We Love Our "New" Observational Bee Hive

By Carrie King, Executive Director

Our observational bee hive may not be brand new, but it might as well be after the recent careful restoration and restocking of it by volunteers Tom Goldschmidt and Jeff Cunningham. We thank them for their invaluable hard work; they have been exceptionally kind bee mentors for whom I have a great deal of respect. Speaking of others I owe a debt of gratitude to—I'd also like to give a shout out to The Vermont Beekeepers Association for being a tremendous resource for local beekeepers. 

The Vermont Beekeepers Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, represents hundreds of beekeepers that raise bees for the love and honey. We’re as diverse as the 246 towns in Vermont, but are unified in our fascination with and affection for bees. Most of us are hobbyists, but there are some “side liners” who try to make a bit of extra income from their 25-200 hives as well as a handful of full-time professionals.

These busy bees have enchanted me in many ways. I am more conscious of the environment around me.  And, I am much more aware of pesticide use in my community and near our bees.

Environmental Educator Jake Pipp checks out the hive

I worry that some errant farmer or a gardening homeowner will go crazy with Round-up or some other pesticide and create a mass extinction of our colony. I am so grateful we have such wonderful native, pollinator-friendly gardens on the grounds of The Nature Museum for our bees to forage in.

The role of the honeybees and all bee species is to serve as key pollinators and especially key pollinators of our food. Without these creatures, we would definitely experience dire food shortages.  In fact, until very recently, all pollinators have been very much unsung heroes.  But, now with some species of bumblebees near extinction and joining the endangered species list, along with many other incredibly beautiful insects not least of which includes the monarch butterfly, people are paying greater attention to their instrumental role in our ecosystem and finding ways to protect them.

Thank you again Tom and Jeff for aiding us in our effort to play a small but positive role in supporting our pollinators!

Gaining Ground

by Laurie Danforth

I planned my attack for early morning when the sky was cloudy and the air was cool.  I donned my attack gear: boots, gloves, long pants and sleeves, and a bright orange safety vest. I was ready to do the deed. My prey was dangerous and on the loose. With shears in hand I intended to change the course of its invasion along Grafton Road. Target species: POISON PARSNIP!!

Within an hour the back of my car was filled with the hollow stems and decapitated flowers and seed heads of this noxious invader. Poison Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) unlike Japanese Knotweed or Purple Loosestrife, is less known to folks and so the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Agriculture has been increasingly working to educate people about the hazards of this plant.

Poison Parsnip or Wild Parsnip resembles a yellow Queen Anne’s Lace. It is a biennial which means that in its first year it establishes a root similar to our edible parsnip and it’s only in the second season that it flowers and sets seeds.

Because Wild Parsnip is a biennial one can begin to control it by working to prevent seed dispersal in its second year. A good thing to know is that even after you cut off the flowers the plant continues to develop its seeds!  Poison Parsnip wants to continue its existence even when separated from its roots!  You must bag up the flowers and dispose of them.

So why all the ruckus about Wild Parsnip?  Many members of the parsnip family have sap which contains furocoumarins. These chemicals in Wild Parsnip are toxic and are produced as a defense mechanism against various types of predators. A chemical reaction called phytophotodermatitis (called “lime disease not to be confused with “Lyme disease”) occurs when the skin comes in contact with the sap.  The furocoumarins make skin hypersensitive to ultraviolet light. Once the sap on skin is exposed to sunlight painful blisters erupt.

The best defense against “lime disease” is to work on a cloudy day with the appropriate gear, as described above, and afterwards thoroughly wash any exposed skin. It’s a good idea as well to wear a bright orange safety vest because Wild Parsnip loves the poor, dry soil of roadsides. You want to be sure that you have high visibility as no one is accustomed to seeing an individual cutting down plants along busy roadsides. Last year folks thought I was out foraging for edible plants!

My eradication mission has been underway for two years and I have already seen a big reduction in new plants in the areas I have been working to control and I haven’t  had one instance of blistering.  It really feels great to go into action knowing that I can make a difference in one hour to help stop the invasion of Poison Parsnip on my adopted road.  So keep a lookout on your road to see if you might join me to help stem the spread of this invader. Next year I will again take up the gauntlet and be ready to cut down any newcomers who dare take up residence on Grafton Road.   

