It’s the little stuff

At the marine lab we have many seawater tanks and tables in various shapes sizes. For my purposes the most useful are the tables. The tables are shallow, about 20 cm deep, but what’s nice about them is that water depth can be managed by varying the height of the stand pipe in the drain. I have some critters wandering free within tables and others confined to tanks, colanders, or small screened containers. One of my tables contains the paddle apparatus that stirs jars of babies when I’m raising larvae.

All of these tables are gravity fed from a supply of semi-filtered seawater supply in the ceiling of the building. The seawater flows through some sand filters before being pumped to the top of the building, but is by no means entirely clean. We get all kinds of things recruiting to the surfaces of tables, jars, or anything that sits in a seawater table for more than a few days. Some of the stuff that recruits is a nuisance, such as the spirorbid worms that build tiny calcareous spiral tubes on just about anything and scrape up the knuckles something awful. Other stuff is benign, and more or less ignored until it gets in someone’s way. Or until I decide to take a close look at it.

Last year I finally decided to look at some of the red filamentous stuff growing on the bottom and sides of one of the tables. To the naked eye it doesn’t look like much, which is why I love having access to a good compound scope. Here’s my notebook page from that day:

Observations and sketches of the red alga Antithamnion defectum. date © Allison J. Gong

Observations and sketches of the red alga Antithamnion defectum.
16 June 2015
© Allison J. Gong

Today I took some pictures of the same stuff. It’s really pretty and delicate when you see it magnified!

Filaments of A. defectum at 100X magnification. 17 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Filaments of A. defectum at 100X magnification.
17 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Close-up view of an apical tip of A. defectum at 200X magnification. 17 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Close-up view of an apical tip of A. defectum at 200X magnification.
17 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

I am always gratified when I look back at drawings I made in the past, and find that they still hold true and can be corroborated by photographs. The filamentous reds are so pretty! This is not the best time of year to find sexy algae, and I saw no reproductive structures on any of the filaments I examined. Maybe next spring.

In a different table (the table where the paddle apparatus is, actually) there is some brownish fluffy stuff growing on the bottom surface. I took a look at some of it and noticed right away that the threads didn’t have their own inherent structure the way the Antithamnion defectum does. These threads seemed to be sticky, and when I picked up a little piece of the fluff it collapsed into a blob. I had to tease apart the threads in a drop of seawater to make sense of what was going on.

Observations and sketches of benthic diatoms. 17 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Observations and sketches of benthic diatoms.
17 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

These diatoms are really cool! I have no idea which species they are, though. We do have local diatom genera (Thalasionema and Thalassiothrix) in which adjacent cells stick together at their ends to form this kind of wonky chain, but the cells themselves look different. So for now these are unidentified diatoms.

There’s no doubt that they are diatoms, though. They have the typical diatom color, a golden-brown that I would name Diatom if I got to name colors, and I could see through the microscope that the cells are enclosed in a silica structure called a frustule.

This is the diatom color:

Chains of benthic diatoms. 17 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Chains of benthic diatoms at 100X magnification.
17 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

At higher magnification the sculpting on the frustule surfaces becomes visible. Unfortunately, at higher magnification you necessarily have less depth of field, so it’s more difficult to take photos that show this kind of detail.

Benthic diatoms at 200X magnification. 17 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Benthic diatoms at 200X magnification.
17 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Some of these cells appear to be doubled. I think one of two things is going here: either the cells simply remain attached to each other by a thin layer of mucilage, or a cell has recently divided and the two cells that are stuck together are the resulting daughter cells. Throughout the growing season diatoms reproduce clonally (each cell divides to produce two genetically identical daughter cells), and their populations can expand very rapidly in response to either natural or artificial nutrient inputs. Because the cells are enclosed by a rigid frustule, however, this clonal replication cannot continue indefinitely. Perhaps diatom reproduction is fodder for another blog post, if people are interested.

But don’t those cells look cool?

