Sunday, May 5, 2013

Elsewhere on the Web -- Karma Police Edition

Things of interest from the internet:

1) I sort of already suspected that imidacloprid is not particularly good for the environment, but had avoided reading much on the subject because I didn't want to have to stop using the only thing I've got that seems to work. And then The Raw Story published an article about imidacloprid in water being linked to lower populations of snails, dragonflies, and other invertebrates. I don't really care about the snails so much, because what have snails done for me lately, but I would hate to be responsible for hurting any dragonflies. I mean, they eat mosquitoes. They're on our side. We don't want to mess with the dragonflies.

Imidacloprid is also often used in flea and tick control collars for cats and dogs, by the way, so don't think you're in the clear just because you don't use it on your plants.

Honeybee on unidentified cultivar of Bracteantha bracteosa.

2) On the other hand, the danger of imidacloprid to bees has maybe been exaggerated. At the very least, the people who are sure that colony collapse disorder is entirely due to neonicotinoid pesticides are overlooking some things. For one thing, it's been happening for a long time:
It gets even better: in both 2007 and 2009 another paper pointed out that there were at least 18 historical episodes of similar large-scale losses of honey bees dating back to 1869, at least several of which had symptoms similar enough that they cannot be ruled out as being the exact same ailment. Yet, how often have you seen any of the scientists and journalists and beekeepers acknowledging that any theories about the cause of CCD need to accommodate the evidence for similar bee crashes that pre-date neonicotinoid pesticides, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), migratory beekeeping, cell phones, genetically modified crops, or any of the other human-made “causes” that have been run up the proverbial flagpole? (emphasis in original)
Don't misunderstand: neonicotinoids are not doing the bees any favors, and bees would be better off if we stopped using neonicotinoid pesticides. But that's not enough to end colony collapse disorder. More things are happening than just pesticides.

3) has a post called "Searching for OJ's Killer" that's an interesting read, if you've been longing to learn more about citrus greening (huanglongbing) since the last time I mentioned it. Among the things I learned: there's a virus that affects citrus plants that's been named "Tristeza" ("sadness" in Portuguese), which is surely in the running for the most appropriate plant-virus name ever.

Photo from

4) New from the world of unnecessary plastic plant-related crap: The Book Vase. It's not that it's not cute -- it is -- but I look at that and think about how hard it would be to water without accidentally getting the books next to it wet and ruining them. And then I think about how there are no drainage holes. (Though at least in the photo, they're using a plant that can grow in water. The expanded clay pellets instead of potting mix is also a good call.) And then I think of algae. This just seems like more trouble than it could be worth. (Via Colossal.)

5) Finally, lest this post be completely depressing and negative,1 I found a video I thought was cool. It's a cover of Radiohead's song "Karma Police," as performed by Tel Aviv-based musicians Rotem Shefy (vocalist) and Leat Sabbah (cellist/arranger). It took me a few listens to decide I liked it: it's very different from the original, and in spots I was like, are they parodying Middle Easterners? What's going on here?,2 but it grew on me. Also the video is worth watching for the outfits alone, if you're into that sort of thing.

(Via MetaFilter.)


1 (This is PATSP, not The Deep Middle.)
2 In short: yes, they were, at least partially. From their own description: "A satirical arrangement recorded with an exaggerated Arabic accent," though the Kickstarter page for the video also says "What seemed at first a satirical cover transformed into a full-blown multi-layered middle-eastern arrangement," (emphasis mine) implying that they consider it something else now. This sort of transformation is apparently not uncommon in the music world. The discussion of the song at MetaTalk may also be of interest, if you like to read people arguing about arguing.


Paul said...

I read about the European imidacloprid ban on a cp forum I frequent. Really blows when you find something that works and it gets banned. What is particularly irritating is how often the problems linked to a particular pesticide/herbicide/fungicide are due to idiots using the product at the "drop-of-a-hat" and incorrectly at that. If people would actually take the time to READ and FOLLOW directions, many of the problems would not crop up nor be as severe.

For my part, I will continue to use imidacloprid for as long as the product is around in the US. May even "hoard" a bottle or three ... As often as I use it (read "rarely") a couple hoarded bottles will last me for years. (I only break out the "big guns" for severe outbreaks or ones that refuse to go away via other treatments -- which fortunately are typically few and far between.)

mr_subjunctive said...


