Have You started segregating your waste?!

Ever since the segregation of Solid Waste at source has been made mandatory, there is a state of anxiety among the citizens of Nashik. Few believes the idea is good for environment. Few didn't give it a damn. Others started segregating the waste as not doing so may invite a penalty. But soon, more & more people started segregating their waste as Nashik Municipal Corporation started collecting fine from residential as well as commercial complexes.

Why this agitation and panic faces all around? Is it that difficult to segregate the solid waste, which actually is a resource?? And that's too for our own sake & future??? Not at all!

Remember 3 years back, on 5th anniversary of Gifting Trees..., We have discussed about the amount of waste going to local dumping yard?! It is time to act on it...if You don't want get penalized. :-)

Well... Segregation of Waste is very simple to do. I have already mentioned it in my previous articles about Composting techniques. One have to store Wet Waste like Vegetables residues, discarded food, egg shells, tea powder etc in Green Container. Dry Waste like newspaper, plastic, bottles, metal scrap, old clothes & footwear etc should go into Blue container. For other Dangerous Waste like Pesticide or colour bins, Electronic waste, CFLs, Tubes, Blade & Needles etc must go into Red container. Used Sanitary napkins & Diapers can also go into the Red one.

The Corporation is working hard on spreading the awareness and necessity of segregation at source.

It is due the interest taken by Nashik Municipal Corporation in this issue, Now people are asking & enquiring about the ways to segregate and recycle waste. Isn't it a good sign?! Oh yes, IT IS..!

Yes...there are still few people, who find excuses to do it, who complains about Garbage Van workers that they carry our segregated waste into the single container. Well, that is not the reason for You to avoid the segregation. Forget about the environment, This very simple step is necessary for our future generations. It is the time to act...

Toady is 5th May! Eight years went by, and here We are celebrating the anniversary of Gifting Trees again! :) Last year, We have planted 63 saplings of native trees and am happy to tell you that majority of them are flourishing well..! 

Every Day is Environment Day!!!

A tree-lover needs no occasion for tree plantation. This 31st May, my father, Dr Prashant Phalak retired from his services. As per his wish, he wanted to plant 58 trees on his retirement. This idea was so fascinating that his office colleagues and staff also decided to volunteer for the same.

Early morning of 31/05/2017, we all with the Native saplings, reached the venue, which was a Municipal Corporation space reserved for senior citizen. Slowly people started gathering and soon, members of Senior Citizen Club joined us too. They all were inquisitive about the saplings' name and growing techniques.

So, around 63 saplings were planted by a group of 18 self-motivated tree lovers. The home grown saplings of Banyan, Peepal, Mango, Pongam treeJackfruit, Red Silk-Cotton tree, Arjun, Mahua, Indian Tulip, Indian Cherry, Jamun, Wild Date Palm, Curry Leaf, Indian Cork tree, TamarindDrumstick tree etc. were planted in the soil. We usually plant a sapling with a plastic bottle which is cut from base, obviously to facilitate the watering process. This method helps a lot in summer as you just need to pour water into the bottle and over the period of time, water slowly percolates near roots of the saplings. I have learned and adapted these new methods because We are not interested in mere Plantation. Hence we need to think about the nurturing of the saplings also. Each & every planted sapling will be looked after.

Here are the snapshots of the event...

This event inspired few of the members and they also wished to plant few Native trees. Some of them visited my small nursery where I grow my own saplings and learned some of the seed germination and plantation techniques. So astonished to see the trees we have planted so far, Dr Deshmukh and Dr Jadhav decided to plant few saplings near their office premises. My father not only donated 40 saplings to them, but happily helped them to plant the saplings on occasion of World Environment Day. What a day!

5th June is not just a tree plantation day. Let us hope & try to look after the planted saplings till next Environment Day. But as said earlier, it is very easy to plant a sapling, but a way more difficult to nurture it! Hopefully, We all will look after the saplings and see them grow into trees..! :)

The Joy of Growing Trees!

Its been seven years...
Seven years of plantation...
Seven years of nurturing...
Seven years of love for Native trees, Ecosystem and Environment... :)

When you plant a sapling, you start looking after it. You tend to admire its day-to-day growth. And one fine day...you realize that the sapling which is on the verge of becoming a tree, needs no further care. Rather the tree starts looking after your needs...as the tree starts flowering and fruiting!

Its a great great experience which can not be described in words, to see the tree planted by you, flowering in different colours; to taste its delicious fruits! And out of all, its a wonderful, joyous feeling... that no one can purchase or no one can snatch. But one can surely experience it... by planting, nurturing and growing native trees!

