31 July 2011


The other evening we spent a pleasant few hours at  l’eglise Saint-Vivien de Charras in the Charante, at a Concert de Musique Baroque listening to the l’Ensemble Mythematis. It included Vivaldi, Telemann, Bach and Couperin. Yet another perfectly nice village within spitting distance that we had never heard of before, let alone been to. ed


Paris, 7 July 2011
Pathogens and insecticides : a lethal cocktail for honeybees
Infection by Nosema ceranae, a parasite that causes Nosema disease (1) results in higher mortality among honeybees when they are exposed to low doses of insecticides. This is a recent finding by researchers at the Microorganisms: Genome and Environment Laboratory (Laboratoire Microorganismes: Génome et Environnement (LMGE, CNRS/Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand 2)) and the Environmental Toxicology Laboratory (Laboratoire de Toxicologie Environnementale (LTE, INRA Avignon)). These results are published in the journal PloS ONE.
In France, around 70 000 professional and amateur beekeepers work with honeybees (Apis mellifera). The direct influence of bees on the quality and quantity of harvests, as well as their role in maintaining floral biodiversity, is today widely recognized, and highlights the key role played by both domestic and wild bees in the functioning of ecosystems.
However, for over 15 years, bee colonies have been plagued by a strange disease that causes the disappearance of thousands of colonies every year and is poorly understood by beekeepers and scientists. To explain the phenomenon, which mainly affects beekeepers in Europe and the US, a number of factors have been suggested: biodiversity loss and reduced quality of food resources (due to climate change), increasingly intensive single-crop farming and modification of landscapes, pathogens causing diseases such as varroasis (2), foulbrood (3) and Nosema, the chemical stress resulting from the exposure of bees to veterinary and plant protection products, and certain predators such as the Asian giant hornet. Although there is much data on the effect of nutritional, parasitic and chemical stress on the health of honeybees, it has not been possible to isolate any of these factors as being the sole cause for the decline of bee populations. Today, specialists in the field agree that research should focus on the combined effects of several of these factors.
It was in this context that research teams from CNRS, INRA and Université Blaise Pascal brought together their respective skills in parasitology and toxicology to assess the effect of pathogen/toxin interactions on bee health. In the laboratory, the researchers chronically exposed newly emerged honeybees, some healthy and others infected with Nosema ceranae, to low doses of insecticides. They found that the infected bees died when they were chronically exposed to insecticides, even at sublethal doses, unlike the healthy bees. This combined effect on honeybee mortality was observed with daily exposure to extremely low doses (over 100 times less than the LD50 (4) for each insecticide). The synergy observed does not depend on the type of insecticide since the two active ingredients studied, fipronil and thiacloprid (5), belong to different groups. However, the mechanism responsible for this synergy has not yet been identified.
This study therefore shows that interaction between Nosema disease and insecticides represents a significant additional risk for bee populations, and could possibly explain certain cases of excess mortality. This work also shows that insecticide doses considered to be non-lethal have a lethal toxic potential for organisms that are infested with parasites and therefore vulnerable. Consequently, these findings show that the management and protection of the bee population needs improving, in response to the threat posed by pollution and pathogens acting (either alone or together) on bee health. The 'Host/Parasite Interactions' team at the Microorganisms: Genome and Environment Laboratory (Laboratoire Microorganismes: Génome et Environnement (LMGE, CNRS/Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand 2)) are currently seeking to find new ways of fighting this pathogen.