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The burning season

Mediterranean climates, such as the one that much of California experiences, are characterized by two distinct seasons: a mild, moderately wet season and a warm/hot dry season. In most of the state the majority of precipitation falls between Thanksgiving and Memorial Day, with very little in the other months. At this time of year the dry season is in full swing. I’ve heard of a few reasons why California is called the Golden State: (1) the Gold Rush that began in 1848; (2) the carpets of California poppies that blanket the state in the spring; and (3) the drying up of the summer grasses, which covers much of the state in a golden mantle dotted with oak trees.

We are definitely in the golden season now. We had a good, colorful spring with a banner crop of wildflowers, thanks to the El Niño rains, and it was green well into July. Given the drought, we hadn’t seen that much green in years. But now the annual vegetation has dried out and most of the state is on high alert for wildfire. Fire is a seasonal event in the arid west, and every year several thousand acres burn in California. July and August are the worst months.

This year the most devastating fire in my region of the state is the so-called Soberanes fire burning near Big Sur. As of today the fire has blazed for 23 days, scorched over 71,000 acres, and is 60% contained. Almost 60 homes have been lost and over 400 other structures are threatened, all because some idiot lit an illegal campfire. Up here in Santa Cruz we are over 60 miles away from the fire, but the entire region has been affected by the smoke. Until recently the typical summer onshore winds have blown most of the smoke eastward and while we’ve smelled smoke here we have been spared the worst of it. This satellite photo was taken two days after the fire started:

Soberanes fire, image captured by satellite. 24 July 2016 © Jeff Schmaltz, NASA

Soberanes fire, image captured by satellite.
24 July 2016
© Jeff Schmaltz, NASA

This morning when I woke up the smell of smoke seemed stronger. It was foggy, enough so that water had condensed on the ground and cars, but instead of smelling like ocean the fog smelled like fire. The sun came out for about an hour in the mid-afternoon, showing a sky that wasn’t as blue as it is when ordinary for recedes. Air quality is pretty bad so I’ve been staying indoors with windows and doors closed.


Last week I was in the Lake Tahoe region, on a short vacation with my family in South Lake Tahoe. On our first day there we went on a short hike in the Angora Lakes area. Let me tell you, being at altitude makes a concussion headache worse–I had been weaning myself off the ibuprofen, but had to go back on the full doses for the handful of days we were at altitude.

On 27 June 2007 an illegal campfire ignited a wildfire that eventually burned 3100 acres and destroyed more than 300 homes and commercial structures in a populated area near South Lake Tahoe. The Angora fire was fully contained on 2 July and 100% controlled on 10 July.

Map of the Angora fire. 28 June 2007 © Phillip Wooley

Map of the Angora fire.
28 June 2007
© Phillip Wooley

On the hike out to Angora Lakes you see a few burnt trees off the trail, but don’t really get a feel for the scope of the area affected by the fire. So on our way out of the Tahoe basin we drove through one of the neighborhoods that had burnt. Almost 10 years after the fire now, all of the burnt homes have been either rebuilt or completely torn down. It was interesting to see that the fire’s damage had been spotty: in a neighborhood of mostly older houses there would be a couple scattered here and there that were obviously new construction, likely post-fire rebuilds.

In the years since the fire there has been a lot of restoration work in the Angora region:

Post-fire restoration work at Angora 8 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Post-fire restoration work at Angora
8 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

It is quite easy to see exactly what the fire did and did not burn.

8 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

8 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

8 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

8 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

8 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

8 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

But even a burnt tree possesses a stark beauty that living trees do not have:

8 August 2016 © Allison J. Gong

8 August 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Fire is, or used to be, a significant part of the ecology of much of the western United States. Some plants’ seeds require the heat of fire to germinate, and fire opens up the canopy to allow low-growing plants access to sunlight. When a fire burns through a wilderness region the clock is reset on ecological succession, allowing different species of plants to take their turn thriving in the habitat. We humans experience ecology as a snapshot in time, the duration of our own lifetimes. In the aftermath of a wildfire we have the opportunity to observe the early stages of succession that will likely result, decades down the road, in a mature forest. Even now, only nine years after the fire, it is clear that plants, especially grasses, have been thriving in areas that had been burnt down to charred soil. It will be interesting to watch how succession proceeds over the next several years.