Then you're already somewhat ahead of me. Since the Scalepocalypse,[1] I've been pre-emptively adding imidacloprid to some plants when I repot them (mostly plants that have to live in the basement, but also a lot of the new purchases). Which I intend to stop doing now, obviously. Not sure if I'll stop using it completely; the hoarding idea is sounding very appealing at the moment, though I imagine it'll stay legal in (at least some of) the U.S. for quite a while regardless, because freedom / liberty / Jesus. So I probably don't need to run right out and buy some now. I still have part of a bottle left anyway. Maybe I can make it last.


[1] I'm not sure the Scalepocalypse is over, but it's at least been a while since I had any scale or thrips sightings.

Ivynettle said...

So now you're telling me that the neonicotinoid ban might not be helping bees all that much after all? Way to cheer me up when I'm already worried about tomorrow's vote about the seed law! ;) (I've been using this as reassurance that occasionally, the EU is capable of making a good decision.)
But I've been working in horticulture long enough to know the other side, how frustrating it is when the pesticides that actually work get forbidden. And hoarding no-longer-allowed pesticides? Totally happens on a professional level, too.

Paul VA said...

I'm really skeptical about how much imidacloprid from house plant use is possibly get into the water. I figure there would have to some industrial use that is causing the harm.

I only use it pre-emptively on african violets cause you cant really spray them and most come with thrips in their flowers. but ive pretty much stopped growing those anyway.

is Europe banning it in the pet industry too? once i found out that it was the same stuff id been putting on my dog for years, i didnt feel as bad using it on my plants.

mr_subjunctive said...

Paul VA:

No, I doubt that the amount from houseplant use is that big of a deal, compared to its agricultural use. (Wikipedia says it's the world's most widely used insecticide at the moment, and on a wide range of plant types.) But every snowflake in an avalanche, etc.[1]

I found it difficult to locate good information on the subject, but it appears that the ban is absolute in some countries, and other countries permit neonicotinoids for certain specific purposes, or if they're applied in certain specific ways. I was not able to find out if flea/tick collars were among the accepted uses in any European countries.


[1] I actually really hate that quote, as it's always struck me as more of a guilt trip than is necessary. (Maybe it's more reasonable in the original context?) 'Cause, I mean, no individual snowflake in the avalanche is guilty of anything.

Furthermore, the implication is that the avalanche could be prevented by a small number of principled snowflakes working together, vowing not to slide down the mountain or whatever, which is bullshit. The snowflakes cause the avalanches collectively; they should be looking for ways to prevent them collectively. They should make agreements among themselves that only a certain number of them can land on a given slope, and that once they're there, they won't slide further down the slope. That sort of thing.

Though I don't know what the fuck kind of guilt a snowflake would be feeling about an avalanche in the first place: none of the snow is harmed by sliding down a mountain, nor are future generations of snowflakes prevented from living their lives by the avalanches of previous generations. From a snowcentric viewpoint, it seems like avalanches would be harmless fun for the whole family.

Just kind of a bad analogy all around, I guess, is my point.

Paul VA said...

its not just flea collars, imidacloprid is the active ingredient in Advantage, which gets absorbed directly into the dogs skin and works for thirty days. So I had been using it as a systemic in my dog long before using it on my plants. And i can buy a big ol bottle of it for $3.99 at the garden center but my dogs meds are $60

Paul said...

Imidacloprid: fine for houseplants, horribly irresponsible otherwise. No hair splitting there. When you indiscriminately kill anything that would feed on a plant, you're affecting the entire food chain on top of those feeders. So long ladybugs, dragonflies, psyllid wasps, lacewings, etc along with the scale, mealybugs, and aphids. But one is within their rights to not care, so whatever.

Regarding the song: not going to get on a huge rant here, but I encourage caution when using "Middle Eastern" to define anything besides geography. It's like using "Oriental" to apply to anything (including humans) from Asia. Many Americans, even well-meaning progressives, have a huge mental block with this and much of identity awareness, but clarity of communication and intent is never a bad thing to improve on. For the record, Israel is a multi-ethnic state as well as literally a middle eastern nation.