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The Trouble with Beekeeping in the Anthropocene

by Bryan Walsh via science.time.com

The beepocalypse is on the cover of TIME, but it looks like managed honeybees will still pull through. Wild bees—and wild species in general—won’t be so lucky in a human-dominated planet.

I’ve written this week’s cover story for the magazine, on the growing threat to honeybees. You can read it (with a subscription) over here. The short version: beginning nearly a decade ago, honeybees started dying off at unusually and mysteriously high rates—this past winter, nearly one-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared. At first this appeared due to something called colony collapse disorder (CCD); hives would be abandoned without warning, with bees seemingly leaving honey and intact wax behind. The apocalyptic nature of CCD—some people really thought the disappearance of the bees indicated that the Rapture was nigh—grabbed the public’s attention. More recently, beekeepers have been seeing fewer cases of CCD proper, but honeybees keep dying and bees keep collapsing. That’s bad for our food system—bees add at least $15 billion in crop value through pollination in the U.S. alone, and if colony losses keep up, those pollination demands may not be met and valuable crops like almonds could wither.

More than the bottom line for grocery stores, though, the honeybee’s plight alarms us because a species that we have tended and depended on for thousands of years is dying—and we don’t really know why. Tom Theobald, a beekeeper and blogger who has raised the alarm about CCD, put that fear this way: “The bees are just the beginning.”

But while we don’t now we exactly what causes CCD or why honeybees are dying in larger numbers, we do know the suspects: pesticides, including the newer class of neonicotinoids that seem to affect bees even at very low levels; biological threats like the vampiric Varroa mite; and the lack of nutrition thanks to monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn, which offer honeybees little in the way of the pollen they need to survive. Most likely, bee deaths are due to a mix of all of those menaces acting together—pesticides and lack of food might weaken honeybees, and pests like Varroa could finish them off, spreading diseases the bees don’t have the strength to resist. Unfortunately, that means there’s no simple way to save the honeybees either. Simply banning, say, neonicotinoids might take some of the pressure off honeybees, but most scientists agree it wouldn’t solve the problem. (And getting rid of neonicotinoids would have unpredictable consequences for agriculture—the pesticides were adopted in part because they are considered safer for mammals, including human beings.) Honeybees are suffering because we’ve created a world that is increasingly inhospitable to them.

Still, for all the alarm, honeybees are likely to pull through. As I point out in the magazine piece, beekeepers have mostly managed to replace lost colonies, though at a cost high enough that some long-time beekeepers are getting out of the business altogether. Beekeepers are buying new queens and splitting their hives, which cuts into productivity and honey production, but keeps their colony numbers high enough to so far meet pollination demands. They’re adding supplemental feed—often sugar or corn syrup—to compensate for the lack of wild forage. The scientific and agricultural community is engaged—see Monsanto’s recent honeybee summit, and the company’s work on a genetic weapon against the Varroa mite. Randy Oliver, a beekeeper and independent researcher, told me that he could see honeybees becoming a feedlot animal like pigs or chickens, bred and kept for one purpose and having their food brought to them, rather than foraging in the semi-wild way they live now. That sounds alarming—and it’s not something anyone in the beekeeping industry would like to see—but it’s also important to remember that honeybees themselves aren’t exactly natural, especially in North America, where they were imported by European settlers in the 17th century. As Hannah Nordhaus, the author of the great book A Beekeeper’s Lamenthas written, honeybees have always been much more dependent on human beings than the other way around.

