you do see animals showing signs of heat stress, you may have to take further steps.

Caring for heat stressed wildlife

Animals that are suffering from heat stress will behave strangely. Nocturnal animals that are out during the day, tree dwelling animals sitting on the ground, or animals that are lethargic or staggering are all showing signs of stress.

The first concern about stressed wildlife is your own safety. Do not approach snakes, flying foxes, large kangaroos, eagles, hawks or goannas. Your best bet is to contact a trained wildlife carer for advice.

It is a good idea to have the phone numbers of your local wildlife carers handy, or download the wildlife rescue app.

If it is safe to do so, you can assist a heat stressed animal by picking it up in a towel, placing it in a well ventilated box in a cool spot and provide water. Do not feed the animal or handle it more than necessary. The animal may recover enough to release again in the evening, but if not you will need to take them to a wildlife carer or a vet.

Wildlife and bushfires

Unfortunately many Australians now live under the threat of bushfires and face evacuations throughout the summer months. Obviously, fires are bad for both domestic and wild animals. The best thing you can do during an evacuation is to take your dogs and cats with you and leave out plenty of water for wildlife.

If you do find injured wildlife, take them to the vet if it is safe to do so. Never go into a fire affected area searching for injured animals. This is a job best left to trained staff who are coordinated by the appropriate agencies and assisted by volunteers who have had the right training.

The ConversationOn the other hand, all of us can help by putting out water for wildlife. Every little bit helps.

Susan Lawler, Senior Lecturer, Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bee battles: why our native pollinators are losing the war

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Bumble bee. Photo credit: dnydick, CC BY-NC
Kelsey K Graham, Tufts University

As global commerce grows, the movement of goods is occurring at ever-faster rates. And with increased global trade comes the spread of non-native species. This includes invasive insects that are making life difficult for domestic bees.

Non-native species get introduced both intentionally and accidentally. However they migrate, though, their spread can lead to devastating results. Non-native species can dramatically reshape their invaded habitats and disrupt the interactions between native species.

After direct habitat loss, invasive species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity. Biodiversity is crucial to a healthy ecosystem, providing us services such as food, the natural resources that sustain our current lifestyle, and the building blocks of medicines.

Invasive species come in all forms – plants, animals and microbes – but all share common traits: they are non-native, they are increasing in prevalence, and they negatively affect native species.

Native bees in North America are declining drastically. Habitat loss is the number one reason for bee decline, with pesticide use, invasive species, and climate change also playing a major role. With the growth of cities and farms, habitat suitable for our native bees shrinks. And with competition and habitat degradation from invasive species, suitable habitat becomes even less.

We depend on native bees, like our humble bumble bees (Bombus spp.), to pollinate native flowers and crops. Bumble bees pollinate tomatoes, peppers, blueberries and many more of our favorite food items. Honey bees, which are widely used in agriculture and are suffering from colony collapse disorder, are a non-native species, and can’t replace the pollination services provided by native bees such as bumble bees.

But one invasive species in particular is threatening the livelihood of bumble bees.

New bee on the block

The European wool-carder bee was first discovered in North America in 1963 near Ithaca, New York, and since then, its impact has been felt from coast to coast. Wool-carder bees get their name from the nest building behavior of the female bees. Females collect plant hairs, called trichomes, by cutting them with their mandibles. The up-and-down motion they use during trichome collection to cut the hair-like fibers and ball them up is reminiscent of carding wool.

My research has shown that carding behavior induces chemical changes in the plant similar to what occurs when insects eat plants. These chemical changes signal other wool-carder bees, attracting them to the plant, which causes further damage.

In addition to damaging plants, female wool-carder bees compete with our native bees for flowers. Bees depend on nectar and pollen from flowers for food, and increased competition from invasive species raises concerns over the future of our native bees.

But the behavior of male wool-carder bees appears even more sinister. Males aggressively defend flower patches in order to attract mates. Males use evolved weapons on the base of their abdomen to attack any interloper who isn’t a potential mate, often causing severe injury or even death to the attacked bee. By decreasing competition for flowers, the male wool-carder bee hopes to entice more female wool-carder bees to visit his patch, thus increasing his chances of mating.