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Hasta la vista, El Niño!

The strongest El Niño event on record has now been declared officially ended. For the past year and a half or so El Niño and a separate oceanographic phenomenon known as ‘The Blob’ have been battling it out for supremacy over weather and productivity in the northeastern Pacific, particularly in the California Current Ecosystem. It seems that The Blob, an area of unusually warm water stretching across the north Pacific from Japan to North America, had been in effect since 2014, and the arrival of El Niño combined with it to further depress productivity along the west coast of North America.

I’ve been recording temperatures in my seawater table at the marine lab for many years now. It has been only in the last year or so that I’ve made a concerted effort to record the temperature every day, but in general I have temperature data for at least several days a month going back to 1994. This morning I thought it would be interesting to compare 2016 temperatures with last year’s elevated El Niño temperatures. These are the data from 1 January through 26 July of both years:

Temperature in my seawater table at Long Marine Lab. 26 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Temperature in my seawater table at Long Marine Lab.
26 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

The data are discontinuous in both years, but there are a few things to note. In the winter and spring there isn’t much difference in temperature between 2015 and 2016. Things change in April, when the 2016 temperatures are higher than in 2015. The El Niño was still in effect this past spring, which is reflected in the water temperatures. In May things get interesting. Starting in about mid-May 2015, the water temperature rose up to 15°C and remained at least that high for the next few months, with a handful of recordings as high as 18-19°C (data not shown). So far in 2016, the temperature has not exceeded 16°C in my table, and since mid-May has been averaging in the 14-15°C range.

A difference of 2°C may not seem like a big deal at all. One of my goals this summer was to collect plankton samples periodically and see if I could detect any biological signs that El Niño was abating. Of course, those plans got waylaid by the accident; I haven’t looked at a plankton sample since 27 April 2016. On the other hand I did manage to get out into the intertidal a few times after the accident, and noticed some differences from last year:

  1. Okenia rosacea, the pink slugs that were everywhere in the intertidal last year, were much less abundant and a lot smaller this year. Last year it seemed that everywhere I looked I saw what looked like blobs of pink bubble gum spattered all over the rocks, along with their egg masses. This year I’ve seen Okenia but they aren’t nearly as conspicuous as they were last year.
  2. Same goes for the large sea hares, Aplysia californica. Last year they were big weighty animals, common enough to make it hard not to step on them, and their spaghetti-like egg masses were everywhere. Seriously, many of the sea hares last year were two or three times the volume of my cupped hands. I did see several of them at Franklin Point last week, but they were much smaller.
  3. I don’t have any quantitative measures or species-specific observations, but the algae seem more lush this year. And judging by what has been washing up on the beaches, the diversity is up, too.

We’re in that time of the year when the good low tides disappear for a couple of months, so there won’t be any more tidepooling excursions for me until October. Given the non-functioning condition of my brain, it’s probably just as well. I hope that some time this fall I can do some real science again, as it would be very interesting to see first-hand how the biota responds to the end of El Niño. Brain health must come first, though. For the time being I will have to content myself with eavesdropping on science and doing the little bits that I can.

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Homecoming

This week saw the last of the good morning low tides of 2016. By “good” I mean a minus tide that hits during daylight hours. There are two more minus tide series in August, with the lows occurring well before dawn. After that the next minus tides don’t happen until mid-October; these will be late in the afternoon so loss of daylight will be an issue. I wasn’t intemperate enough to risk the health of my concussed brain on this week’s low tides but did want to get out if possible. And I’m so glad I tried, because having been out on the past few days’ low tides I feel more myself than I have since the accident. My head hurts a little, but not nearly as much as it would have if I’d done any significant driving two weeks ago. And, I have pictures to share!

WEDNESDAY 22 JULY 2016 — DAVENPORT LANDING

I went up to the Landing to collect some animals that I’ll need for my Fall semester class. The full moon was still visible, as the sun hadn’t yet risen above the bluff.