The trees that we had planted seven years ago, have already started flowering and fruiting. Seeds of trees like Mango, Indian Beech, Neem, Gamhar, Sita-Ashoka etc have also started producing new saplings, to be planted somewhere and flourish. :)

You might remember, on the second anniversary of Gifting Trees, we had started a segment named Tree Rescue. It was based on the fact that the saplings growing on walls or any other undesired place in urban areas, should get a fair chance to grow. In fact such saplings are capable of surviving in harsh conditions. The seeds of species like Banyan, Peepal or Cluster Fig are often dispersed by birds and one can see them growing on walls or buildings; where either their growth is limited or they are short-lived. One just need to transplant them carefully somewhere where they can flourish. You will be very pleased to know that the rescued saplings of Peepal tree are now almost 25-30 feet tall and are growing in full speed. Yes, they can be called as Trees now!

Last year, we have planted 9 native saplings. How many have you..? Want to experience the same great joyous feeling... Come, plant & dedicate native trees! And grow them..!

Love can do miracles..!

Last year, my cute little niece Poorvi planted a Banyan tree sapling on the eve of Vat Pournima in a public garden. Though a small incident, it was published in a leading local news paper, as to inspire all of us to make effort for green future of the next generation. 

I still remember the day. There were few children playing in that garden accompanied by their parents. Watching a little girl planting a sapling, they all gathered around her and there started a conversation. Couple of them were just standing out of curiosity. Few started discussing about the decreased tree cover of Nashik. Apparently, out of them, one fine lady had no liking for Banyan and she was apprehensive about the spreading roots of Banyan which could disturb the foundation of adjacent buildings. Quite the contrary, the younger generation was in favor of Banyan tree as thy couldn't easily spot one in that garden with majority of introduced 'alien' trees. 

I had to explain the lady that the residential buildings are at least 40 meters away from this very plantation site, and in fact she need not to worry as it may take minimum 2 or 3 centuries to grow this Banyan that big. I also urged her that we should gift & preserve such trees for our next generation so that they also understand the importance of Native species.

The young brigade not only offered a helping hand, but few of them also committed to water the sapling regularly. Their faces were radiant enough with the joy of planting a tree. It was a signal to all the adults that instead of doing just the talking, we actually did it! Meanwhile, my father, Dr Prashant Phalak used to look after it periodically. I, personally, visited the spot four months back. That time, the sapling was very much good in condition. 

Last week, I happened to be there with my niece. And trust me, I was astonished to see that the Banyan has grown beyond 5 feet in less than a year! My niece was also delighted to see it growing so fast.

Love & care from young ones was more powerful than apprehension and fear of adults. It was that love which must have nurtured the sapling, I guess! Indeed, love can do miracles!

Today is 6th anniversary of 'Gifting Trees...' During last year, We have planted 12 saplings. And I promise you all, we will soon cross 300...may be on this Environment Day itself. Let there be love for Native trees everywhere...always!!!

Garden-Friendly Bugs!

Bugs, flies and beetles are all around us. Many people think of all insects as pests without knowing that many of them are garden friendly or beneficial insects. These beneficial insects each play an important role in our environment.

Is there really such a thing as a good bug? Obviously! Unlike Humans, Mother Nature has kept everything balanced in the environment. A nice bug does no harm; rather it will control those insects which eat any of your plants or crops. A really good bug eats those insects that destroy your plants or crops. Some of these insects help the gardener by pollinating flowers, while predatory insects eat other pest insects. There are other insects that break down decaying matter, helping to build good soil.

We never tend to appreciate the insects, forget about their lifecycles. We just want to get rid of them all. But they have a very important role to play in the Environment. Even the most avid gardeners may not be interested in the reproductive cycles of the green lacewing, but when they realize that one prolific female lacewing could be responsible for wiping out 40,000 pests each season, they can’t close their wide open mouth!

Attracting these “garden friendly” insects and be greatly beneficial to your garden, thus the reason they are called beneficial insects. Protect your beneficial insects by avoiding toxic sprays/dusts.

Below is a list of the top beneficial insects and what they do to help. Most insect problems can be biologically controlled with these insects…

Bees - There are over 20,000 species of bees worldwide. Several hundred of these species; from Giant honey bee to small Stingless bees, all are important pollinators of garden plants and many others necessary to wild plants. Attract native bees by planting a flower garden with as long of a bloom season as possible.