Male wool-carder bee. Photo credit: Ilona L

Of all our native bees, bumble bees (Bombus spp.) receive the brunt of attacks from male wool-carder bees. Therefore, my research focuses on the impact of these attacks on bumble bee well-being. My preliminary research shows that bumble bees avoid foraging for nectar and pollen in areas with wool-carder bees - likely to avoid attack. Because they stay away from areas defended by wool-carder bees, the number of flowers available to bumble bees decreases.

As bumble bees are already facing a shortage of flowers due to habitat loss, this additional restriction on flower availability is causing serious concern about the sustainability of local bumble bee populations. Because the population of wool-carder bees is growing, my current research is trying to determine the extent of the negative impact they are having on our precious native pollinators.

Native pollinators, such as bumble bees, cannot easily be replaced by other species. This is because our native bees perform a special form of pollination, buzz pollination, where they use a unique vibration pattern to shake loose pollen from flowers. Many of our native crops, such as tomatoes and blueberries, need buzz pollination for efficient pollen transfer. So for the health and well-being of our native plants, we must care for our native bees.

So what can we do?

There are a number of pollinator-friendly actions each of us can take.

  1. Plant native wildflowers – Ornamental non-native plants are often easy choices for the garden, but they promote the spread of invasive species such as the wool-carder bee, and often go unvisited by our native bees. So while you may think you are helping the bees by planting flowers, make sure that you are planting flowers that our native bees will actually visit. Native wildflowers help mitigate the effects of urbanization on our native bees by increasing the availability of food in an otherwise challenging urban environment.

  2. Opt for a more natural yard – Treating our yards with herbicides and cutting the grass very short can lead to a perfectly manicured lawn, but at what cost? Lawns with no flowers are food deserts to our bees. Allowing wildflowers such as clover to blossom in your yard provides much-needed resources for our native bees. If you absolutely can’t give up the manicured look of your lawn, opt for a wildflower garden at the perimeter of the yard instead. The bees will thank you!

  3. Buy organic – Pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, have devastating effects on bees, and are linked to the decline of both bumble bees and other bee species worldwide. Lessen your pesticide footprint by buying organic produce when you can.


    The ConversationTo read more about bees and pollinators, see:

Kelsey K Graham, PhD Candidate in Behavioral Ecology, Tufts University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Get Rid Of Weeds Without Hurting The Planet

If you're looking for a quicker way to effectively get rid of weeds, one of these homemade herbicides might be the way to go

Image Source:  Garden Answers

Image Source: Garden Answers

It’s been said that weeds are just plants whose virtues have not yet been discovered, but if you’re tired of waiting to find out what those virtues are, you might want to use one of these homemade herbicides instead of the chemical versions.

Pesticides – including weed killers, fungicides, insecticides, and rodenticides – can be highly toxic to birds, both by directly poisoning them and by altering the ecosystem they depend on for survival.  Avoid large-scale spraying of any chemicals in your yard, even those considered organic or nontoxic. Birds’ respiratory systems are far more sensitive than ours, and they can easily be harmed by fumes.

Many common weeds can be either food, medicine, or unwanted visitors to the garden, depending on the varieties and how you view them. But if you’ve eaten all of them you can, and you still need to get rid of weeds in your yard, it’s far better for you, your soil, and your local waterways to choose a more environmentally friendly herbicide than those commonly found in the home and garden centre.

Strong chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides can end up polluting our drinking water, our groundwater, and surface water, so it’s important to consider the longer term effects of using them, and to instead make the choice to use a gentler herbicide, which won’t contribute to the larger issue of water contamination.

The most environmentally friendly way to get rid of weeds is to pull them up, dig out the roots, let them dry in the sun, and then add them to a compost or mulch pile. However, that method can also take quite a bit of time, so if you’re looking for a quicker way to effectively get rid of weeds, one of these homemade herbicides might be the way to go.

[N.B.: Just because these are ‘natural’ or homemade herbicides, that doesn’t imply that they couldn’t harm your soil, your garden, or your person. An herbicide is a “substance that is toxic to plants,” which means that your garden plants are just as susceptible to these treatments, they could have a negative effect in the soil if applied in large quantities, and they may cause human injuries if misused.]

Drench with boiling dihydrogen monoxide: (that’s a fancy way of saying water)

This homemade herbicide is by far the simplest to prepare, and unless you happen to spill boiling water on yourself, is also the least harmful to both people and the environment. Simply bring a big pot of dihydrogen monoxide ( to boil on your stove, and then pour it over the leaves and stems of the weeds you wish to get rid of. Using boiling water is an effective method for killing weeds in places such as sidewalk or driveway cracks, or over a larger area that you’d like to replant after the weeds are gone, as it doesn’t leave any residue or have any harmful long-term effects. As with all of these homemade herbicides, it’s still important to only apply it to the plants you wish to get rid of, as they can easily also kill your flowers or vegetable plants.

