Wasp Venom Can Save Lives. But the Supply Chain Is Shaky.
Venom is crucial to make medicines for those with severe allergic reactions to wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket stings.
One morning in the fall of 2019, Zach Techner stepped into a heavily woven white beekeeper’s suit, pulled on rubber boots and thick orange gloves, and wrapped duct tape around his cuffs and along the zipper. He slid safety glasses over his eyes and a netted hood over his head and zipped it shut. He was preparing to collect one of the most dangerous wild creatures in the United States: yellow jackets.
Techner carried a portable vacuum he had MacGyvered into a wasp-sucking machine to a low thicket of blackberry brambles. A dozen of the flying insects made large descending loops towards their nest in the ground. Over the next 45 minutes, he siphoned the yellow jackets — uninjured but surely a little upset — into a plastic juice jug. He stored the trapped insects beneath a layer of dry ice in a cooler to kill them quickly — and avoid damaging the proteins in their venom.
Wasp collecting isn’t always so uneventful, Techner warned. Yellow jackets can attack — especially in the fall when colonies swell and food is scarce — with sharp stings or by contracting their abdomens to spray their venom in their assailant’s eyes. “When you’re in the middle of a nest and there are thousands of them attacking you, hitting the veil, the venom can still get into your eyes,” he said. “It hurts really bad. It can be blinding.”
Europe’s triumphs and troubles are written in Swiss ice
Pollen frozen in ice in the Alps traces Europe’s calamities, since the time Macbeth ruled Scotland
NEW YORK TIMES
As plague swept through Europe in the mid-1300s, wiping out more than a third of the region’s population, a glacier in the Alps was recording the upheaval of medieval society.
While tens of millions of people were dying, pollen from the plants, trees and crops growing in Western Europe were being swept up by the winds and carried toward the Alps.
They became trapped in snowflakes and fell onto the region’s highest mountain, the Monte Rosa massif. Over time, the snow flattened into ever-growing layers of ice, storing a blow-by-blow record of regional environmental change.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL — Recurring wildfires are giving young coniferous forests too little time to mature, and leafy trees, shrubs and grasslands are taking hold in new, unfamiliar ecosystems.
TORONTO STAR — In the years to come, smoky days may become normal as human-caused climate change worsens wildfires across Canada and makes them harder to control.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL — Green space helps people feel less depressed and fatigued, and science is still exploring all the other ways it lifts our spirits. In a global crisis, we could all use more time in nature.
LIVING BIRD MAGAZINE, Winter 2020 — Pittaway has made it his mission to lend some predictability to winter finch sightings by compiling intelligence from his network of naturalists across Canada and the U.S. and analyzing the data to reveal his predictions.
AUDUBON — Thaidene Nëné, declared this summer, is a milestone for an Indigenous-led conservation movement that can help keep carbon in the ground and protect crucial habitat as the planet warms.
ARCTIC TODAY — For more than 10,000 years, dogs have been an integral part of Arctic culture. They have guided sleds across frozen seas, barked warnings of polar bears and sniffed out seal breathing holes.
BIOGRAPHIC — Battling rising seas and creeping asphalt, scientists race to save two endangered species.
ARCTIC TODAY — Most of Canada’s Arctic glaciers are shrinking — and some are already gone. Researchers in two separate studies documented dramatic changes beginning in the 1990s after decades of stability.
SCIENCE — Funding sources are often insufficient to cover expenses, limiting scientists from understanding how Arctic ecosystems are responding to climate change.
BIOGRAPHIC — The Arctic Ocean is beginning to look and act more like the Atlantic. It’s a shift that threatens to upend an entire food web built on frigid waters.
SCIENCE — Nine nations and the European Union have reached a deal to place the central Arctic Ocean (CAO) off-limits to commercial fishers for at least the next 16 years.
BIOGRAPHIC — A remote island that harbored the word’s last mammoths is becoming a holdout for Arctic wildlife once again.
THE ATLANTIC — Business is booming for the state’s peony growers. Will climate change ruin things?
DISCOVER MAGAZINE — Forensic anthropologist Amy Mundorff wants to make the search for the missing safer and more successful.
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