Full moon at dawn over Davenport Landing beach. 20 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Full moon at dawn over Davenport Landing beach.
20 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

A month after the summer solstice and the algae are still nice and lush. Here’s a nice combination of mostly reds and greens, with some brown kelp thrown into the mix. How many phyla can you spot?

Mishmash of algae at Davenport Landing. 20 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Mishmash of algae at Davenport Landing.
20 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

One of the two local species of surfgrass, Phyllospadix torreyi, was blooming. A month ago I’d noticed the congeneric species P. scouleri blooming at Mitchell’s Cove. These surfgrasses are vascular plants rather than algae, and as such they reproduce the way the more familiar land plants do, by pollen transfer from male to female flowers.

Flowers of the surfgrass Phyllospadix torreyi at Davenport Landing. 20 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Flowers of the surfgrass Phyllospadix torreyi at Davenport Landing.
20 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

In the case of these obligately marine surfgrasses, the pollen is carried by water rather than wind. Not having to attract the attention of animal pollinators, the flowers have not evolved elaborate morphology, color patterns, or nectar rewards. They actually don’t look like much more than swellings near the base of the leaves. Some day I’ll remember to take one of the flowers back to the lab and dissect it to see what it’s like on the inside.

THURSDAY 21 JULY 2016 — FRANKLIN POINT

This was the day I was most worried about. The drive up to Franklin Point takes about 30 minutes, and I hadn’t driven that distance since the accident. To make things even scarier, I couldn’t find someone to go with me. In the end I decided to try getting up there and back on my own, figuring that if my head wasn’t happy with the driving I could always turn around and come home.

When I got there it was cold and very windy, and I was glad I’d worn an extra thermal layer. Up on the exposed coast it is often windy on the road but can be less windy below the bluff on the beach. Yesterday it was windy on the beach, too, more typical of an afternoon than a morning low tide. The rippled the surface of the tidepools, making visibility and picture-taking difficult. I tried and didn’t have much success.

Coming over the last dune down to the beach I noticed four or five gulls and a couple of turkey vultures milling about at the mid-tide line. Something must be dead, I figured. And yes, it was very dead.

Scavenged elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) carcass on the beach at Franklin Point. 21 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Scavenged carcass of a California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) on the beach at Franklin Point.
21 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

During last year’s El Niño we saw lots of sea hares in the intertidal up and down the coast. And they were big, heavy football-sized monsters. Yesterday I saw many sea hares, but none of then were larger than my open hand and most were quite a bit smaller. Nor were there any egg masses on the rocks. This guy/gal combo (they’re both, remember?) was about 15 cm long.

Sea hare (Aplysia californica) at Franklin Point. 21 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Sea hare (Aplysia californica) at Franklin Point.
21 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

By far the most unusual thing I’ve seen in the intertidal this year was a swarm of shrimpy crustaceans. Last year at about this time I witnessed a huge population of small sand crabs (Emerita analoga) in tidepools at Franklin Point. Yesterday the swarmers were swimmers, not burrowers. I think they had gotten trapped in this large pool by the receding tide. Not having any better idea of what they were, I’m going to say they were mysids. Mysids are quite commonly encountered in local plankton tows but I’d never seen them in the intertidal before.

Swarm of mysids in a large tidepool at Franklin Point. 21 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Swarm of mysids in a large tidepool at Franklin Point.
21 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

All those brown, orange, and white streaks are mysids. They are about 2 cm long, zooming around super fast. See for yourself:

My first, rather idiotic, thought was that these were krill. They’re about the same size as the krill species most common in Monterey Bay, so perhaps the thought wasn’t quite that idiotic. (but krill in the intertidal? yeah, that’s idiotic. although stranger things have happened and the animals is always right even when it does something that seems idiotic) However, it didn’t take me long to realize that these critters didn’t actually look like krill. They didn’t have the feathery gills under the thorax that krill have. I also noticed that some of them were brooding eggs in a ventral pouch on the thorax, making them members of the Peracarida. Okay, then. Definitely not krill, so maybe . . . mysids? They look like mysids and so far nobody has told me that they’re not mysids, so I’m going to call them mysids.

