“A small bird twitters on a leafless spray, Across the snow-waster breaks a gleam of gold;
What token can I give my friend today  But February blossoms, pure and cold?
Frail gifts from Nature’s half-reluctant hand….I see signs of spring about the land….
[T]hese chill snowdrops, fresh from the wintry bowers,
Are the forerunners of a world of flowers.
~ Sarah Doudney, “Snowdrops (Consolation),” c.1881.

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Protected as an Endangered Species
First bee in the continental U.S. is listed under the Endangered Species Act


Photo by Johanna James-Heinz, Xerces Society

PORTLAND, Ore—Responding to a petition from the Xerces Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, making it the first bee in the continental United States to receive such protection. The decision will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, January 11.

With this listing, the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) will be protected from activities that could cause it to go extinct. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority to develop and implement a recovery plan.

“We are very pleased to see one of North America’s most endangered species receive the protection it needs,” said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society. “Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces—from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to diseases.”

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has relied upon the best available science and we welcome this decision,” said Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. “Addressing the threats that the rusty patched bumble bee faces will help not only this species, but countless other native pollinators that are so critical to the functioning of natural ecosystems and agriculture.”

The rusty patched bumble bee is not only an important pollinator of prairie wildflowers, but also of cranberries, blueberries, apples, alfalfa and numerous other crops. Once common from Minnesota to Maine, and south through the Appalachians, this species has been lost from 87% of its historic range since the late 1990s.
Read Full Article at Xerces Society and FQA about the Rusty Patch Bumble Bee.

Garden Tips by Neal Sanders

times-almost-up-to-order-seeds-eLast call!  If you are planting either a vegetable or a flower garden from seed this spring, early February is likely your last chance to get the widest selection from seed catalogs or quality seed company web sites.     

Time to send lawn movers to the repair shops for a tune-up before the shops get overwhelmed in March and April.  Remember that sharp blades do less damage to your grass.  If you are considering a new mower, keep in mind that rechargeable, battery-operated mowers need less maintenance and do just as good a job as gas-powered ones without the air or noise pollution. 

sharpen-the-tools-youll-need-for-your-spring-clean-up-eSharpen the garden tools you will need for your spring clean-up and gardening.  Once you’ve got out your sharpening kit, don’t stop with clippers and pruners.   Shovels and hoes are more efficient and save you work when the blades are clean and sharp. 

Clean up old chemicals.  Like food, garden chemicals have expiration dates.  “Old” products may have broken down and no longer be effective.  If you have bottles of weed killers or insecticides from last year (or years before), you should put them aside to go to the next local collection day for hazardous chemicals (usually held in the spring).  If you purchase new chemicals, always mark your purchase date prominently so you don’t use products that may no longer do the job, but could still pollute your environment. 

Out with the phosphates.  If you have an old bags of fertilizer in your garage or shed, it’s likin-massachusetts-its-now-illegal-to-use-fertilizers-containing-phosphorusely that it contains phosphates (that’s the middle number on a fertilizer container).  As of last year, phosphates may no longer be applied in Massachusetts unless the soil has been tested to show a real need for the chemical.  Why the ban?  Phosphates run off lawns and gardens, polluting streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and the ocean; causing a huge increase in vegetative growth to the detriment of the native plants and animals that live there.

Snap off the candles.  Do you want to keep your pines, firs or spruces dense and compact?  cutting-off-the-candles-or-new-growth-on-evergreens-will-result-in-a-denser-more-compact-tree-or-shrub-eThis is the month to snap off the ‘candles’ that will otherwise grow; extending branches out to areas where you may not want them to go.

If a soil test has shown your soil to be too acidic for growing a lawn, flowers or other plants, put down lime over snow now.  As the snow melts, the lime gradually moves into the soil.  Fireplaces ashes can be used but they must be spread thinly.  They are more alkaline than lime and can damage plants if applied heavily.