Twigs & Stems // August 2017

Here are a few links from around the web that caught our attention in recent weeks. Have you seen something that stuck with you that you'd like to share? Post it in the comments! Love what you see here? Follow us on Facebook, as we often post these goodies as we find them. 


    Gifted Goats: Brave Bear Campers' Up Close Encounter

    On Wednesday, our Brave Bears Campers visited Rachel Plummer of Golden Prospect Farm and her goats at the Windham Foundation's red barn next door to the museum. Rachel shared the myriad of ways that farmers can utilize goats including making milk, producing soap and fiber, and clearing land. Campers were able to ask Rachel plenty of questions and they had free time to commune with the herd. Thanks to Rachel for sharing your passion for goats and your valuable time with our Brave Bears! Click on the photos below to see the larger images.

    Twigs & Stems // July 2017

    Here are a few links from around the web that caught our attention in recent weeks. Have you seen something that stuck with you that you'd like to share? Post it in the comments! Love what you see here? Follow us on Facebook, as we often post these goodies as we find them. 


    Lynda Robson/Hancock Wildlife Foundation

    Lynda Robson/Hancock Wildlife Foundation

    Bees Have the Keys! Join Us at Kindred Spirits This Saturday!

    Our Saturday morning program series for families, Kindred Spirits, continues this upcoming weekend with a morning devoted to celebrating the pollinators of the world who work overtime so that we can enjoy many of our favorite foods and flowers. This celebration is a great way to jumpstart your celebration of Pollinator Week taking place nationwide June 19-25. 

    The start of summer seems like a perfect time to take a moment to learn about our buzzworthy friends and the steps we can take to protect them. Understanding the problems honeybees face with pesticides and colony collapse disorder reveal how valuable honeybees are to nature.  If you caught our talk in March with Brian Pfeiffer, this would be a fantastic event to bring a young person in your life who might just be discovering we bear in mind the work of earth's pollinators.  

    This program fee is by donation and will take place rain or shine! 

     

    About Kindred Spirits

    This Saturday program series is designed to build a greater understanding between all creatures of the Earth by exploring the mysteries of nature. By offering a shared experience that draws families together, participants will develop a stronger kinship with our Earth and each other. Programs will take place rain or shine, with hands-on activities both indoors and out. Admission is by donation.

    Twigs & Stems // June 2017

    Here are a few links from around the web that caught our attention in recent weeks. Have you seen something that stuck with you that you'd like to share? Post it in the comments! Love what you see here? Follow us on Facebook, as we often post these goodies as we find them. 


    Vermont Odonata Atlas. Pfeiffer, Bryan, Michael Blust, and Kent McFarland. 2017. Vermont Center for Ecostudies – Vermont Atlas of Life.

    Vermont Odonata Atlas. Pfeiffer, Bryan, Michael Blust, and Kent McFarland. 2017. Vermont Center for Ecostudies – Vermont Atlas of Life.

    Grafton Elementary's 3rd Grade Class Gives Back to the Nature Museum

    It's no secret that we love getting out in our greater community (check out our Summer Unplugged programs!), and beyond Grafton, the lovely town our museum calls home. But we're also so fortunate to have a hefty supply of wild enthusiasm for nature just down the road at nearby Grafton Elementary School. Throughout the year, we offer programming to the school at large and to some individual classrooms. 

    We have just received a generous donation from one such class---Amanda Penge's 3rd grade classroom. The civic-minded class raised $335 at the Holiday Bazaar and have opted to give these raised funds to The Nature Museum so we can continue our work. 

    The kids described the motivation behind this sweet gesture: “The Nature Museum does so much for us, we wanted to give back to you.”  They pressed for a return trip by our Environmental Educator Jay DeGregorio to their after-school club for more "Nature Mondays".   

    We depend on generous donors like this to keep the Museum vital, connected, and growing so it goes without saying that this really meant a lot to us. This kind of support is critical in enabling us to continue to serve our local community.

    Thank you Grafton Elementary School 3rd Graders!! We love your support and enthusiasm!