Why are Fireflies Disappearing?

Day 160 – When I was a kid, lightning bugs (fireflies) were one of the main indications that summer had arrived. My sisters and I always made sure to be extra careful when catching them. We only wanted a brief moment with the magical insect. We were always quick to release them back into the warm summer, night sky.

Sadly, my kids have not had the same experience I had growing up. The opportunities to enjoy a good chase around the yard, trying to catch those flashing lights, has ceased to exist. The number of fireflies has decreased over the years due to numerous factors. Not only has habitat destruction, pesticide use, and climate change cause numbers to decline, but light pollution has played a major role in disrupting the firefly populations.

“Human light pollution is believed to interrupt firefly flash patterns. Scientists have observed that synchronous fireflies get out of synch for a few minutes after a car’s headlights pass. Light from homes, cars, stores, and streetlights may all make it difficult for fireflies to signal each other during mating—meaning fewer firefly larvae are born next season.” firefly.org

Why do we need to protect fireflies?

  1. They are important pollinators.
  2. The larvae of some species are specialized predators. They feed on slugs and mites that can harm garden plants.
  3. They are extremely sensitive to environmental conditions, which make them good indicators for scientists to access healthy ecosystems.
  4. Luciferin, the chemical that gives fireflies their glow, has major applications in medical research, particularly for diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and various heart diseases.

However, the main reason we should all care about the well being of the firefly is because they represent the amazing nature that surrounds us everyday.

“They spark wonder in people. When you are in your back yard or park you notice them and are amazed. They are one of the few things that universally give people a feeling of falling in love in nature.” – Sara Lewis (biology professor at Tufts University

Decreasing our carbon footprint and pesticide use will be helpful to the survival of the fireflies. However, one of the easiest things we could do is to just turn off the lights.

Tomorrow, spreading random acts of green.

Caring for Your Lawn and Garden without Harmful Chemicals

Day 117 – Having a lush, healthy lawn is a big priority for many homeowners. Many hours and dollars are devoted to making front lawns and accompanying gardens aesthetically appealing. Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, collectively known as pesticides, have been a mainstay in the lawn care industry. They have successfully helped many homeowners reach the pinnacle of green grass grandeur. On average, 70 million tons of fertilizers and pesticides are applied annually to residential lawns and gardens. Unfortunately, many of them are harmful to humans and the environment.

Thankfully, there are some simple tips you can do to achieve a great lawn without the chemicals. I compiled a list from various resources. (Old World Garden Farms, Earth911)

  1. Don’t cut your grass too low and don’t take more than 1/4 off at a time. Removing too much at once can cause a lot of stress on the grass, which in turn can cause long term damage.
  2. Keep your blades sharp. Worn out blades can cause the tips of grass blades to be damaged and turn brown. This can result in homeowners overwatering, thinking the brown grass is caused by lack of water.
  3. Don’t bag your clippings. You are taking away a great source of nutrients for your lawn when you bag your clippings and toss them in the garbage.
  4. Relax when it comes to a few weeds. Realize that a weed here or there is not the end of the world. The diversity actually helps create a healthier lawn and landscape.
  5. Plant native plants in your garden. As mentioned on Day 99, native plants do not need artificial fertilizers or pesticides. They have adapted to conditions in their environment and are very low maintenance.
  6. Call in the Ladybug army. Instead of using pesticides, consider using Ladybugs. They gobble up aphids, scale, mites, and mealybugs. Also, the larvae of lacewings feast on spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies, and can devour as many as 100 aphids a day.
  7. Water your grass thoroughly, but infrequently. A good soaking once a week, should be sufficient.
  8. Consider making homemade weed killer. Pesticides and herbicides used in traditional lawn maintenance can harm beneficial insects and animals. And if not fully absorbed, these chemicals can soak through soil and contaminate groundwater. Or they may run off into streams and lakes where they endanger aquatic life. Check out Lawn Love and their recipe for homemade weed killer.

Other resources to check out:

  1. Consumer Report’s list of organic solutions to weeds and pests.
  2. Consider companies like Sunday, when deciding on lawn care options. By using all natural ingredients, they can offer you a safe and environmentally friendly way to achieve that perfect lawn.

So, think twice before spraying your grass and garden with chemicals that could harm you and the planet.

Tomorrow, celebrating “Stop Food Waste Day.”

Earth Day: Celebrating today and everyday

Day 112 – Earth Day is 51 years old, today! Now more than ever, we need to prioritize our commitment to the planet and learn to celebrate Earth Day, everyday. We need to take action, whether it be large or small, on a daily basis. It is going to take a group effort to make the changes that are desperately needed to improve our current situation.

EARTHDAY.ORG has created a list of 51 Ways to Restore Our Earth. I picked my favorite 15 tips (See what I did there?). Well, it’s actually 13, with two of my own tips.

  1. Enjoy spending time outside? Support the Great Global Cleanup and pick up trash while enjoying your outdoor activities. It is a great way to save that plastic bottle cap from the landfill while you are on your morning walk!
  2. Plastic pollution is one of the most important environmental problems that we face today. Calculate your personal plastic consumption, then use our tips to help break free from single-use plastics! 
  3. With the Global Earth Challenge app, anyone can be a citizen scientist! Through a mobile app, this initiative helps monitor and mitigate threats to environmental and human health. Download today and collect environmental data near you! 
  4. Fight food waste by composting! Learn how you can make a difference right in your own backyard.
  5. A Billion Acts of Green are happening across the planet. From students in classrooms to organizers in their communities to officials in government there are ways for anyone of any background to make a difference. Add your act of green.
  6. Help protect pollinators by pledging to go pesticide-free! We need pollinators to ensure the persistence of our crop yields and ensure healthy sustainable ecosystems now and in the future. Sign our pledge to limit the use of harmful pesticides in your garden.
  7. Save the butterflies and bees! Help contribute to meaningful scientific research on pollinator populations through the Global Earth Challenge mobile application. It’s as easy as snapping a picture.
  8. Let’s teach our kids how to steward the Earth! Sign the petition calling on governments to take bold action on universal climate and environmental literacy for our school kids.
  9. Buy local food to reduce the distance from farm to fork. Buy straight from the farm, frequent your local farmers’ market, or join a local food co-op.
  10. Avoid single-use plastic items, and if possible buy products in glass or paper. Glass products are easily reused and paper is a much friendlier product to the environment. 
  11. Practice sustainable fashion! Donate your old clothes and home goods instead of throwing them out. When you need something, consider buying used items. Used does not always mean unfashionable! 
  12. Always read labels! Use environmentally-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products to avoid  washing toxic chemicals down the drain! 
  13. Be a part of the change. Change your diet to fight climate change! Try participating in meatless Mondays! Check out some plant-based recipes. 
  14. Start collecting items for future Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycling Popups.
  15. Be sure to check out 365 Ways to Save the Planet. There are still 253 more days to go!

To read more tips, be sure to check out the entire list.

No matter how you decide to celebrate, make sure you are not doing it alone. Encourage others to join in and work together to better our planet.

Tomorrow, giving you the lowdown on the DEA’s prescription drug collection.