(1)Nosema disease is transmitted by Nosema ceranae, a microscopic fungus that colonizes the intestine of honeybees.
(2)Varroasis is a disease caused by a mite (Varroa jacobsoni) that feeds on bees' hemolymph.
(3)Foulbrood are brood diseases transmitted by bacteria.
(4)Lethal Dose 50 = a dose that causes 50% mortality in a population.
(5) These two ais belong to the phenylpyrazole and neonicotinoid insecticide groups, respectively.
Exposure to Sublethal Doses of Fipronil and Thiacloprid Highly Increases Mortality of Honeybees Previously Infected by Nosema ceranae. C. Vidau, M. Diogon, J. Aufauvre, R. Fontbonne, B. Viguès, J-L. Brunet, C. Texier, D.G. Biron, N. Blot, H. El Alaoui, L.P. Belzunces, F. Delbac
PLoS One.
View web site
Contact information:
Researcher l Frédéric Delbac l T +33(0)4 73 40 78 68 l frederic.delbac@univ-bpclermont.fr
CNRS Press Office l Laetitia Louis l T +33(0)1 44 96 51 37 l
This article was kindly forwarded to my blog by environmentalist Graham White, ed

Stephen O'R's Ayurvedic

Ghee Treatment
Day 1
A Doctor and two men with an oil lamp, acupuncture and two mats. The mats and  lamp in position the Doctor sits opposite and says “ a” other alternately touch her chest and the ground in front her. Prayer finished and she offers the cup she holds.
Never one to turn down a free drink I skol the cup of medicated ghee. It's oily and has a gritty salty end to it. 50mls and I'm off - seven days to go .
We go into the bed where I am instructed to lay down on my back; then a short massage of legs and tummy and  a woollen blanket is wrapped around my body covering my tummy and lumbar. This done and it's a roll to the left where I must stay for thirty minutes before spending the rest on my back.
Now dear reader this may sound good but I have been up since 3.30am and with four hours between my rising and their arriving  I fell to doing something I usually avoid – stretching… and yes once again I remember why I don't do this because an hour after stretching I am in a light but constant pain across the top of the back of my buttocks. Well I guess I came here to confront the pain so it's fitting it's in at the start of this deep clean re-balance the body, top- of-the range ghee treatment.
Day two - similar to day one.
Day three and there is a change afoot - I am still able to drink the ghee but now I am beginning to deal with a distinctly uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and another unexpected problem has arisen. The waiting staff seem to have gotten it into their head that I must eat. I am very clear that I have no desire to eat and having arrived with a dream of losing 25 kilos – ‘having no desire to eat’ is a bonus.
When the ghee treatment was first suggested I was concerned about not being able to drink water but a watery rice soup would be available should I experience hunger. Somehow the staff now thought they should encourage me to eat and unfortunately their lack of understanding of the process was now coinciding with my stomach discomfort. At one point I had three staff - none of whom spoke or understood English  at all well, standing over my bed each holding a tray. Shades of Bobby Sands. Then one of them blurted out that I should also stop taking pain relief.
Enuf already f-ck off I shout get the f-ck out of here!
From that point on I saw more and more that my inability to speak the local language was a major problem. I could see that I had not understood what exactly 'taking ' the ghee treatment meant except that it was getting increasingly awful. The eat, not eat, thing turned into the absurd situation where they thought if they offered me a different selection I would just start liking the treatment . I was coerced into doing a fourth day even though I had earlier refused to go on with it. I just couldn't see that  making myself sicker was going to do any good for me. Then I thought even if it was good for me I definitely did not want to do anymore.
The young doctors refusal to stop harassing me was hard to take when I was just getting sicker and sicker. I rang a travel agency and booked into Bruntons Boatyard where I had stayed before. I also lined up a car to take me there.
So now I am Mr Bad guy the white wimp who could not take it.
My next session with the Senior Doctor - who was the only one I now trusted - took an unexpected turn. I said I was sorry But I could not take it anymore and was leaving the next morning. He tried to talk me round then stopped and dictated a long speech which the Young woman doctor wrote Down.
He picked up the speech and turning to me read it out. Essentially the speech said that he advised me not to leave the hospital for two reasons. First was that during the monsoon season many locals got sick because their wells that supplied nearly all their drinking water had been raised to very high levels and were largely polluted . Second as I was half-way through the treatment  my immune system was very weak and therefore I had little resistance  to the monsoon sickness. He said that If I left he could not accept any responsibility for me. That rang a small bell in my head.
He recommended that I stay for four more days so that they could get my immune system back up and at the same time increase my appetite.
He also said that I should leave the country as soon as I left the hospital.
I told him I would think about it. This took me about ten minutes. I was already feeling sick and definitely did not want to get sicker. I went on the net and found hundreds of references to 'monsoon sickness'.
So I stayed the four days then flew straight to Singapore where I had to wait for about 28 hours before I could get a flight to Sydney.
So language is the core of the problem - there was a zealot feel to the way the young male doctor did not seem to notice or understand how sick and vulnerable I had become.
At my last meeting the Senior Doctor apologized that I had not been properly briefed as to what would or could happen. He then went on to say he had stayed up all night studying the ancient texts and realized that there was one strict way to run the treatment. There was a lot of flexibility and that my case had made him realize that the aims and benefits of the treatment could remain but that there was no need to make it into a bad experience as each treatment could be adjusted for each patient. This would require a different approach to patients than the young interns were capable.
Glad as I was to make my contribution to this medical system that dates back four thousand years I was very happy to get out of there.
I think the monsoon season is an interesting time to be in Kerala but for me November December is a safer time.
I do feel that I have made some progress with my incurable disease and am a lot lighter but India is country where real life still abounds and not a country where you can glide through a few weeks like you might be able to do in somewhere  like Greece where the worst thing that's likely to happen is an overconsumption of alcohol.
One of the great things about Poomully is that every few days one or two really interesting people turn up and the one thing I would change is to try and encourage better language skills - not an easy thing when you consider the number of European and other languages spoken by visitors.
I have about a month's supply of pills and powders before I can pass judgement on my treatment.
Till next week. Bye.
Stephen O’R
Sent from my iPad

