Monday, May 27, 2013

Bees and blooms: lots of buzz in iliau and `ohi`a right now

The honeybees of Koke`e are in the clover this month.

Well, not so much clover, but they're a satisfied bunch of bees.

There's an amazing bloom of both `ohi`a and Kaua`i's charismatic `iliau (flowering stalk at right, bee on a floret below) going on, and the flowers are abuzz with the honeybees and other pollinators.

If you're on Kaua`i or going to be, this would be a good time to drive up the Koke`e Road and visit the Iliau Nature Loop, where hundreds of stalks, each with dozens of flowers, are glistening creamy in the sunshine.

Iliau, Wilkeskia gymnoiphium, spends most of its life as a little starburst of pale green leaves on a stalk no thicker than a ti leaf stem, and then from May to July it blooms into this amazing column of blossoms. And then it dies.

This Kaua`i relative of the silversword and greensword is covered with sticky sap--to deter crawling insects and give airborne pollinators an edge?

The `ohi`a are blooming as well, and you can walk up and watch the bees dive into the flowers to get at the rich source of sap, which flows deep beneath crimson columns topped with pollen.

Native Hawaiian solitary bees were once described as among the most common Hawaiian insects. They are rare today, and the honeybee appears to have stepped up to fill some of their role in pollinating native Hawaiian plants--along with all of the fruit pollination duties they perform.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fishing gear dominates marine debris on Hawaiian beaches

Fishing gear continues to dominate the debris washing up on Hawaiian shores after the March 11, 2011, Japan tsunami.

An islandwide beach debris collection at Kaho`olawe by the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission was held March 13 and 14. Volunteers collected 2,029 pounds of debris.

Of that, more than three-quarters was clearly from ocean or waterway activities. More than 56 percent consisted of buoys and floats, many of them associated with fishing activities.

Some of those floats were contaminated with mussels not native to Hawai`i. 

The data was tallied by Keep the Hawaiian Island Beautiful, and the cleanups were partially funded through a grant from the Ocean Conservancy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The cleanup came up with 8,268 pieces of debris. By quantity, they included 4676 buoys or floats, 1,365 plastic beverage bottles and 16 glass ones; 675 pieces of rope, 592 fishing traps such as crab traps, 172 caps and lids, 168 pieces of fishing net.

Items totaling less than 100 units included 92 toys, 88 shoes or pieces of clothing, 77 strapping bands, 73 crates, 72 oil/lube bottles, 52 fishing lures or light sticks, 33 straws or stirrers, 30 car parts, 23 cigarette lighters, 18 eating implements, 16 plastic bags, and a dozen pieces of fishing line.

In small numbers were six beverage cans, five bleach or cleaner bottles, two food containers, two pieces of shotgun shell, one si-pack holder, a balloon and one light bulb.

Percentage-wise, the big items were 57 percent buoys or floats, 16 percent plastic bottles, 8 percent ropes, 7 percent crab, lobster or fishing traps, 2 percent fishing lures or light sticks, 2 percent caps and lids, 1 percent shoes or clothing, 1 percent toys, and everything else less than 1 percent per category.

The cleanup also collected tiny bits of plastic—microplastics—which are being processed by the University of Hawai`i at Manoa pending research on them at a later time.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2013