Light ’em up with fire:

The application of direct heat to the foliage of weeds will cause the plants to immediately wilt, and repeated applications will kill any leaves that may resprout from the roots. A flame-weeder tool is available from home and garden stores, which allows you to apply flame and heat directly to the weeds without catching the whole neighborhood on fire. In fire-prone areas, weeding with flame needs to be done with some extra precautions, as dried weeds and grasses can easily catch fire and get away from you.

Douse with sodium chloride: (common table salt)

Sodium chloride,  is an effective herbicide, and has some historical notoriety for possibly being used to lay waste to the soils of conquered peoples (salting the fields prevents plants from growing there). Because salt can have a detrimental effect in the soil, it’s important to only apply it directly to the leaves of the weeds, and to not soak the soil, especially in garden beds with other, more desirable, plants. Dissolve 1 part salt in 8 parts hot water (it can be made stronger, up to 1 part salt to 3 parts water), add a small amount of liquid dish soap (to help it adhere to the leaf surfaces), and pour into a spray bottle. To apply, cover or tie back any nearby plants you don’t want to kill, then spray the leaves of the weeds with the solution. Be careful to not soak the soil, and keep this mixture away from cement sidewalks or driveways (it may discolor them). Multiple applications may be necessary.

Pickle ’em with vinegar:

OK, so it’s not exactly pickling, but by applying this common household item, white vinegar, to weed leaves, they’ll die off and make room in your yard for more desirable plants. The white vinegar sold in grocery stores is about 5% acetic acid, which is usually strong enough for most weeds, although a more industrial strength version (up to 20% acetic acid, which can be harmful to skin, eyes, or lungs) is available in many garden supply stores. The vinegar can be applied by spraying full strength onto the leaves of the weeds, being careful to minimize any overspray on garden plants and nearby soil. Repeated applications may be necessary, and the addition of a little liquid dish detergent may improve the effectiveness of this homemade herbicide.

Season them like chips:

Another common homemade herbicide recipe calls for combining table salt or rock salt with white vinegar (1 cup salt to 1 gallon vinegar), and then spraying this mixture on the foliage of weed plants. Adding liquid soap is said to help the efficacy of this weedkiller, as is the addition of certain oils, such as citrus or clove oil.

Harness up the 20 mule team:

Borax, which is sold as a laundry and cleaning product in many grocery stores, might not actually get transported by a 20 mule team anymore, but it could help lend a hand in the yard as an herbicide. Add 10 ounces of powdered borax to 2.5 gallons of water, mix thoroughly, and use a sprayer to coat the leaves of unwanted weeds in your yard. Keep overspray off of any plants you want to keep, avoid saturating the soil with the solution, and avoid contact with bare skin.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below and share this news.

This article (Six Homemade Herbicides: Get Rid Of Weeds Without Hurting The Planet) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and Treehugger.

 

Why you shouldn't feed bread to ducks or birds

Feeding bread to ducks and other birds is actually a nightmare for everyone.

We’ve all done it: gathered up our stale bread, walked to our nearby park that has a pond, and thrown pieces of bread to ducks that follow us around there. If you haven’t done this, then kudos to you, but for most people this was a childhood pastime that they then grew to teach their kids as well.

Though it may seem like a win-win situation because humans can get rid of their old bread and ducks can indulge in a snack, it turns out that it’s bad for humans, ducks, fish, and the park when bread is thrown into the water.

It should come as no surprise that bread has little to no nutritional value to it for humans and therefore ducks are even less equipped to process such processed foods. While humans are used to these types of carbohydrates making their way into our diets, a duck’s digestive system is not. S0 feeding bread to ducks can not only fill them with unhealthy carbs but also make them ill.

Something that some people might understand but not exactly worry about is the ducks’ reliance on human-sourced food, which usually tends to be the bread but can also be chips, popcorn, crackers, and other snacks that humans might have on them. Needless to say, these other snacks are even worse than bread, but the dependence on human food in general is the over-arching problem. Since the ducks rely on human food, which is often plentiful because of the many visitors to neighborhood parks, they don’t attempt to hunt for their own food, which actually has nutritional value and is sustenance that the ducks need.

