Daily Archives: January 21, 2016

Loss of Honey Bees


By Brad Guhr

Dyck Arboretum of the Plains

We are hearing a lot in the news about the loss of honey bees, which we know is a potential threat to our food systems. But before I address this topic further, allow me to say a bit about insect diversity. The world of flowering plants is diverse with an estimated 352,000 species worldwide, but its diversity pales in comparison with the insect world that is estimated to be 15 times more diverse, with a species count of somewhere around 5.5 million species. Approximately 20,000 new species of insects are discovered each year. It is estimated that we may currently know only about 20% of the world’s existing insects. I share this to say that topics related to insects are complex and that we are far from having all the answers about any topic related to pollinators.


Now, back to honey bees. A 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture report states that honey bee colony loss has experienced an eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent per year. Recognized factors for this decline include viruses and other pathogens, parasites, problems of nutrition from lack of diversity in pollen sources, and sublethal effects of pesticides combining to weaken and kill bee colonies. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a name that was given about ten years ago to this population loss that is often seen suddenly in bee hives.


Pesticide contamination, and specifically the group of neurotoxic insecticides called neonicotinoids, is coming under increased focus as a possible cause of CCD. The insecticide is applied to the seed coat of many common crops, taken up by plant roots, and translocated to all parts of the plant, including flowers and pollen. Neonicotinoid use in crop protection has increased dramatically in the last 20 years and significant financial investments have been made to implement this effective group of insecticides.


Whether or not neonicotinoids that are showing up in beehives are causing CCD is not something I can answer here. Some European countries think there is a connection and have begun to ban the use of neonicotinoids. The validity of the connection between neonicotinoids and CCD is a complex issue that can only be answered with unbiased, scientific research. If chemical producers feel strongly that neonicotinoids are not contributing to CCD, I think that they would want to be pouring money into reputable research to clear their products from blame.


The viability of natural ecosystems and healthy food systems relies on both native pollinators and honey bee populations. Local farmer and beekeeper, Deborah McSweeney, has invested significant time researching and living this topic and also knows a lot about bee population collapse. She will be the featured presenter next Tuesday evening, January 26 as part of Dyck Arboretum’ Winter Lecture Series. Join us to learn more about this topic.

Look for El Niño surprises during the Great Backyard Bird Count



From The Outdoor Wire



With the El Niño weather phenomenon warming Pacific waters to temperatures matching the highest ever recorded, participants in the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), may be in for a few surprises. The 19th annual GBBC is taking place worldwide February 12 through 15. Information gathered and reported online at will help scientists track changes in bird distribution, some of which may be traced to El Niño storms and unusual weather patterns.


“The most recent big El Niño took place during the winter of 1997-98,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program which collects worldwide bird counts year-round and also provides the backbone for the GBBC. “The GBBC was launched in February 1998 and was pretty small at first. This will be the first time we’ll have tens of thousands of people doing the count during a whopper El Niño.”

“We’ve seen huge storms in western North America plus an unusually mild and snow-free winter in much of the Northeast,” notes Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. “And we’re seeing birds showing up in unusual places, such as a Great Kiskadee in South Dakota, as well as unseasonal records like Orchard Oriole and Chestnut-sided Warbler in the Northeast. We’re curious to see what other odd sightings might be recorded by volunteers during this year’s count.”

Though rarities and out-of-range species are exciting, it’s important to keep track of more common birds, too. Many species around the world are in steep decline and tracking changes in distribution and numbers over time is vital to determine if conservation measures are needed. Everyone can play a role.

“Citizen-science projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count are springing up all over the world,” says Jon McCracken, national program manager at Bird Studies Canada. “More and more, scientists are relying on observations from the public to help them gather data at a scale they could never achieve before. The GBBC is a great way to get your feet wet: you can count birds for as little as 15 minutes on one day or watch for many hours each day at multiple locations-you choose your level of involvement.”

Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with  partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

Sign up for women-only workshop to Become an Outdoor Pro


If you’ve ever wanted to pick up a bow and hit a bullseye, pitch a tent without any help, clean a fish you caught, or start a fire in no time flat, sign up for the 2016 Spring Becoming An Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop May 13-15. Participants of BOW will spend a weekend away at Camp Wood YMCA in Elmdale learning anything and everything they want to about the outdoors. And the best part is, there’s no pressure.


Offered through the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, BOW is designed to teach women outdoor skills in a fun, friendly, and laid-back atmosphere. With 27 different classes to choose from, participants can have fun mixing and matching the topics they learn about.

Cost for the three-day workshop is $235, which includes lodging, meals and class supplies. Three $100 scholarships are available to first-time participants based on financial need.


Early registration will be open to first-time participants through March 27. If spots still remain, past participants may register beginning March 28. Applicants are encouraged to apply early as the spring workshop is limited to 40 participants. To register, visit and click “Education,” then “Becoming an Outdoors Woman.”


For questions, call or email Jami McCabe at (785) 845-5052 or


To learn more, and view pictures of past workshops, visit the BOW Facebook page found under “Becoming an Outdoors Woman KANSAS.”