Parasitic wasps – Ranging from tiny Trichogramma wasps to huge ichneumonid wasps, parasitic wasps inject their eggs into pest insects. The larvae hatch and grow by absorbing nourishment through their skins, eventually killing the host insect.

Many of the solitary wasps are parasitoidal, meaning that they raise their young by laying eggs on or in the larvae of other insects. The wasp larvae eat the host larvae, eventually killing them. Solitary wasps parasitize almost every pest insect, making wasps valuable in horticulture for biological pest control of species such as whitefly in tomatoes and other crops.

Bee Flies - These are family of flies, some of which are really beautiful to see. the adults feed mainly on nectar and pollen, acting as important pollinators, while their larvae generally are predators or parasitoids of  eggs & larvae of other insects.

Braconid Wasp - Braconid wasps have such a strong reputation as killers of pests that they are widely used in agriculture. A few adults prey on other adult insects, but most feed on pollen. It's the larvae that are extremely valuable controls of garden, farm and forest pests. Egg and larval stages of various braconid wasp species chow down on larvae, pupae or nymphs of numerous pest moths, aphids, beetles, flies, ants or other bugs.
Yellow Jackets and Hornets - Although feared by many people, these insects are actually wonderful pest predators. They dive into foliage and carry off insects that are damaging your plants to feed their brood. Potter wasp is one the examples of solitary predator.

Lady beetles – A favorite with home gardeners, ladybugs are the best known beneficial insects around. There are more than 3,000 species of these small to medium sized beetles. Both adults and larvae eat thousands of pests, feeding on small insects such as aphids, mealy bugs, and spider mites. Also favored are corn flies, soft scales, whitefly and a wide variety of other soft-bodied, plant-eating insects. 

Ground beetles – Why they're good: A pest killer in two stages of its lifecycle, this beetle enjoys snails, slugs, cutworms, gypsy moth larvae, root maggots, tent caterpillars, Colorado potato beetle larvae and other pests that spend a stage of their lifecycle in the soil. Larvae feed on other ground larvae and insect eggs; one grub can eat at least 50 caterpillars. These medium to large, blue-black beetles hide under stones and logs/boards during the day. At night they prey on cutworms, cabbage root maggots, snails/slugs and their eggs. Some ground beetles will even climb trees and feed on armyworms or tent caterpillars. 

Rove beetles – These small to medium beetles look like earwigs without pincers. Many of this species help in decomposing manure and plant material, while others prey on root maggots.

Syrphid flies – Also called flower or hover flies. Imagine a pest-killing machine devouring enormous numbers of aphids, up to 400 during this stage.  these black and yellow or black and white striped flies are commonly mistaken for bees. Laying their eggs in aphid colonies; the larvae then feed on the aphids. 

Tachinid flies – Large, dark grey flies that place their eggs and larvae on cutworms, caterpillers, stinkbugs, and other pest insects. Tachinid flies are also natural suppressors of armyworm or tent caterpillar outbreaks. 

Dragonflies – Along with the smaller Damselflies, dragonflies feed on mosquitoes, gnats, and midges, filling their mouths with prey as they zig-zag around the garden. As adults, dragonflies eat other insects and can consume hundreds of mosquitoes in one day! They are valued as predators, since they help control populations of harmful insects. Dragonflies are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic. Adult dragonflies do not bite or sting humans. 

Firefly larvae are predators of various insects, slugs, and snails.

Lacewings - As with most garden "police" insects, the lifecycle is the secret and the law enforcement is all in the larval stage. Larvae, often called "aphid lions," are among the most efficient predators of aphids. They also prey on the eggs and immature stages of small, soft-bodied insects such as mealybugs, thrips, spider mites and leaf-hoppers.
The larvae, which resembles a tiny alligator, feed on small insects including aphids, scale insects, and corn flies.

Spiders and Mites – Although they are not really insects, spiders are some of the best pest predators around, feeding on the larger pest insects. Predatory mites, also arachnids, feed on plant-feeding mites, such as spider mites, rust mites, and cyclamen mites. Some will also feed on aphids and corn flies, while other soil-dwelling mites eat insect eggs, fungus gnat larvae, or decaying organic material.

Scarab Beetles - Many scarabs are scavengers that recycle dung, carrion, or decaying plant material. Most of these beetles are nocturnal; except for the Flower Chafers and many Leaf Chafers, which are active during the day. 

The name "Robber flies" reflects their notoriously aggressive predatory habits; they feed mainly or exclusively on other insects and as a rule they wait in ambush and catch their prey in flight. feed on small arthropods, mainly insects.