In the wild, ducks typically eat small fish and their eggs, snails, worms, grass, algae, frogs, seeds, fruits, nuts, and other types of food found outside. When they stop attempting to scavenge for their own healthy food, the problem of only eating bread becomes even more monumental.

Credit: Wabby Twaxx/Flickr

Credit: Wabby Twaxx/Flickr

Environmentally, the problem of bread in the water is also a total nightmare. Any bread that goes uneaten can rot in the water, making the fish in the pond sick and causing the nasty-smelling algae that often surfaces around the edges of the pond.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Instead, here are some other food suggestions to bring to the park with you if you find that you must feed the ducks: halved seedless grapes, any type of bird seed mix, cut up earthworms, cooked rice, oats, corn, chopped lettuce, and many other healthy choices.

Please be conscientious when feeding ducks and other animals in the future. Just as you wouldn’t want your pets to consume the wrong foods for the entirety of their life, you shouldn’t inflict the same on ducks.

Credit: Crafty Morning

Credit: Crafty Morning

Would you take this advice into consideration next time you think about feeding ducks? Please share, like, and comment on this article!

Bees Prove They Are Highly Intelligent To Amazed Scientists

Bees were able to react in the same intelligent way that apes and birds do.

Bee videos have been making waves on social media as people begin to realize that the tiny insects are actually much more intelligent than anyone has ever given them credit for. Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London conducted experiments with bumblebees to test their intelligence and the little critters did not disappoint.

The experiments are usually used on apes and birds, but the bees’ quick learning showed for the first time that an invertebrate is capable of reacting in the same way in order to accomplish what they want.

“We wanted to explore the cognitive limits of bumblebees by testing whether they could use a non-natural object in a task likely never encountered before by any individual in the evolutionary history of bees,” said Dr. Clint Perry, joint lead author and also from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

In one experiment, scientists trained 23 out of 40 participating bees to use their legs and feet to pull a string to reach their food. The food was placed atop a small disc which was inaccessible because it was underneath a plastic covering. However, if the bees pulled the strings that were attached to the discs, they were able to pull the food out and eat it.

The training part of the experiment was crucial, researchers found, as only 2 out of 110 bees from a separate group that was not shown how to pull the strings were able to figure it out. Researchers allowed yet another group of bees observe the already-trained bees perform the task and 60 percent of them were able to learn it as well.

Bees were able to react in the same intelligent way that apes and birds do.

Credit: Olli Loukola

Credit: Olli Loukola

Bee videos have been making waves on social media as people begin to realise that the tiny insects are actually much more intelligent than anyone has ever given them credit for. Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London conducted experiments with bumblebees to test their intelligence and the little critters did not disappoint.

The experiments are usually used on apes and birds, but the bees’ quick learning showed for the first time that an invertebrate is capable of reacting in the same way in order to accomplish what they want.

“We wanted to explore the cognitive limits of bumblebees by testing whether they could use a non-natural object in a task likely never encountered before by any individual in the evolutionary history of bees,” said Dr. Clint Perry, joint lead author and also from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

In one experiment, scientists trained 23 out of 40 participating bees to use their legs and feet to pull a string to reach their food. The food was placed atop a small disc which was inaccessible because it was underneath a plastic covering. However, if the bees pulled the strings that were attached to the discs, they were able to pull the food out and eat it.

The training part of the experiment was crucial, researchers found, as only 2 out of 110 bees from a separate group that was not shown how to pull the strings were able to figure it out. Researchers allowed yet another group of bees observe the already-trained bees perform the task and 60 percent of them were able to learn it as well.

What’s even more fascinating is that the bees are able to pass this knowledge on to future generations. The researchers put the trained bees into colonies and the skills were spread successfully throughout the colony’s worker bees.

“Cultural transmission does not require the high cognitive sophistication specific to humans, nor is it a distinctive feature of humans,” said Perry.

In another experiment, the scientists essentially taught the bees how to play soccer by training them to move a ball to a certain location and then receiving food as a reward. The first group was first taught where the correct location was and then shown how to move the ball from elsewhere onto the location. Other bees learned under different conditions, such as with a “ghost” demonstration that didn’t involve a live or model bee showing them how to do it, but these attempts proved unsuccessful.

