Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Secret Life of a Giant Bee

The biggest bee I have ever seen in my life attacked my food at an outside cafe in Corfu. I was a vacationing student. I was in shock. We thought we had chased it away and returned to our seats. The bee returned, landed on the serving plate, and to our astonishment flew away with the head of our fish. It was like a Mediterranean perch, by no means a small fish. This was a huge bee. You could hear it coming before you could see it. Scary.

Many years later when traveling in Mexico and looking for orchids with my soon-to-be wife, Jan, we saw one of the really huge hornets that live in that scrubby soil there, and after escaping it and enjoying our adventure, I remarked about the huge bee in Greece.  It sounded rather unbelievable and didn’t really add to the unique moment. I regretted bringing it up.

Years later, we were married and vacationing together in Rhodes in the spring, having the time of our lives, exploring ruins and seeking out the lovely Greek terrestrial orchids that are abundant that time of year. We were eating an early lunch at a lovely grapevine trellised outdoor cafe. A few minutes after we were served, we heard this loud droning sound. The giant bee came, routed us from the table, and made off with a piece of fish the size of a lemon from Jan’s plate. This type of bee likes fish. She had never seen such a huge bee.

It was a uniting beautiful moment for us. It sent our love to a deeper dimension. It let us both know what it takes. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

What the heck can we do?

I am involved in orchid conservation, and a few years ago I got wind of and was asked for ideas on solving a real rough problem which is taking place in Zambia and now other equatorial and southern Africa countries. I could not come up with any good ideas. The problem was reported beautifully in a recent Orchid Digest (8-9/2012 vol 76-3) magazine article by Carol Siegel, but no one seemed to pick it up. So here it is.

People do eat terrestrial orchids everywhere, always have. The problem in Zambia is that the primary foodstuff derived from the orchids, called Chikanda, described as a meatless bologna made of orchid tubers, ground up peanuts and spices, like all food in Zambia, is very popular right now. The orchids species used, primarily Disa, Satyrium, and Habenaria (all beautiful and unresearched species), are almost extinct in Zambia.

So now the bordering countries, especially Tanzania (who have their own orchid dish called kikande, but nobody really eats it or likes it), are collecting their orchids and smuggling them into Zambia.
At this point, any kind of terrestrial orchid, edible or not is in big trouble.

The people who collect the orchids now in Tanzania, are virtually all HIV/Aids orphans or widows. It is their only livelihood. Money for the collected orchids is good, about 10-times more than the equal weight of potatoes. Chikanda, sold by the loaf, sells for 4.00 5.00 $US. Bread costs .70 cents $US.
Groups are aware of the problem and over harvesting. Land has been set aside as parks to save these orchids which is kind of working, but who wants to stop the hungry and poor collectors?

Really tough problem. The entire mature tuber is taken, leaving nothing, but the mature tubers that make flowers and seed are at the preferred eating stage .The good news is that there are some inedible species and they are left alone. There are some that believe that Chickanda is just a temporary food craze, t's just not that good, and it will pass, but we all know about acquired tastes.

One suggestion is seed harvesting and farming. Obvious remedy, but we have to think of solutions that require zero capital and replacement of income. In Turkey, salep, a very popular drink and ice-cream flavoring, is made from two species of orchis gathered from the land. Now an artificial salep has been developed. Great, but not going to work in Zambia.

What the heck can we do?

Let me know.
Orchid love

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A beginning . . .

Ok, the “I-care-for-Bruce-and-his-work” love powers have gotten me to promise to blog properly and so I shall for at least a while as I find out what is proper. I agreed primarily because of the Sobralia work that Terry and I have been doing at OzGardens, which is truly new to the world and people are interested, so I would like to share that. And there is always new stuff to talk about in the natural world that is good to share, and I am after all in the popular orchid business and do know what's around the corner, at least in my neck of the woods.

So a bit of all my orchid life will be available, and if I don't feel like one thing we can do another, and if I don't feel like being funny, I don't have to be. I'm not sure that I'm that funny anyhow.

Oh and the book.... I can't forget the book...orchid love and peace and thanks for its popularity. You only have so many words, and it was rough to see things you really like that you've written such as information and jokes not being included, but you only have so many words.

I do really believe that orchids are a wonderful hobby. It's rather like birding except they can't fly away. You can see them in the jungle, you can see them in the park, and in your backyard, and in your living room. And it is still like you’re exploring as we really know nothing about them, and if they are among the most evolved of all the plants imagine what they can bring us not only with their chemistry of the plants themselves, the incredible chemistry which is produced through their products of pods and pheromonal magic.

I hear great stuff about orchids and the orchid business that I am looking forward to sharing.