Beneficial Nematodes are microscopic, non-segmented roundworms that naturally occur in soil and are used to control soil pest insects. They only attack soil dwelling insects without exposing plants, earthworms, humans or animals to any health or environmental risks. Thus totally a safe biological control in pest insects. Inside the nematode's gut is the real weapon..symbiotic bacteria that when released inside an insect kill it within 24 to 48 hours.

Most of the wild creatures need a natural habitat to accomplish their work. Although many of these areas have been reduced in the past, recently more are being restored to attract the creatures back. Each of us can help to restore habitats even if we don’t completely understand how ecosystems work and cannot fully return an area to its wild state. Planting Nirgudi (Vitex Nigundo) for butterflies, providing organic growing conditions for plants that bees visit for pollen and nectar, choosing garden plants that are first and foremost beneficial to wildlife (not primarily because they are beautiful), helping to keep an existing patch of forest from being destroyed to develop more concrete buildings, are within the capacity of most of us...

A Sword To Kill A Fly?

Do you face problems due to pests such as insects? What do you do to control these insects and to save your garden or farm?

We often resort to pesticides to deal with garden the pests. Let’s consider what happens when you attempt to poison pests. Pesticides don’t just control unwanted beetles and slugs. They often kill more than just the target nuisance, including beneficial natural predators like lady bugs. A general insecticide will kill the majority of bugs in an area, but more than 90 percent of them were beneficial or benign. Furthermore, if a pesticide gets into your soil, it may also harm soil organisms that help to keep your plants healthy. By their nature, pesticides present risk to animals, humans, and the environment because they are designed to harm living organisms. As time passes, they keep accumulating in our soil and water bodies.

In a balanced ecosystem, predators will be in the minority. In other words, in an environment, there are many more prey organisms to ensure a continuous food supply for the predators. In such an eco-system, there are huge numbers of prey including, aphids, white flies, cabbage worms, leaf miners, mole crickets, spider mites, and others that may be eating your crops, lawns, and landscape plants, but relatively few predator bugs such as assassin bugs and relatively few bug predators such as lizards, frogs, toads, birds and bats.

As your landscape recovers from the poisoning, bugs will begin to multiply again, but since you’ve killed off the beneficial insects that used to keep them under control, the predators that survived the poisoning have moved away to areas where they can make a living. Many harmful bugs, possibly including new pests that were previously controlled, will recover in even greater numbers than ever before. You spray again and the process repeats itself and each time the most damaging pests will recover in ever increasing numbers. Repeated poisonings often encourage resistance to that pesticide, and people then switch to even stronger poisons in higher concentrations. Thus, in short, you are choosing the most resistant pest to multiply and it is getting harder & harder to control these pests. 

It’s time to break that cycle of harmful pesticides and manage your landscape as a complete ecosystem by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Like an old Korean proverb - ‘Do not draw your sword to kill a fly’, there are many ways to control pests instead of resorting to pesticides.

Relying on insect predators and other eco-friendly strategies to control your pests is not a matter of sitting back and doing nothing. As with any other effective gardening method, it requires awareness, education, experimentation, effort and patience. While it’s easy to recognize the larger pest predators, identifying the good & the bad bug is more challenging, but it’s a vital step for ecosystem gardening. Many insects that we see are actually beneficial, such as butterflies, bees, ladybugs, lacewings and fireflies. For Example, Butterflies & bees perform the important function of pollinating our crops and flowers, helping plants to reproduce. Lady Beetles and lacewings eat aphids, scale insects, plant-feeding mites and insect eggs.

We have to have it in mind that it is pretty natural to have a few bugs nibbling on your plants. If you keep your soil and your backyard ecosystem healthy, Mother Nature will normally keep things from getting out of hand. The discovery of one caterpillar in a row of thriving vegetables is quite natural. One possible solution is to expect and tolerate a certain amount of pest activity.

When control of pests is necessary, there are many options to choose from before resorting to pesticide. The best way to control pests is to head the problem off before it gets started. Plant a diversity of Native plants that bloom all year. Many predators supplement their diets with pollen and nectar, so the same blossoms which make your garden beautiful will tend to attract the insect predators that you need to defend it. One may also choose from wide range of cheap IPM methods like installing insect traps, pheromone kits etc. Plant some nectar-rich flora alongside the vegetables and along with beauty, you will get protection too! Try and find out which Good bugs are there in your garden...as they are working day & night to look after your garden!

Bee Positive!

