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March 8, 2015: Bee Stings, Tiger Farms, Deadly Sugarcane and More

A thistle long-horned bee begins to stir after spending the evening on a cluster of asters. Many native North American bees are more solitary than their hive-minded honeybee relatives. (photo by Clay Bolt)
A thistle long-horned bee begins to stir after spending the evening on a cluster of asters. Many native North American bees are more solitary than their hive-minded honeybee relatives. (photo by Clay Bolt)

HOUR 1

– Freezing temperatures and exhaustion are two of the more mundane threats that face long distance dog sled racers, but Brent Sass had a less common encounter during this year’s Yukon Quest race. Sass and his team surprised a moose on a road. The moose stomped his hooves right in front of the team, and passed by Sass so close, he “could have given him a high-5”. After the moose encounter, Sass slept late, turning a 10-hour lead into a nap. His well rested team were able to pull Sass to an hour and 12 minute victory after trailing heading into the race’s last leg.

– Last summer, National Geographic photographer Joe Riis got wild and lived outside in the Wyoming wilderness for 8 months. The photographer who prefers to sleep on the ground, studied the migrations of all of the wild animals that lived around him. Riis specializes in photographing migrations and how they interact with each other, and with humans. He tells about how bears and moths have a migration collision. The grizzlies feed on moths during the late summer as they fatten up for winter. Riis explained that the greatest threats to pronghorn and other animals that migrate throughout the year are housing developments, roads, fences and energy projects.

– Photographer Clay Bolt has been studying bees for years. The bee educator wants the public to know that the honeybee is considered an invasive species, and that despite their colony collapse, there are plenty of native North American bees who are just as effective as honeybees at pollenating. Bolt spends much of his work time around bees, but says he has only been stung twice, including once at a National Geographic event, when the bee flew down his shirt.

– Tikal was a stronghold of the Mayan civilization, which ruled throughout Central America. The current National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site protects over 4,000 buildings, including temples and pyramids and served as a city for 1600 years. On a recent trip to Tikal, Boyd spoke with guide Mariela Mayen about the people who once thrived there. Mayan achievements on display at Tikal are their ability to build temples that were bathed in the sun’s direct rays during the winter and summer solstices, displaying a developed calendar and understanding of the cosmos.

– In our This Weekend in History segment, Maggie Turqman highlights the 116th birthday Aspirin’s patent, with the drug’s roots back in antiquity, the 50th anniversary of the police assault on Selma, Alabama’s civil rights protesters, and the 27th return of the Writer’s Guild of America strike that led to the rise of “reality television.”

HOUR 2

– China is well known for its import of wild elephant ivory that fuels Africa’s poaching crisis, but there is a quieter crisis caused by the tiger’s extremely endangered status. Since there are so few of the cats left in the wild, the Chinese government has sanctioned them to be farm-raised in the country. Wildlife investigator and author J.A. Mills says that today’s tiger farms are buoyed by wealthy Chinese consuming them as luxury items. Mills is optimistic that China’s younger generations will reject the trade, as they don’t want to be blamed for the extinction of tigers, elephants and rhinos. But she says that the United States has a captive tiger problem as well, which Chinese officials often cite when Americans demand that they control their market for animal parts. Her new book, Blood of the Tiger is out now.

– Sugarcane is one of the biggest crops in Central America, but harvesting the cane is killing people by the thousand. Filmmaker Ed Kashi, whose recent short documentary “Under Cane” focuses on Chichigalpa, Nicaragua, says that 33% of men in that town die young from end stage renal failure related to working in the fields. The real tragedy is that these deaths are potentially avoidable; there is evidence that more water and rest could prevent many of these cases.

– After a recent spell of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, National Geographic Weekend reached out to NOAA meteorologist Stephen Corfidi to find out why. As it turns out, the two times of the day are similar in the angle that the sun’s light cuts through the Earth’s atmosphere. The light’s angle interacts with air molecules in the lower atmosphere that change how we perceive the sky’s color. Corfidi says that winter tends to get better sun rises than summer because there is less haze in the atmosphere and weather systems move faster, causing cleaner air to be cycled closer to the Earth’s surface, where we get to enjoy the show.

– The United States has been starving for a cheap, domestic and relatively clean fuel source. And, in a throwback, some companies are turning to coal. This is the case in Kemper County, Mississippi, where Southern Company built a plant built by “cheap, clean” coal burning processes. After a months-long investigation, Sara Bernard is less optimistic than the power company seems to be. The $6.17 billion plant will be among the most expensive ever built in the United States, but to help cover costs, it will trap carbon dioxide emissions, which seems good. But the Southern Company will, in turn, sell those emissions to oil companies to pump them into the earth to extract more fossil fuels. Bernard’s thorough investigation of Mississippi’s clean coal plant can be found at Grist.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares his encounters with some of the world’s greatest migratory animals: arctic terns, humpback whales and wildebeest.