The sun came out as I finished up in the tidepools. I hiked back up the very steep sand dune and looked back at where I had come from. Wow. Talk about stunning vistas!

View of Franklin Point from atop the last (and steepest) sand dune. 21 July 2016

View of Franklin Point from atop the last (and steepest) sand dune.
21 July 2016

FRIDAY 22 JULY 2016 — NATURAL BRIDGES

Today was by far the best day this week for picture taking in the intertidal. However this post is getting long so I’m going to showcase the crabs I saw this morning.

Pachygrapsus crassipes is the common shore crab, ubiquitous in the intertidal and at the harbor. It lives in the mid-tide zone and hangs out among the mussels. It is a shy beast, not aggressive and is more likely to drop into the nearest pool if it detects movement nearby. However, if you sit still for only a few minutes, you’ll find yourself noticing many small crabs coming out to bask in the sun.

Shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes) at Natural Bridges. 22 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes) at Natural Bridges.
22 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes) at Natural Bridges. 22 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes) at Natural Bridges.
22 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Here’s a little tidbit about crab biology. All crustaceans breathe with gills. Any gas exchange structure, even your own lungs, functions by providing a surface across which oxygen can diffuse from the surrounding medium into the animal’s blood. Aquatic animals breathe with gills (if they have any specialized gas exchange structures at all, that is) and air-breathing animals breathe with lungs.

These crabs are often seen out of the water, in the sun. How then, you may reasonably ask, do they breathe with gills? The answer is, they foam. They produce bubbles that keep the gills moist, allowing oxygen first to dissolve into a thin layer of water and then to diffuse into the blood. I’m not entirely certain exactly how the crab forms the foam, but suspect it has to do with manipulating a thin layer of secreted mucus to capture small air bubbles. You do see the crabs massaging the foam over their sides, where the openings to the branchial chambers are.

Hermit crabs are the undisputed clowns of the tidepools. Around here we have four species that are commonly seen in the intertidal, all in the genus Pagurus. Many other species in different genera can be seen subtidally.

The most easily identified hermit crab in these parts is, in my opinion, Pagurus samuelis. They have bright red unbanded antennae, and often have bright blue markings on their legs. This species usually inhabits the shells of the turban snail Tegula funebralis.

Blue-banded hermit crab (Pagurus samuelis) in tidepool at Natural Bridges. 22 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Blue-banded hermit crab (Pagurus samuelis) in tidepool at Natural Bridges.
22 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

The other species that I saw today was the much smaller P. hirsutiusculus. The common name for this animal is “hairy hermit crab” but they don’t seem all that hairy to me. They may be found in small Tegula shells, but I most often see them in shells of smaller snails such as Olivella biplicata.

"Hairy" hermit crab (Pagurus hirsutiusculus) in a tidepool at Natural Bridges. 22 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

“Hairy” hermit crab (Pagurus hirsutiusculus) in a tidepool at Natural Bridges.
22 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

There’s another P. hirsutiusculus in that other Olivella shell in the right-side of the photo, but it did not want to have its picture taken.

All told it has been a very satisfying week. I may have overtaxed my concussed brain a little bit. My plan for the weekend is to revert back to the rest-and-do-nothing routine to let my brain recover. In the meantime I’ll leave you with a visual and audio reminder of what it was like this morning. Enjoy!

Posted in General natural history, Marine biology | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Buy local, bee local

I sort of assume that people appreciate the importance of honey bees. And then, every so often I am forcibly reminded that, even in the fairly ecologically savvy city where I live, there are those who would rather destroy honey bees than live with them. Fortunately, sometimes I am also reminded of the resilience of honey bees and the remarkable ways that they have adapted to living with humans.