(MORE: Behind the Bee’s Knees: The Origins of Nine Bee-Inspired Sayings)

The reality is that honeybees are very useful to human beings, and species that are very useful to us—think domesticated animals and pets—tend to do OK in the increasingly human-dominated world we call the Anthropocene. But other wild species aren’t so lucky—and that includes the thousands of species of wild bees and other non-domesticated pollinators. Bumblebees have experienced recent and rapid population loss in the U.S., punctuated by a mass pesticide poisoning in Oregon this past June that led to the deaths of some 50,000 bumblebees. A 2006 report by the National Academies of Science concluded that the populations of many other wild pollinators—especially wild bees—was trending “demonstrably downward.” The threats are much the same ones faced by managed honeybees: pesticides, lack of wild forage, parasites and disease. The difference is that there are thousands of human beings who make it their business to care for and prop up the populations of honeybees. No one is doing the same thing for wild bees. The supposed beepocalypse is on the cover of TIME magazine, but “you don’t hear about the decline of hundreds of species of wild bees,” says Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

That’s meant almost literally—we don’t hear them anymore. The plight of the bees illustrates our outsized influence on the this planet as we reshape it—consciously and not—to meet our immediate needs. But just because we have this power doesn’t mean we fully understand it, or our impact on our own world. We are a species that increasingly has omnipotence without omniscience. That’s a dangerous combination for the animals and plants that share this planet with us.  And eventually, it will be dangerous for us, too.

[Read original post via science.time.com]

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Wanna Save Bees? Kill Your Front Lawn

Save the bees. (Photo: Philippe Huguen)

Save the bees. (Photo: Philippe Huguen)

In Kentucky, Project Pollinator is replacing grass with native flowers—and the early results for bees have been very promising.

The prairies, sloughs and forests of the great North American continent are home to a dazzling array of flowering plants that nourish pollinators from bees to butterflies and hummingbirds (like a green beauty, probably a ruby-throated hummingbird, I saw feeding from a purple coneflower this weekend in my relative’s otherwise grass-dominated backyard in Indianapolis).

But in case you hadn’t noticed, humans have the unfortunate habit of replacing these environs with crop fields and lawns. Perfect, manicured, American lawns.

Both cornfields and lawns are examples of monocultures, swaths of land made up of identical species that provide little food and habitat for native pollinators. They are, in a way, wastelands for pollinators, as pointed out in a story at Scientific American.

These beds of ubiquitous green blades, especially when sprayed with herbicides, offer virtually nothing to bees and other creatures on the hunt for food. Even when grasses are allowed to flower—which isn’t often, since unruly lawns are frowned upon and can decrease property values—most grasses are wind-pollinated and don’t need these animals to carry on their sessile lives.

However, many people are beginning to question the wisdom of the all-encompassing green lawn, and turf is increasingly being replaced by flowering native plants to help pollinators and for aesthetic value. (They also require less maintenance.)

One initiative, called Project Pollinator, is replacing grass with native flowers in Kentucky. Emily Dobbs, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, and colleagues have planted swaths of indigenous blooms at five golf courses in the state. The project, in its second year, is already having an impact, Dobbs said.

When they began the surveys on turf-dominated ground, the researchers mostly came across a single species of honeybee, besides bumblebees and sweat bees. But now, after introducing eight to 16 native species, Dobbs has found about eight bumblebee species, two dozen species of small solitary species like miner and diggers bees, and butterflies, she said. In the fall they will finalize their recommendation as to what mixture of native plants brings in the most indigenous insects.

“We’ve seen much more diversity on samples we’ve taken from the Operation Pollinator plot than in surveys of turf,” Dobbs added.

Thanks to the project, the Marriot, which owns many golf courses, has decided to place native flowers on half of its East Coast courses, according to Scientific American.

For people who want to replace their grass lawns with native plants, “two of the most useful online resources are the websites of The Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to the conservation of invertebrates, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a research unit of the University of Austin Texas dedicated to native plants,”Scientific American reports.

Most states also have extension offices, run by their land grant universities, which can recommend native plants to buy.

About one-third of the major industrial crops are also pollinated by bees and other insects. (Such is not the case with wheat and corn, which are mostly wind-pollinated.) Besides flowers cropping up along plots of turf, demand for native crops, pollinated by indigenous insects, has grown, Dobbs said. These include native squash, alfalfa, cranberries and blueberries, Dobbs said.

