CBEdu Resource: Native Trees & Forests

Understanding our Native Tree Species

German author Peter Wohlleben’s recent book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate has sold more than 800,000 copies in Germany and is now on the best-seller list in the United States and elsewhere. Wohlleben’s book is popularizing revolutionary new scientific research demonstrating conclusively that trees communicate with each other. Through what some scientists are calling the ‘wood wide web,’ intricate underground fungal networks that connect them, trees actually exist in colonies, which share a collective intelligence, like ants. The fungi, which grow from the tiny tips of tree roots, consume around 30 percent of the sugars that trees gather through photosynthesis, almost like a form of payment. This fungal communication system is vital to the survival of many younger trees, particularly in the darkness of the deep forest. Without access to rain and sunshine, these trees are actually supported by the rest of the colony, by transferring much-needed sugars to the youngsters through the fungal network.

Want to experience the forests and trees here in Western MA? Check out our list of places to discover in your community with friends, family, or on your own, in our post, Self-Guided Hikes in Western Massachusetts.

CBEdu Resource: Bees and Flowers

Native Species: Community-Based Educational Resources

Human beings have been harvesting honey and keeping hives for around nine thousand years. Traditional cultures in Africa, Northern Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean have worshiped bee goddesses as a way of venerating these amazing creatures. In Lithuania, for instance, the traditional bee goddess is known as Austeja. It is said that in traditional Lithuanian communities, it is forbidden to argue or quarrel in the presence of a bee, and if one comes upon a dead bee, it is buried ceremonially. Closer to home, the custom of “telling the bees” was practiced as a tradition in early America, a custom brought over from Europe. After a death in the family, the beekeeper would “tell the bees” so they too could enter proper mourning. It was thought that otherwise the bees might not produce honey or leave the hive to pollinate our crops. — And why is it that bees are so revered across cultures and time? Could it be that their contributions towards pollination is vital to the survival of 80% of the world’s plant species? Bees and flowers have an amazingly close relationship. Flowers need bees to reproduce, and bees need flowers to feed their colonies. Take away one, and the other would disappear too. It begs the question: When it comes to evolution, which came first, the bees or the flowers?” Find out in this video by It’s Okay to Be Smart:

“Over the past 15 years, numerous colonies of bees have been decimated throughout the world, but the causes of this disaster remain unknown. Depending on the world region, 50% to 90% of all local bees have disappeared, and this epidemic is still spreading from beehive to beehive – all over the planet. Everywhere, the same scenario is repeated: billions of bees leave their hives, never to return. No bodies are found in the immediate surroundings, and no visible predators can be located.” Want to learn more? Check out a copy of More Than Honey from your local library, a documentary that explores the effects of colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon responsible for bees’ recent scarcity.

 

Rowan Jacobson wrote a book, published in 2008, called Fruitless Fall. He identifies multiple causes of stress to the bees, showing how they all work together to contribute to colony collapse. He also interviewed several beekeepers (some local to him in Vermont) who are having success at building stronger and more resilient colonies. Superb book, very readable and informative about bees in general, and groundbreaking in its approach to colony collapse.

Other resources to check out from your library include these titles: The Life and Times of the Honeybee [Ages 5+]; Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive [Ages 11+]; and The Backyard Beekeeper – Revised and Updated: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden.


“Bee Song” written by Lui Collins, music by Lui Collins and Anand Nayak,
©2009 Lui Collins, Molly Gamblin Music/BMI and Dizzy Dog Music/ASCAP

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