BBC, Radio 4 Extra

Hello again
Described by fellow crime-writer Val McDermid as ‘the Queen Mum of Crime Fiction’, the grande dame of crime writing, PD James has over the years had many honours and awards heaped upon her, and at this year's Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, she accepted an award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction’.
This was another well-deserved recognition for Baroness James, who has over 50 years of crime writing to her credit.
She will be celebrating her 91st birthday on Wednesday 3rd August, and this prolific writer currently has, unsurprisingly, yet another novel on the boil.
Works of PD James which we have broadcast include: A Certain Justice, The Skull Beneath the Skin and Cover Her Face - all brilliantly dramatised by Neville Teller. My congratulations to PD James on her recent award.
I cannot resist adding here that following on from P.D. James' stint as ‘guest editor’ on BBC Radio 4's Today programme in December 2009, presenter Evan Davies commented " She shouldn’t be guest-editing; she should be permanently presenting the programme!".
I was interested to read that one of the sessions at the Harrogate Festival was entitled V ice Society, which included a debate on female writers and crime fiction. Apparently sales of crime fiction have increased by 80% in the past decade, and more than half of all crime novels are written by women. Some might say that their works are more terrifying than those written by men. Certainly dramatisation of female crime writers' novels are well represented on radio, ranging from Agatha Christie to Sara Paretsky.
Recognising the popularity of crime fiction, we have recently introduced an extra 45-minute crime slot on Saturdays at 1.15 (currently Baldi) - plus an extra 90 minute crime drama on Sundays at 1.30 (currently an Agatha Christie Poirot nove)l.
I hope you are enjoying these drama additions to the schedule.
Mary Kalemkerian,Head of Programming,  BBC Radio4 Extra

Cover caption

Photo:Roger Morton 
Precarious gardening in Angouleme - the garden is above the house. Water those walls with care.

26 July 2011

Claudia's cartoon


The Land
Rudyard Kipling

(suggested to me by environmentalist, Graham White. ed)

Not for any beast that burrows, not for any bird that flies,
Would I lose his large sound council, miss his keen amending eyes.
He is bailiff, woodman, wheelwright, field-surveyor, engineer,
And if flagrantly a poacher--'tain't for me to interfere.