Supporting locally-grown foods also helps conserve native pollinators.

One contributor to the recent decline of honeybees may be the lack of diversity found in monocultures, research suggests. But this decline also highlights the importance of maintaining populations of local pollinators, many of which are indeed important for engaging in the dance of pollination that allows farmers to put bread (or cranberries) on the table.

So what are you waiting for? Add some flowers to that lawn. The bees will thank you.

[read original post via takepart.com]

Read full story · Posted in News

The Plight of the Honeybee

[via time.com]

TimeBee

Mass deaths in bee colonies may mean disaster for farmers–and your favorite foods

You can thank the Apis mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls you’ll eat today. Honeybees — which pollinate crops like apples, blueberries and cucumbers — are the “glue that holds our agricultural system together,” as the journalist Hannah Nordhaus put it in her 2011 book The Beekeeper’s Lament. But that glue is failing. Bee hives are dying off or disappearing thanks to a still-unsolved malady called colony collapse disorder (CCD), so much so that commercial beekeepers are being pushed out of the business.

So what’s killing the honeybees? Pesticides — including a new class called neonicotinoids — seem to be harming bees even at what should be safe levels. Biological threats like the Varroa mite are killing off colonies directly and spreading deadly diseases. As our farms become monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn — plants that provide little pollen for foraging bees — honeybees are literally starving to death. If we don’t do something, there may not be enough honeybees to meet the pollination demands for valuable crops. But more than that, in a world where up to 100,000 species go extinct each year, the vanishing honeybee could be the herald of a permanently diminished planet.

[read full article via time.com]
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WATCH: Whats Happening to Honey Bees?

“You’ve probably heard about the sudden and mysterious drop in honey bee populations throughout the U.S.A. and Europe. Beekeepers used to report average losses in their worker bees of about 5-10% a year, but starting around 2006, that rate jumped to about 30%. Today, many large beekeeping operations are reporting that up to 40 or 50 percent of their swarms have mysteriously disappeared. This massive die-off of honey bee populations has been dubbed colony collapse disorder, and it is a big, big deal.” [via scishow]

Read full story · Posted in News

How to Design and Plant a Bee Garden

[via news.yahoo.com]

How to design and plant a bee garden

Wildlife-loving gardeners across the world enthuse about planting butterfly gardens, but relatively few think to design and plant a bee garden. Designing and planting a bee garden will bolster the health of your garden and help conserve one of earth’s treasures.

Why Design and Plant a Bee Garden

There are over 3,500 species of bees native to the United States. Unfortunately, due to land development and the extensive use of pesticides, their numbers are declining. In fact, the entire world is experiencing a shortage of bees. Why is this a problem?

Bees provide the much-needed service of pollinating plants. Approximately 80 percent of the flowering plants on earth require the help of pollinators, such as bees, for survival. That includes the plants which serve as food for humans. It is estimated one out of every three bites of food we take is made possible by bees and other pollinating wildlife.

Planting a well-designed bee garden provides food and shelter for bees, allowing them to nest and increase their population in safety. In return, the bees will increase the health and productivity of your garden and the gardens of those around you.

How to Design and Plant a Bee Garden

Variety is the spice of life to a bee. Bee gardens that use 10 or more species of bee-preferred plants tend to be the most successful. Bees will even visit less attractive plants in these gardens while they are there. Using a wide variety of preferred plants in your bee garden will also attract a wide variety of bees. This is especially true when you choose to use a nice assortment of plants native to your area.

Bee season goes from March through October. Choose a selection of plants that will bloom successively during this time period. A continuous provision of nectar and pollen will be available to bees if one type of bloom becomes available as another is dying out.

Flowers should be planted in large patches of like varieties to allow bees to dine in one spot for long periods of time. Gardens with scattered plants do not attract as many visits, and therefore receive less pollination, because bees expend too much energy flying between locations.