Albert Einstein once quoted as saying “If the bees disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Though it isn't entirely obvious, it is true that if bees & other pollinating flies were to disappear, humans would have no way to pollinate plants. If we were unable to pollinate plants, we would be unable to grow them, which of course, would lead to worldwide famine and eventually human extinction as well. The good news is there are things we can do to stop honey bee extinction before it becomes devastating.

Why Honey Bees and other flies are going extinct..?

No one knows the exact reason. Biologists have several theories and the real reason is likely to be a combination of several of these theories. One such theory is based on the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides that are being ingested by honey bees as they collect pollen from plants and flowers.

Another popular theory as to why honey bee populations have decreased is due to global warming. Though the warming of the Earth is not affecting the bees themselves, it is causing increased populations of mites, viruses and fungi, which are in turn, killing off the bees.

The third popular theory on possible bee extinction is due to vulnerability to electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is specifically caused by cell phones and wireless communication towers.

Though it is possible that honey bees can become extinct, it is imperative that we stop the process of honey bee extinction now, before the devastating results are able to set in. As you can see, taking small steps in your own yard or neighborhood can bring safety and results in the race to save bees. Since we share this Earth with other creatures, it is only fair that we offer a helping hand when possible. It could, indeed, save human-kind as well.

Bees and flowering plants have a mutually dependent relationship which has developed over the eons in such a way that it benefits both the plants and the insects; they both need each other.

The bees’ food is provided entirely by the plants they visit. To attract the bees to the plant and consequently as a reward for their pollination services, plants provide bees with nectar & pollen.  Nectar is a food source rich in energy and pollen is a source of protein, used by young bees. Honey bees turn the nectar into honey and store the pollen in the cells of the honeycomb.  Storing food allows honey bees to survive in times of scarcity and across a wide range of habitats and climatic conditions, making the honey bee one of the earth's most adaptable species.

While honey bees and other insects are visiting flowers to feed, they spread pollen from one plant to another. Bees and trees are interdependent and have been perfecting their relationship over the last 50 million years or so bringing about pollination and the production of viable seed. Trees do not need bees simply for their own reproduction but for maintenance and regeneration of the whole system within which trees exist. The more species of fruits & seeds generating within an ecosystem, the greater its diversity and the richer its life carrying capacity. Trees and bees represent a truly harmonious symbiosis. Rural people can generate income from this symbiosis while at the same time helping to safeguard natural habitats by the sustainable use of bee resources. 

In most developing countries, the main honey sources come from trees. Beekeepers can protect their honey harvest by protecting the trees and plants that give the bees both food and shelter. Many honey bearing trees have other useful purposes as well, so protecting trees not only helps the bees, but also improves & preserves the local environment and enhances other strands of the bee farmers' livelihood.

One independent study has found, the losses of wild pollinators from agricultural landscapes could threaten global crop yields. One has to understand how the losses of wild pollinators impact crop production. The more wild pollinators a field contained, the more fruit it produced. Farm should include habitat for both honeybees & wild insect.

However, great changes have taken place over the last 50 years and the over-exploitation of forest now threatens the very existence of humankind. Because the value of trees is not fully appreciated trees are often disregarded during the expansion of other agriculture. One of today's greatest challenges is to save and protect forests and find sustainable management systems that provide food and income for future generations. The loss of forest resources will result in the loss of honeybee colonies as well as other essential pollinators.

Forests worldwide are of priceless ecological value; they prevent soil erosion, control flooding, affect rainfall, store and recycle nutrients, and provide habitats for vast numbers of plant and animal species. Beekeeping is therefore central to community forestry activities. The trees are essential for the survival and production of bees. Trees provide materials for beehives as well as the parent colonies and herbal materials that aid hive colonization. Trees protect the colonies from extremes of temperature while the floral diversity within the forest provides a sound basis for a sustainable beekeeping sector. The bees pollinate the tree flowers helping to regenerate the resource and the involvement of beekeepers in community forestry projects improves people's participation and leads to greater protection of the resource. It is important to understand the multi purpose value of trees and forests if we are to have any hope of conserving existing forests or developing new forest activities. Income from bees may be one of the fastest ways to bring profitability from more long term community forest projects.

There are three things EVERYONE of us can do to help bees :-

DO provide an environment safe for bees, free from pesticides and pollution.
DO provide good food sources for bees - flower-rich, diverse, with long seasons.
DO maintain bee habitats with nest sites as well as food and water. 

The next time you see a bee buzzing around, remember that much of the food we eat depends significantly on natural insect-mediated pollination - the key ecosystem service that bees and other pollinators provide...free of cost!