Joint lead author Dr. Olli J. Loukola, said: “The bees solved the task in a different way than what was demonstrated, suggesting that observer bees did not simply copy what they saw, but improved on it. This shows an impressive amount of cognitive flexibility, especially for an insect.”

With the population of bees dwindling rapidly, it’s important to make sure bees stay in the news, even if it is for something unrelated to their decline. Bees are extremely important for food production, wild habitats, and the environment and humans as a whole, and recognizing them for their great achievements and intelligence is crucial.

Watch the videos below to see the bees perform the “tricks” they learned.

This article (Bees Prove They Are Highly Intelligent To Amazed Scientists [Watch]) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and True Activist.

Almost no other insect has helped humans as much as the honey bee has and continues to do.

For hundreds of years, beekeepers have raised them, harvested their wonderful sweet honey, and relied on them to pollinate various crops.

Did you know that honey bees actually pollinate nearly one-third of the food crops in the world?

The Honey Bee Brain Is Tiny But Very Powerful

In spite of their small brain sizes, honey bees are very smart. Bees have a remarkable ability to learn and recall things very quickly.

Their brains are about 20,000 times less massive compared to human brains.

The honey bee brain is actually ten times denser compared to a mammal's brain.

The honey bee brain has an oval shape and is about the size of one sesame seed.

The bee brain is a very sophisticated sensory system which gives them excellent sight and smell abilities.

Their small brains are able to make very complicated calculations on distances for different locations. 

Bees can remember various colors and different landmarks quite easily.

In Australia, researchers were able to successfully teach honey bees to identify several different colors.

The bees were shown a color that was used to indicate a specific path in a maze.

The bees were then able to find their way through the maze because they recognized that color.

They were also able to recall that specific color later on, and they use it to guide their way through the maze even when they weren't shown it at the start of the maze.

Unfortunately, many pesticides that farmers use to protect their crops are very harmful to the honey bee.

These dangerous chemicals can scramble the honey bee's brain circuitry.

Research revealed that the learning circuits of honey bees stopped working very quickly when they were exposed to certain pesticides.

This clearly shows that something has to be done to protect the valuable lives of honey bees if we want to continue to eat the various the crops they pollinate.

Scientific Study Concludes Being With Trees Improves Your Health And Well-being

The act of forest bathing simply means being with trees without agenda.

Recent scientific evidence has supported the health benefits of eco-therapy and the Japanese practice of forest bathing, according to recent reports by Quartz. Forest bathing has been proven to have a wide array of benefits including lowering the heart rate and blood pressure, reducing the production of the stress hormone, boosting the immune system, and an overall improvement in feelings of well-being. Forest bathing is a term given to the act of being in the presence of trees. It became part of a national public health program in Japan back in 1982. It was during this time that the forestry ministry coined the phrase ‘shinrin-yoku’ and then promoted topiary as therapy. Spending time in nature and appreciating it for what it truly is is a national pastime in Japan, which meant that forest bathing quickly became a popular practice too.

Australian Bush at HideAway Haven

The practice of forest bathing has been likened to the Japanese culture. Japan’s Zen masters have asked, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound?” relating to the environment’s wisdom. In order to reach the answer to this question, the masters do nothing and gain illumination. Forest bathing involves the simple act of being with trees. Without hiking or any agenda, partakers would simply sit and relax with trees, without feeling the need to accomplish anything. Gregg Berman, a registered nurse, wilderness expert, and certified forest bathing guide in California, said, “Don’t effort”, as he led a small group on the Big Trees Trail in Oakland. He leads the group barefoot amongst the surrounding trees, whilst telling the group that the human nervous system is “both of nature and attuned to it”.

Japanese officials spent around $4 million dollars studying the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing from 2004 to 2012. They designated 48 therapy trials based on the results of the study. A professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, called Qing Li, measured the activity of human natural killer (NK) cells in the immune system before and after they had been exposed to the woods. These particular cells provide a rapid response to viral-infected cells, whilst also responding to tumor formation. During a 2009 study, Li’s subjects showed significant increases in NK cell activity during the week after they had visited the forest. These positive effects then lasted a month, following each weekend in the woods.