Bees thrive in gardens that are not extremely manicured, as solitary bees (ones who do not live in colonies) often prefer to make their nests in the ground. If you prefer the manicured look of mulch, leave some areas of dirt exposed for solitary bee nesting. Bee houses are an option when a manicured garden look is preferred. Place them in the shady areas of your garden where they will not be disturbed. Another option is to create bee nesting areas by filling planters and barrels with soil or sand. Place these where they will be protected from direct sunlight and rain.

Bees require a bit of water in addition to their nectar. A good bee garden will include a few puddles from which the bees can drink. Keep the puddles in muddy areas, as the bees will absorb needed minerals and salt from the soil as they sip the water.

Pesticides should not be used in bee gardens. Many pesticides work indiscriminately, killing off helpful insects along with the intended pest victims. If you truly need a pesticide in your garden, use a natural one made from microbes or plant derivatives and apply after sundown.

Choosing Plants When You Design and Plant a Bee Garden

The best plants to choose for your bee garden are varieties that are native to your area. Native plants will attract a nice variety of native bees. Certain bees require the native plants of their area to survive. Shop for your bee garden plants at a reputable nursery with knowledgeable staff who can assist you.

Plants that are not native to your area will attract bees as long as you pick the correct varieties. Stay away from anything with the word ‘double’ in the name or description. ‘Double’ plants have been bred to grow extra petals instead of anthers, the reproductive parts of the flowers, from which bees collect pollen. Stick to the old-fashioned single varieties of both non-native and native plants for your bee garden.

Bees are especially attracted to flowers that are purple, blue or yellow. They do not have the capability to see red and will rarely visit flowers in variations of that primary color. A few red flowers, such as bee balm, attract bees by reflecting ultraviolet light.

Small bees, which have short tongues, are most often attracted to small, shallow flowers. Use flowers such as daisy, marigold, butterfly weed, valerian, buttercup, aster, yarrow and Queen Anne’s lace.

Larger bees, which have longer tongues, can handle slightly deeper flowers. They enjoy plants such as delphinium, larkspur, columbine, monkshood and snapdragon. Long-tongued bees are also attracted to various herbs, such as sage, oregano, mint and lavender.

Leaf-cutting bees are drawn to plants in the legume family and sweet clover.

Flowers to Use When You Design and Plant a Bee Garden

Bees require two types of plants to survive: pollen plants and nectar plants. Pollen from plants is taken back to their nests to feed the young bees. Nectar plants feed the adult bees to give them energy while looking for pollen. Some of the nectar is also added to the nests to feed the baby bees.

Below is a short list of bee-preferred plants based on blooming season. Some of these plants will provide bees with just nectar or just pollen, while others will provide both. Speak to specialists at your local nursery for additional suggestions for your bee garden based on your location.

Spring:

Nectar plants - Barberry, Bee plant, Blue Pea, Borage, Chinese Houses, Horehound, Lavender, Sage, Salvia, Scented Geranium, Wisteria

Pollen plants - Bush Anemone, California Poppy, Yarrow

Combination - Bidens, Blanket Flower, Blazing Star, Daisy, Marigold, Tansy

Summer:

Nectar plants - Basil, Catnip, Horehound, Lavender, Lamb’s Ear, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Sea Holly, Spearmint, Thyme, Toadflax, Verbena

Pollen plants - Borage, California Poppy, Chaparral Nightshade, Tomato, Yarrow

Combination - Bidens, Black-eyed Susan, Blanket Flower, Bluebeard, Calenula, Cosmos, Daisy, Dusty Miller, Goldenrod, Gum Plant, Lemon Queen, Pincushion, Purple Coneflower, Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini

Autumn:

Nectar plants - Autumn Sage, Rosemary, Toadflax, Verbena, Yellow Trumpet bush

Combination - Bluebeard, Cosmos, Pumpkin, Squash

Sunflowers are excellent bee plants that bloom throughout the season. They come in two types: with and without pollen. They will attract more bees to your bee garden if you choose the varieties with pollen.