"Hob, what about that River-bit?" I turn to him again,
With Fabricius and Ogier and William of Warenne.
"Hev it jest as you've a mind to, but"-and here he takes command.
For whoever pays the taxes old Mus' Hobden owns the land. When Julius Fabricius, Sub-Prefect of the Weald,
In the days of Diocletian owned our Lower River-field,
He called to him Hobdenius - a Briton of the Clay,
Saying: "What about that River-piece for layin' in to hay?"

And the aged Hobden answered: "I remember as a lad
My father told your father that she wanted dreenin' bad.
An' the more that you neglect her the less you'll get her clean.
Have it jest as you've a mind to, but, if I was you, I'd dreen."

So they drained it long and crossways in the lavish Roman style--
Still we find among the river-drift their flakes of ancient tile,
And in drouthy middle August, when the bones of meadows show,
We can trace the lines they followed sixteen hundred years ago.

Then Julius Fabricius died as even Prefects do,
And after several centuries, Imperial Rome died too.
Then did robbers enter Britain from across the Northern main
And our Lower River-field was won by Ogier the Dane.

Well could Ogier work his war-boat --well could Ogier wield his brand--
Much he knew of foaming waters--not so much of farming land.
So he called to him a Hobden of the old unaltered blood,
Saying: "What about that River-piece; she doesn't look no good?"

And that aged Hobden answered "'Tain't for me to interfere.
But I've known that bit o' meadow now for five and fifty year.
Have it jest as you've a mind to, but I've proved it time on ' time,
If you want to change her nature you have got to give her lime!"

Ogier sent his wains to Lewes, twenty hours' solemn walk,
And drew back great abundance of the cool, grey, healing chalk.
And old Hobden spread it broadcast, never heeding what was in't.--
Which is why in cleaning ditches, now and then we find a flint.

Ogier died. His sons grew English - - Anglo-Saxon was their name--
Till out of blossomed Normandy another pirate came;
For Duke William conquered England and divided with his men,
And our Lower River-field he gave to William of Warenne.

But the Brook (you know her habit) rose one rainy autumn night
And tore down sodden flitches of the bank to left and right.
So, said William to his Bailiff as they rode their dripping rounds:
"Hob, what about that River-bit--the Brook's got up no bounds? "

And that aged Hobden answered: "'Tain't my business to advise,
But ye might ha' known 'twould happen from the way the valley lies.
Where ye can't hold back the water you must try and save the sile. (soil)
Hev it jest as you've a mind to, but, if I was you, I'd spile!"  [line the banks with timber]

They spiled along the water-course with trunks of willow-trees,
And planks of elms behind 'em and immortal oaken knees.
And when the spates of Autumn whirl the gravel-beds away
You can see their faithful fragments, iron-hard in iron clay.

Georgii Quinti Anno Sexto, I, who own the River-field,
Am fortified with title-deeds, attested, signed and sealed,
Guaranteeing me, my assigns, my executors and heirs
All sorts of powers and profits which-are neither mine nor theirs,

I have rights of chase and warren, as my dignity requires.
I can fish- but Hobden tickles--I can shoot--but Hobden wires.
I repair, but he re-opens, certain gaps which, men allege,
Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.

Shall I dog his morning progress o'er the track-betraying dew?
Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew?
Confiscate his evening faggot under which my conies ran,   [faggot =firewood]
And summons him to judgment? I would sooner summons Pan!

His dead are in the churchyard--thirty generations laid.
Their names were old in history when Domesday Book was made;
And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line
Have seeded, rooted, fruited in some land the Law calls mine.

Not for any beast that burrows, not for any bird that flies,
Would I lose his large sound council, miss his keen amending eyes.
He is bailiff, woodman, wheelwright, field-surveyor, engineer,
And if flagrantly a poacher--'tain't for me to interfere.

"Hob, what about that River-bit?" I turn to him again,
With Fabricius and Ogier and William of Warenne.
"Hev it jest as you've a mind to, but"-and here he takes command.
For whoever pays the taxes old Mus' Hobden owns the land.