Reports claim that these results are due to various essential oils that are found in wood, plants and some fruits and vegetables. The trees emit these particular oils in order to protect themselves from any germs and insects. The air in the forest also means that the inhaling of phytoncide seems to improve the function of the immune system. A forest bathing study on 280 people in their early 20s concluded that, “Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.” Therefore, it is proven that being in nature makes individuals calmer in their state of mind, more control in their body’s rest-and-digest system, and a governed fight-or-flight response from the sympathetic nerve system. After spending time in nature, all subjects felt more rested and less inclined to stress. An additional study had been done on the psychological effects of forest bathing involving 498 healthy volunteers. The study surveyed them twice in a forest and twice in control environments. The results showed that they displayed significantly reduced hostility and depression scores, together with increased liveliness following exposure to trees. The researchers wrote in their study, “Accordingly, forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.”

What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!

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Red-capped Parrots - love HideAway Haven

Red-capped Parrots, related to the Rosella's are endemic to the south-western tip of WA. They visit us at HideAway Haven and we see them feeding from our bird feeder.  If the feeder is empty they will line up on the railing and stare at us to let us know they want their seed.  They are so bright and colourful. We enjoy watching the babies learn to fly from our trees and love experiencing how attentive the mother is during feeding times.

Red-capped Parrots are medium-sized parrots. They have a multi-coloured plumage with a red cap, which gives them their name, yellow cheeks, dark-blue breast and belly, yellow-lined red vent, green mantle and upper-wings and dark-blue flight feathers and under-wings. The upper mandible of the grey bill is conspicuously long. The colours of female Red-capped Parrots are duller than those of males. Juveniles are mostly green, with a brown breast and belly and a red vent.  The key feature of the Red-capped Parrot is the extended upper bill. Experienced older birds show great dexterity in nipping off the hard ripe Marri fruit, holding it in one claw, testing it and, if it is of good enough quality, rotating it while inserting the upper bill to extract the fruit.

Red-capped Parrots have a preference for Marri Eucalypt forests and woodlands, but have adapted to the presence of humans by entering farmland, orchards and parks.  At HideAway Haven we have a variety of Eucalyptus Trees with gum nuts as a natural source of food for our Red-capped parrots.

Red-capped Parrot5 Albany 0913.JPG

Bird Week

National Bird Week

National Bird Week 2015 takes place between Monday 19 October and Sunday 25 October.

The celebration of National Bird Week has its origins back in the early 1900s when 28 October was first designated by our predecessor, the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, as the first ‘Bird Day’. BirdLife Australia organises and promotes Bird Week with the goal of inspiring Australians to take action and get involved in bird conservation efforts.

At HideAway Haven we have 45 different varieties of birds.  We have created a bird habitat through planting and providing water.  We avoided the use of poisons in our garden which increases the number of insects available to our birds.

When we planted our garden we chose a mix of plants that provided a complex vertical structure from the ground up; ground covers such as grasses and ferns, small shrubs, tall shrubs and a couple of trees.  Lots of layers means lots of different places for different birds to use.

We ensured we had different plants flowering/fruiting/seeding throughout the year so there is always something happening. 

 

Some species we have planted:

Banksias: nectar and shelter

Banksias produce lots of nectar and they also have many inflorescences (flowers) inside the shrub, helping to shelter birds while they feed. In addition, if you observe banksias in the bush you will notice that they are usually part of a thicket of other plant species that afford protection to the birds. The flowers also attract insects.

Acacias: seeds, insects and shelter

Acacias are commonly known as wattles. Many of the wattles provide excellent cover for birds as well as providing food in the form of seeds or insects. Some wattles grow quickly into small to medium sized trees, but there are several others that grow between 3 m - 5 m and others that grow to only a small size.

Callistemons: shelter, insects, nesting materials

Callistemons are commonly known as bottlebrushes. 

Correas: nectar

Correas typically have bell-shaped flowers and attract honeyeaters and other nectar-feeders. Suitable species include:

Leptospermums: shelter, insects, nesting materials

Leptospermums are commonly known as tea trees.

Melaleucas: shelter, insects,nesting sites, nesting materials.

Melaleucas are commonly known as 'honey myrtles'. Suitable species include:Grasses, reeds & sedges: seeds, nesting material

Grasses, reeds & sedges: seeds, nesting material

All our plants have come from our local nursery Ardess Nursery where  they educate, inspire and assist their customers  to preserve, manage and develop their lands, yards and gardens to benefit native wildlife and to promote public awareness of the interrelationships of all living things.   Thank you Ardess for our beautiful Award Winning Garden.