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

List of neonicotinoids and their trade names

[via agriknowledge.com]

Here you can find a list of neonicotinoids and their trade names (brand name). Please note that not all the brand names are listed and the availability of any chemical and its brands may change through time.

Neonicotinoids List

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READ: Bee Poisoning: Ban Neonicotinoids, Save Bees!

By: Dr. Tibor I. Szabo CM, Tibor P. Szabo, and Daniel C. Szabo BSc [via honeybees.ca]

0

Over the past decade populations of honey bees and other pollinators have been in decline worldwide. This phenomenon, often referred to in media as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is characterized by a rapid loss of a colony’s adult worker bee population, and has been associated with Varroa mites, viruses, environmental stress, and pesticides. Reports of the ‘mysterious disappearance of bees’ abound in scholarly studies and the media, along with disclaimers that no causal effect has been proven.

An article entitled “Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees“, which appeared in an online European Parliament publication (EAA, 2012), describes a causal effect – bee poisoning by neonicotinoid pesticides. Mounting undeniable scientific evidence has surfaced from around the globe linking neonicotinoid pesticides to mass bee deaths.

In order to protect honey bees, various member states of the European Union have taken regulatory action on the use of specific neonicotinoids. The European Parliament report describes that “neonicotinoids block an intrinsic chemical pathway which transmits nerve impulses to the insect central nervous system” causing irreversible and cumulative damage to the central nervous system and death. Bees exposed to neonicotinoids exhibit convulsions, tremors, and uncoordinated movements typical of exposure to neurotoxins.

Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that are absorbed into plant tissues. The poisons are highly soluble in water and are applied to a variety of agricultural crops with sprays, seed coatings, soil drenchers and granules, injections into tree trunks, or as an additive to irrigation water. Neonicotinoids migrate through soil and the entire plant all the way to the flowers. This causes toxic, lethal, and chronic exposure to non-target species including earthworms, birds, fish, and pollinators (Mason, et al., 2012). Additional exposure routes also exist depending on the method of application. Neonicotinoids are able to remain in the plant tissues for months to several years.

Even low dose exposure to neonicotinoids can result in serious sub-lethal effects on insects. Residues in nectar and pollen often lead to long-term exposure for pollinators. There is no safe level of exposure, as even tiny amounts of insecticides can have long term negative effects. The European Parliament publication (EAA, 2012) reported sub-lethal effects include a wide range of behavioural disturbances in honey bees including:

  • Disorientation and difficulties in returning back to the hive (homing ability)
  • Reduced foraging efficiency
  • Impaired memory and learning
  • Failure to communicate properly with other bees in the colony
  • Reduction of breeding success
  • Decrease of metabolic efficiency
  • Reduction in disease resistance
  • Necrosis of larva, pupae, and newly emerged bees

A recent scientific publication from Kanazawa University in Japan (Yamada, et. al., 2012) explains that “the high-concentration pesticide (neonicotinoids) seems to work as an acute toxicity and the low- and middle-concentration ones do as a chronic toxicity … In supposing that a pesticide is sprayed and diluted in water of a rice paddy or an orchard and its concentration becomes low, the low-concentration pesticide carried by foraging bees continues to affect a colony for a long time and finally leads to a collapse of a colony or the failure in wintering.”

Representing the main Big Ag neonicotinoid pesticide producers, CropLife Canada, maintains that its lucrative neonicotinoid business should not be held responsible and accountable for any honey bee colony declines and instead insists that Varroa mites are primarily to blame (Hepworth, 2013).

A Health Canada (2013) report titled “Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities that Coincided with Corn Planting in Spring 2012” describes:

“an unusually high number of reports of honey bee mortalities were received from beekeepers in corn growing regions of Ontario and Quebec. The majority of reports were from southern Ontario, involving over 40 beekeepers and 240 different bee yard locations. Additionally, one report was received from Quebec involving eight bee yards. Timing and location of these honey bee mortalities appeared to coincide with planting corn seed treated with insecticides.”

