How hot can mosquito larvae survive?

Is it cruel to find out? I hope not. I profited from the ultra-hot sunny weather to bring a pail of organic-laden water with larvae happily snapping around, onto my back patio in full sun. I then ladled some water with larvae into a plate with about 3/8″ of water. You see both in the photo:

Within 25 minutes, all larvae in the plate at 115F had expired. Within an hour and a half, almost all those in the pail had kicked the bucket, at 100F surface temperature. (Larvae have to spend much of their time at the surface to breathe, though they dive if provoked.)

At the right of the photo you see the screen that after the experiment I put over the bucket, to be sure no adult mosquitoes can emerge, but I think by tomorrow any surviving larvae probably will be done for too.

This little exercise has practical value: we can conclude that in weather like this, larvae will not survive in a shallow pool on a flat roof (similar to the plate) and that even in deeper water exposed to the sun as in a roofline gutter, they have little chance.

Of course, we shouldn’t take it for granted and, bearing in mind that 100F is not normal here, we should keep flat roofs and gutters free of stagnant water!

Next afternoon update: there are in fact a few survivors, despite similar air (95) and water (100+) temps. Survival of the fittest, I guess. Those I spotted are on the small side; maybe the closer they are to pupating, the less resistant to heat?

Last observation: Air this hot deters mosquitoes on the wing. We know they like shade; maybe they shrivel up in sun over 90 degrees? Too bad that sunny and 95 are not great conditions for humans to be out in the garden either!

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West Chester Green Team’s first annual organic garden tour

On Saturday, June 29th, about 100 West Chester residents toured organic gardens in the West Chester borough. Gardens that were toured showcased vegetables, flowers, rain gardens, tower gardens, and much more. The goal of the tour was to educate residents about the many different types of gardens they can have, even in a small space.

Denise and garden 2

A popular attraction of the tour was Councilwoman Denise Polk’s backyard. Although Polk only has less than one-tenth of an acre, the space boasts more than 50 different plantings, in addition to a honey bee house. Polk suggests eating veggies fresh off the vine, and keeping chemical use to a minimum or not at all. (Photo by Bill Rettew: “Checking out Councilwoman Denise Polk’s backyard organic garden”)

In total there were 10 stops along the tour, with at least one site in each ward of the borough: in backyards, at West Chester University, and at the Melton Center.

Margaret Hudgings is an active West Chester Green Team leader, and she helped to organize the event. She was excited to see that a main goal of the tour had been accomplished; “The tour shows people that you can have a fantastic garden even if you have a small yard.”

West Chester Green Team plans to run this tour again next year, with some changes and new gardens featured.

For more details and photos from the tour, please visit “West Chester Green Team shines spotlight on local organic gardens” by Bill Rettew in the Daily Local News.

Christiane's garden 2
Christiane Torres’ garden

Study finds that planting trees would be the most effective method to combat climate change

A study led by researchers at ETH Zurich found that forest restoration is our best bet for combating climate change. The study used earth system models to predict how much trees we could plant globally, and how much carbon those trees could store. It turns out that we have enough space for at least 0.9 billion hectares of more trees! If those new forests reached maturity, they would store 205 gigatonnes of carbon – that’s two thirds of the carbon generated by humans since the industrial revolution.

What’s great about this restoration approach is that there are so many benefits. Planting trees requires no new technology or industry, and we get to surround ourselves with more nature. Afforestation also creates more habitat for our furry friends. Habitat loss is one of the leading causes of species loss.

Our results highlight the opportunity of climate change mitigation through tree restoration but also the urgent need for action.

“The global tree restoration potential” Bastin et al

The study also found that more than 50% of the tree restoration potential can be found in only six countries: Russia, United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China. This stresses the important responsibility of some of the world’s leading economies, including the US.

So where do we go from here? The report suggests that “we need better country-level forest accounting, which is critical for effective management and restoration strategies.”

This places ecosystem restoration as the most effective solution at our disposal to mitigate climate change.

“The global tree restoration potential” Bastin et al

Home Depot, Lowe’s, and more remove harmful phthalates from flooring products

Success! – Home improvement retailers follow through on commitments to remove phthalates from flooring. The environmental organization Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF) celebrates this recent win in the reduction of phthalate use in home remodeling products. In 2015, SCHF secured commitments from home remodeling stores Home Depot, Lowe’s, Lumber Liquidators, and Menards to eliminate added phthalates from flooring. But first – what are phthalates and why are we concerned about them?

Phthalates are a class of chemical compounds commonly used in home flooring, along with plastic containers, cosmetics, and other personal care products. Phthalates are so widely used that they have made their way into our bodies. Once phthalates are inside the body, they break down into metabolites and pass through. The CDC and FDA have not said outright that these chemicals are harmful to us, although many are concerned that prolonged exposure may cause adverse health effects.

This is why SCHF started a collaboration with the Ecology Center, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, and Healthy Building Network, to reduce phthalates in popular home remodeling products. Tile samples recently taken from Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Lumber Liquidators, show no measurable amounts of phthalates – that’s great!

Nowadays, you can’t escape manufactured chemicals – they surround us everywhere we go, they’re in our homes, our food and water, and ultimately in our own bodies. So let’s applaud these stores that are reducing their contribution of chemicals to the environment! Please see SCHF’s full article and visit their site to learn more about minimizing your exposure to chemicals.