Youth identifies 225 bird species in Kansas


Cardinals, sparrows, bluejays and doves might be the extent of your bird identification knowledge, and that’s okay, but wouldn’t it be neat to know what kind of bird is plucking those bugs off your bumper? Or what kind of bird is building a nest in your favorite tree out back? For birders, keeping a running tally of the species they identify is an ongoing challenge. And for Sam Schermerhorn, Wamego, who competed in the youth category of the 2015 Kansas Birding Big Year contest, that tally was 225 species observed during the year. Schermerhorn won his category, comparing respectably to the overall winner, Andrew Burnett, who observed 317 species, an outstanding total for the state.


For three years running, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has hosted a Birding Big Year contest where participants join in a friendly competition to see who can identify the most bird species in a calendar year. The competition is divided into three age categories: youth (17 and under), adult (18-64), and senior (65+), with the adult category being broken down into three skill levels.


The results for 2015 were spectacular:




1st – Matt Gearheart, 288

2nd – Pete Janzen, 262

3rd – E.J. Raynor, 259

4th – Brett Sandercock, 256

5th – Carol Morgan, 231


1st – Andrew Burnett, 317

2nd – Sue Newland, 283

3rd – Malcom Gold, 277

4th – Nick Varvel, 275

5th – Tom Ewert, 245


1st – Don Merz, 287

2nd – Jennifer Hammett, 252

3rd – Todd Becker, 172



1st – Sam Schermerhorn, 225

2nd – Ella Burnett, 194

3rd – Joshua Keating, 142

4th – Jacob Keating, 137

5th – Emma Littich, 91


1st – Mick McHugh, 267

2nd – Dan Larson, 241

3rd – John Row, 208



1st – Andrew Burnett (Erie) - Adult, Intermediate, 317 species

2nd – Matt Gearheart (Lenexa) - Adult, Advanced, 288 species

3rd – Don Merz (Horton) - Adult, Novice, 287 species

4th – Sue Newland (Wakarusa) - Adult, Intermediate, 283 species

5th – Malcom Gold (Overland Park) - Adult, Intermediate, 277 species


Apart from bragging rights, winners of the 2015 contest will receive prizes donated from several sponsors, including Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, The Coleman Company, Acorn Naturalists of Tustin, Calif., and the KDWPT Education Section.


The winners of each category will also each receive matted and framed original ink drawings of native Kansas bird species, drawn and donated by Dr. Robert Penner of Ellinwood, as well as a signed copy of Penner’ book, Birds of Cheyenne Bottoms. Dr. Penner is the land steward and avian projects coordinator for the Nature Conservancy at Cheyenne Bottoms.


If you’re interested in participating in the 2016 competition, visit for details.


Whether it’s time spent outdoors, or time spent with the ones you love that will get you out the front door, consider making birding an item on your to-do list this year. And take a kid with you.

Late-season hunting can be fantastic


Weather, work, family commitments, and just sheer luck can have a lot to do with how much time you spend hunting during the season. If you’re looking to end your hunting seasons on a high note, or just want to see your dog work one more time before stowing away your gear, consider participating in a late-season hunt.


Kansas has several hunting seasons to keep you in the field through January, and goose hunting opportunities to keep your dog at work through early spring.


Depending on weather and snow cover, numbers of geese can steadily build in late January and early February around Kansas reservoirs and wetlands. The Canada and light goose seasons are open now and close Feb. 14, 2016, and the white-fronted goose season final segment is Jan. 23-Feb. 14, 2016.


When Feb. 15 hits, try your luck at hunting snow and Ross’ geese. During the Light Goose Conservation Order, Feb. 15-April 30, 2016, hunters are allowed to take an unlimited number of these birds in an effort to reduce populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established this special season to boost the harvest of light geese, a population that has increased more than 300 percent since the mid-1970s. These historic numbers of geese have denuded portions of their fragile tundra breeding habitat in the arctic, which may take decades to recover. This impacts other bird species that nest there, including semi-palmated sandpipers and red-necked phalaropes.


To increase hunter success, the conservation order authorizes hunting methods not allowed during the regular seasons, including the use of electronic calls, unplugged shotguns, and shooting hours one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.


And the pheasant, quail and greater prairie chicken seasons are open through Jan. 31, 2016, so there’s still time to get in a hunt or two.


Other late-season hunting opportunities that are great for the youth in your life include crow, exotic dove, furbearer, rabbit, and squirrel.


For season specifics, consult the 2015 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary, or visit  and click “Hunting.”


Public input needed for State Wildlife Action Plan


The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) is seeking public input on Kansas’ State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) through March 11. The action plan replaces the state’s existing Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy and is designed to identify the top priority species and habitats that need conservation efforts in the state. The plan also outlines potential conservation actions that can address the threats or issues these species and habitats face. The SWAP is necessary for Kansas to be eligible for State Wildlife Grants (SWG) and proactively conserve wildlife and habitats before they become rarer and more costly to protect.


“The SWAP is not just a conservation plan for KDWPT,” said state wildlife action plan coordinator, Megan Rohweder. “It’s a dynamic and adaptive document that can serve as a guide for other agencies, organizations, stakeholders, experts, and interested parties to ensure that Kansas’ wildlife and habitats are conserved for future generations.”


To date, KDWPT has worked with agency partners, conservation organizations, academic institutions, and other stakeholders to review and revise the plan to include information on climate change, as well as the development of geographically explicit areas in which to address conservation, called Ecological Focus Areas. The last piece of the puzzle is public input and now is the time for those voices to be heard.


To view the SWAP revision draft online, visit Comments can be submitted via email through March 11 using the link available on the webpage.