Beekeepers monitored their affected hives throughout the season and reported on the ongoing effects. These included lack of recovery, dwindling colonies, and lack of honey production. Prior to their exposure the bees were healthy.

“Residue analysis was conducted to determine whether bees were exposed to the insecticides used on treated corn seeds. … Clothianidin was detected in approximately 70% of the samples analyzed in Ontario and clothianidin and thiamethoxam were detected in the samples analyzed from Quebec. On a bee yard basis, these residues were detected in approximately 80% of the bee yards where dead bee samples were collected and analysed.”

Personal observations of a bee yard in Southern Ontario, Canada

Our research apiary is located in a semi-agricultural area with large stretches of forests and scattered residential homes. To the East is grazing land and an estimated 100 acres of cultivated land. In 2010 and 2011 this field was planted with corn and in 2012 it was planted with soy. In early May of 2010 we observed several hundred dying and dead bees on the ground in front of some of the colonies. They displayed the typical signs of insecticide poisoning; many were dead while others were on their backs with their legs twitching and proboscis extended. By late July, six colonies displayed dying brood and dwindling population, both signs of colony collapse disorder.

Since 1992 we have kept four hives on scales so that their weight changes could be measured daily in the summer and weekly in the winter. Also since 1992 we have been closely monitoring Varroa mite populations (Szabo 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, Szabo & Szabo, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003). During the first 18 years (1992-2010), from a total of 72 different colonies in the four scale hives, only one colony had died. Then, during the winter of 2010-2011 all four scale colonies died. From the other 51 colonies in the same bee yard 31 (61%) died. In the winter of 2011-2012, 10 (33%) of the 30 colonies and two of the four scale colonies died. In early May of 2012 we found hundreds of dead bees in front of four hives. In order to replace the losses 11 new colonies were made up. By October 2012, only 19 of 31 colonies had survived and were prepared for wintering. The collapse of colonies continues to the present.

In early May 2012, old partly decomposed dead bee samples were collected from the front entrances of four colonies and blooming dandelion flowers were collected from the bee yard and ditch near a treated soybean field that had been planted with treated corn in 2010 and 2011. Neonicotinoids in these samples were not detected at the reporting limit of 0.005 ppm for Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam and 0.001 ppm for Clothianidin. Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) personnel did not collect fresh samples from dying colonies or soil and water samples from the field where the crops had been planted.

In early May 2013 another apiary showed extreme colony loss immediately after a neighbouring field had been planted with treated soybean. Exposed treated seed was visible (Figure 1) on the soil surface. Near the edges of the field we found treated seed coats (Figure 2). The bees in the apiary displayed symptoms consistent with neonicotinoid exposure. Out of 50 colonies, 49 immediately showed signs of acute poisoning and a drastic drop in adult bee populations. Samples of the bees were again taken by PMRA personnel. We are still waiting for the test results from these samples.

Symptoms of the dying colonies

In 2010 it was first noticed that previously solid brood patterns became irregular and some of the larvae were twisted and dead. In the following months more and more larvae became affected (Figure 3) and the adult bee population shrank to a few hundred per colony. Despite this condition the queen continued to lay eggs (Figure 4) until the entire bee population gradually disappeared. Because neonicotinoid pesticides remain in contaminated pollen and nectar which are fed to the brood, many young larvae cannot develop and mature. As older bees succumb to the chronic poisoning and die there are no replacements. The larvae that do mature emerge into young adult bees that can be found dying and twitching at the hive entrance. Young bees found in this state at the front of hives are a sign that the colony has been compromised by neonicotinoids.

Video 1. Adult bee dying and twitching at hive entrance after soy planting.