Case in point. About a year and a half ago one of my students told me about a colony of bees living in a eucalyptus tree in his neighborhood, on a corner two blocks from the ocean. I went to check it out, and indeed there were bees coming and going from a hole about 3 meters above the ground. They seemed to be perfectly happy in the tree, and I was happy to know that they were there. I looked in on them every once in a while and noticed that in the early fall the entrance to the colony had been sealed up with some gunk that looked like white foam.

Given the stresses on honey bees these days–pesticides, varroa mites and other parasites, as well as some of the practices of commercial beekeeping–one of the most valuable things a hobbyist beekeeper can come across is a locally adapted feral colony. Local adaptation means exactly what it sounds like: bees that have evolved to survive and thrive in the conditions of a particular area. They will have survived multiple winters and whatever parasite load comes along with the location. While there would be a change in the royal regime every 2-3 years on average, the lineage of queens would be producing viable, vigorous workers. Beekeepers want to know that alleles from these locally adapted feral colonies are in the gene pool in which our queens are mating. Most of us would love to catch a swarm thrown by one of these locally adapted colonies (we may have done that earlier this season, in fact).

Yesterday I got a third-hand phone call about a “swarm of bees in a tree in such-and-such a neighborhood” and did I want to capture them? Mid-July is late for swarms, and after the caller mentioned what street they were on I realized we were talking about the feral colony I’d kept an eye on for the past year. I went down and looked at the tree, and noticed that the bees were in the same tree but had moved within the tree.

Feral colony of honey bees in a eucalyptus tree. 18 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Feral colony of honey bees in a eucalyptus tree.
18 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

The bees are coming in and out of that orange blotch on the trunk. More about that later. This is a new opening as of this year.

Old and current openings to a feral colony of honey bees. 18 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Old and current openings to a feral colony of honey bees.
18 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

There was zero activity around the 2015 entrance. The two entrances are less than a meter apart on the outside of the tree, but there is no way to know whether or not the internal cavities are connected. The absence of bees near the door they were using last year suggests that the spaces are not connected. I wish I had a fiber-optic camera, because I’d love to see what’s going on inside that tree.

What’s going on outside the tree is a lot of coming and going.

While the neighbors and I were watching all the coming and going, I got a little of the backstory of this colony. The neighbors next to the property where the feral colony lives told me that there have been bees in that grove of eucalyptus trees for the 15+ years they’ve lived in their house. Last year, when the bees were in the lower entrance to the colony, the owner of the house on the corner called in an exterminator to poison them. The bees died but the cavity in the tree still contained wax and honey, which would be very attractive to a swarm looking for a permanent address. It appears that the bees currently residing in the tree either found or made themselves a new door, which at some point in recent months had been sealed up with foam (the orange stuff). They chewed through the foam and are carrying on as if nothing had happened.

Honey bees returning to a feral colony in a eucalyptus tree. 18 July 2016 © Allison J. Gong

Honey bees returning to a feral colony in a eucalyptus tree.
18 July 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Why would somebody pay to have an exterminator poison a colony of honey bees that is posing no threat? The reason must be fear and ignorance. This colony is high enough that the bees’ flightline is well above head height, and I imagine most people walking right next to the tree don’t even realize that the bees are there. However, fear is a powerful motivator, with ignorance coming in as a close second. The property owners decided that the bees were either a nuisance or a danger, and had them dealt with accordingly. Their neighbors, on the other hand, are happy to know that the bees are there to pollinate their gardens. I’ve asked them to keep in touch and let me know if they see anything interesting happening at the tree, and they’ve agreed to let us put a bait hive out there next spring to see if we can catch a swarm from this locally adapted colony.

One potential problem is that at some point in the past year or so the interior of the tree has been poisoned at least once. I don’t know what poison was used (it might not be difficult to find out but at this point I don’t want to bother–concussion, remember?) or its half-life in honey and beeswax. It could be that the bees living in the tree now are doomed because they’ve been exposed to the pesticide, or that any swarms they throw contain contaminated bees. I will keep watching this colony, though, crossing my fingers that they can continue to thrive despite the unfortunate activities of their closest human neighbors.

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