BEGIN WITH THE BATS, PLEASE.
including the Straw-coloured Flying Fox and the Gambian Epauletted Fruit
Bat are known to pollinate
Neem Tree flowers. (1)
DOES THE NEEM TREE HAVE A LONG HISTORY OF BEING FABULOUS?
Yes, it has
been known to be fabulous for a long, long time. The Neem Tree grew first
in India. It is mentioned many times for its healing properties in Indian
medical writings, the Ayurveda.(3) Those writings date back to 2500 years
before the present. (5)
THE NEEM TREE MUST BE WELL KNOWN TO INDIAN FAMILIES.
Yes, from birth until death.
Neem leaves are scattered on the floor before a wedding and the air is fanned with Neem Tree branches.(6)
A newborn baby is fanned with a branch of the Neem Tree.(6)
Neem Tree oil is used to heal childhood injuries and illnesses.
The day begins for many Indian people with a purifying drink of water in which Neem Tree leaves have been left overnight.(2)
Neem Tree oil is used in lamps and to start cooking fires.
Dried beans and rice are stored with Neem Tree leaves or mixed with Neem Tree oil to prevent insects from eating them.(2)
Indian people clean food from their teeth with a Neem Tree twig which helps to prevent cavities and gum disease.(2)
Neem Tree leaves, bark, roots and seeds are used in various preparations to treat every imaginable human illness and injury.(6)
When life ends, the body is covered with Neem Tree branches. Wood from the Neem Tree feeds the flames of the funeral pyre.(6)
DOES THE NEEM TREE GROW ONLY IN INDIA?
No. It grows very easily from seeds and also from root suckers. It grows well in parts of the world where the soil is poor, dry and salty. The Neem Tree roots do not like wet earth. The Neem Tree is not discouraged by weed companions.(3)
the fact you would have a village pharmacy outside your door, you would
also have an excellent evergreen shade tree. You would not have to worry
about it dying in a drought. You would never have to buy a toothbrush. Just
step outside and break off a twig. AND if you lived in the tropics, you
would have fruit bat visitors.
IS THE NEEM TREE GETTING ATTENTION WORLDWIDE?
most emphatically. One scientist of reknown, Noel D. Vietmeyer, National
Research Council, said: “I’ve never come across a plant with
the potential the Neem has.”(8)
WHY DID THE SCIENTIST SAY THAT?
In 1959 Heinrich Schumutterer, a German entomologist, saw that when there was a plague of leaf-eating locusts in Sudan, the Neem Tree’s leaves weren’t eaten. Other trees were stripped of their leaves.(4)
Research done after that showed that every part of the Neem Tree, especially the seeds, contain azadirachtin which protects plants and stored plant products from being eaten by insects.(2)
The big plus for the use of azadirachtin on plants is that it is not a poison that we have to eat when we eat the plant food. It is also not a poison that birds, spiders, ladybugs and bats have to eat when they eat the insects that have eaten the azadirachtin.(2)
HOW DOES AZADIRACHTIN WORK IF IT DOESN’T POISON THE INSECT PLANT EATERS?
The plant-eating creatures live, but they can no longer lay fertile eggs or have healthy offspring. Or they may no longer be able to eat properly to keep themselves alive, so they die without mating and having more plant-eating offspring.
You can see that azadirachtin is not fast acting. It is not good for an unexpected plague of locusts. Its effects are long term, but at the same time insects are less likely to develop a resistance to it. Insects have developed a resistance many of the pesticides we have used so far.(9)
People who can get Neem Tree seeds can make their own ecology-friendly pesticide. They dry the seeds, grind the kernels, and sprinkle that meal mixed with sawdust on their plants. Or they can mix oil from the seeds in with their stored beans. They can also put Neem Tree leaves in with their stored beans and grains. Doing these things with Neem Tree seeds and leaves will protect a rural family’s crops and stored food. (3)
ARE THERE OTHER USES FOR THE COMPOUNDS FROM THE NEEM TREE?
experiments have shown that compounds in the Neem Tree can kill human cancer
cells, can provide effective birth control for men and women, can kill a
number of common fungi and have good results in treating diabetes and heart
WHAT IS EVERYONE WAITING FOR? WHY DON’T WE GET THE MAGIC NEEM TREE PRODUCTS INTO USE?
There are neem-based pesticides already in use.(9) The medicines for humans have to have expensive lengthy tests before they can be put on the market, but there are many neem-based shampoos, soaps available.
wood of the Neem Tree is also outstanding. Termites don’t eat it.
Houses and furniture and fences built from Neem Tree wood last a long time.(3)
Neem Tree branches make good poles. Poles are very important for people in rural parts of the world, especially poles that are not eaten by termites.(3)
The wood of
the Neem Tree is an excellent fuel as firewood and charcoal (3), both of
which are also very important in rural communities in the developing world.
I CAN’T IMAGINE CUTTING A NEEM TREE DOWN TO BUILD A FENCE OR A FIRE!
need houses and fences and fires. Luckily the Neem Tree grows readily
from seed and grows well in poor conditions.
SURELY THAT IS THE END OF THE NEEM TREE STORY.
the last thing I will say about the Neem Tree but it is certainly not
the last thing that could be said.
One of the insect larvae that destroys corn harvests is the European Corn Borer. Azadirachtin from the Neem Tree has been very effective in tests on European Corn Borer larvae.(3)
Neem Tree product is used in corn fields in the southern states of North
America, the corn will be receiving double protection from bats.
LOOKING BAT! IS THIS THE END?
Just one last thing, off the subject, but so interesting.
The model for the Mexican Free-tailed Bat above is a bat named Pongo. In 2003 Pongo lived and hunted for moths and other insects somewhere in North America. But one day he ended up in the hold of a trans-Atlantic cargo ship and, finally, on a dock in England. As you can imagine, the tiny bat was very weak and near death from starvation and lack of water.
Pongo's life was saved by the dockworker who reported finding him and the restorative care of a Bat Group member in southeastern England. With the cooperation of veterinarians and government agencies in both Britain and the U.S. and American Airlines, Pongo was sent back to the United States on a flight bound for the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas.
He was met at the airport by U.S. batworkers and taken to Bat World Sanctuary in Mineral Wells, Texas. Because of a wrist injury Pongo did not pass the flight test for release and his active plant-protection days are over. He is living out his days well-fed and in comfortable accommodations with other members of his species. (7)
THIS IS THE END (for now)
M.S. 1991. Flying Fox (Chiroptera:Pteropodidae) Pollination, Seed Dispersal,
and Economic Importance: A Tabular Summary of Current Knowledge, Resource
Publication No. 2, Bat Conservation International
(6)Lilot, Loetitia S., The Neem
Tree, The Village Pharmacy, Ethnobotanical Leaflets; http://www.siu.edu/~ebl/leaflets/neem.htm
Written and illustrated by Mary Louise Alley-Crosby who thanks Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle of Bat Conservation International, Austin, Texas, for permission to use his photograph of the Gambian Epauletted Fruit Bat as source material, and Amanda Lollar of Bat World Sanctuary, Mineral Wells, Texas, for permission to use her photograph of Pongo,a Mexican Free-tailed Bat, as source material. Thank you also to the Lubee Bat Conservancy for permission to use the photograph of the straw-coloured flying fox.
Updated October 2006
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