The need for honey bees to forage for water, pollen, and nectar

Water is essential for honey bee colonies. Bees fly out from hives even in cold weather to collect water from leaves, soil and wherever they can find it. According to Hunt and Krupke (2012) “each corn seed theoretically has enough pesticide to kill well over 100,000 bees.” Rain water leaches pesticides into the soil where it can remain active for up to three years and honey bees collect water from wet soil, puddles and ditches. Bees consume the water and if the exposure does not cause acute death, the bees bring the water home to poison their colonies resulting in chronic poisoning. Annual applications of neonicotinoids compound the problem. Figure 5 shows water standing in a treated corn field that bees use for water foraging.

In early spring bees are desperate to collect pollen. They try to collect dust from bird feeders, sawdust, and white powder from poplar tree trunks. A few exposed corn seeds coated in toxic neonicotinoid dust are sufficient to poison entire apiaries as honey bees foraging for pollen carry it back to the colony.

Since neonicotinoid pesticides are systemic and appear in all parts of a plant including roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit, honey bees become exposed while gathering nectar, pollen, and water.

Declining numbers of bumble bees and solitary bees

A 25m × 10m area of grape hyacinth was planted to provide a source of pollen and nectar in early spring and in another area native star thistle was allowed to grow and bloom. Star thistle flowers all summer and grape hyacinth flowers for a month at end of April and in early May. On a sunny day in 2009, 30 foraging bumblebee queens were counted in 10 minutes on the grape hyacinth and in 2012 and 2013 none appeared. The last time the large solitary Megachile was observed visiting the star thistle was in 2008 (Figure 6). The sudden death of foraging bees, the subsequent slow decline and disappearance of colony populations and increase in winter losses coincided with the planting of treated corn 150 m from the bee yard.

A call to action

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (2010) recommends the following label warnings for Clothianidin treated seeds:

“This chemical has properties and characteristics associated with chemicals detected in ground water. The use of this chemical in areas where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow, may result in ground water contamination.

This compound is toxic to birds and mammals. Treated clothianidin seeds exposed on soil surface may be hazardous to birds and mammals. Cover or collect clothianidin seeds spilled during loading.

This compound is toxic to honey bees. The persistence of residues and potential residual toxicity of Clothianidin in nectar and pollen suggests the possibility of chronic toxic risk to honey bee larvae and the eventual instability of the hive.”

Imidacloprid producer EastChem states that the pesticide “should be banned from using near beekeeping, sericulture areas and water sources.”

Neonicotinoid pesticides should not be used as a pest control measure. Integrated Pest Management practices must be promoted. It should be mandatory for seed companies to make untreated seeds available to farmers.

Neonicotinoids kill beneficial organisms from pollinators to earthworms to predatory insects. Neonicotinoids should be avoided entirely. Spring is a peak water foraging time for honey bees that coincides with seeding time. Spring runoff mixing with neonicotinoid tainted seeds has catastrophic effects on bee populations. The European Commission’s decision to ban Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxam and Clothianidin should be followed as a first step to protecting our pollinators and ecosystems from this class of chemicals.

Beekeepers cannot continue to absorb the heavy financial loses of their honey bee colonies because of neonicotinoid poisonings and many will be forced out of business. This will affect not only the products of bees such as honey, pollen, propolis and wax, but also fruit, nut, vegetables, oilseeds, etc that make up the pollinator’s $2 billion annual contribution to Canada’s economy (Canadian Honey Council).

List of figures

Figure 1. Bright blue treated soybean seeds exposed on the soil surface after planting. Within 2 days of the field being planted, 98% of colonies in an adjacent beeyard died.

Bright blue treated soybean seeds exposed on the soil surface after planting. Within 2 days of the field being planted, 98% of colonies in an adjacent bee yard died.

Figure 2. Insecticide treated soybean coatings observed near the edge of a field. These can be blown by the wind to poison areas beyond the field.

Insecticide treated soybean coatings observed near the edge of a field. These can be blown by the wind to poison areas beyond the field.

Figure 3. The brood pattern of a honeybee colony displaying the symptoms of low concentration (sub-lethal) neonicotinoid pesticide poisoning, consistent with colony collapse disorder (CCD).

The brood pattern of a honeybee colony displaying the symptoms of low concentration (sub-lethal) neonicotinoid pesticide poisoning, referred to as colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Figure 4. Days before the collapse of the honey bee colony, the queen was still laying eggs, however the brood failed to develop.

Days before the collapse of the honey bee colony, the queen was still laying eggs.

Figure 5. Water standing in treated corn field is consumed and taken back to the hive by foraging bees.

Water standing in treated corn field is consumed and taken back to the hive by foraging bees.

Figure 6. The large solitary leaf cutter bee (Megachile spp.) has not been seen foraging on star thistle since 2008.

The large solitary leaf cutter bee (Megachile spp.) has not been seen foraging on star thistle since 2008.

References

Canadian Honey Council. Overview of the Canadian Apiculture Industry. Web:
http://www.honeycouncil.ca/honey_industry_overview.php

EastChem. Insecticide Imidacloprid product page. Web:
http://www.insecticidechina.com/1-23-imidacloprid.html

Environment Agency Austria (EAA) et. al., (2012): Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees. European Parliament Policy Department: Economic and Scientific Policy. Web:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/studiesdownload.html?file=79433&languageDocument=EN

Health Canada (2013) Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities that Coincided with Corn Planting in Spring 2012. Web:
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_decisions/bee_corn-mort-abeille_mais/index-eng.php

Hepworth, L. (2013): Croplife Canada via The Record: Letter: Challenges to bee health are complex. July 8, 2013. Web:
http://www.therecord.com/opinion-story/3880760-challenges-to-bee-health-are-complex/

Hunt G. J.; Krupke C. H. (2012): Neonicotinoid seed treatment and honey bee health. American Bee Journal 152|(9): 889-891.

Mason, R.; Tennekes, H.; Sánchez-Bayo, F.; Jepsen, P.U. (2012): Immunesuppression by neonicotinoid insecticides at the root of global wildlife declines. Journal of Environmental Immuniology and Toxicity, October 2012.

Yamada, T.; Yamada, K.; Wada, N. (2012): Influence of dinotefuran and cothianidin on a bee colony. Jpn. J. Clin. Ecol. Vol. 21 No. 1 2012: 10-23.

Szabo, T.I. (1993): Selective breeding of honey bees for resistance to Varroa jacobsoniAmerican Bee Journal 133: 868.

Szabo, T.I. (1994): Rate of infestation of Varroa lacobsoni in honey bee colonies in southern Ontario. American Bee Journal 134: 837-878.

Szabo, T.I. (1995): Selective breeding of honey bees for resistance to Varroa jacobsoni in Ontario. American Bee Journal 135: 831.

Szabo, T. I. (1998): Progress report on selective breeding of honey bees for resistance to parasitic mites. American Bee Journal 138(6): 464-466.

Szabo, T.I. (1999): Selective breeding of honey bee colonies for resistance toVarroa jacobsoni and the effects of management techniques on Varroa infestation levels. American Bee Journal 139(7): 537-540.

Szabo, T. I. and Szabo, D.C. (2000): Attempts to reduce the Varroa jacobsonipopulation in honey bee colonies: Research report for 1999. American Bee Journal 140(8): 654-658.

Szabo, T.I. and Szabo, D.C. (2001): Varroa jacobsoni infestation levels of honey bee colonies in the fourth year of a breeding program: Report for 2000.American Bee Journal 141(6): 437-440.

Szabo, T.I. and Szabo, D.C. (2002): Varroa infestation levels of honey bee colonies in the fifth year of a breeding program: Report for 2001. American Bee Journal 142(6): 423-427.

Szabo, T.I.; Szabo, D.C. (2003): Varroa infestation levels and honey bee colony characteristics in the final year of a breeding program. American Bee Journal 143(10): 798-802.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2010) Environmental Fate and Ecological Risk Assessment for the Registration of CLOTHIANIDIN for Use as a Treatment on Mustard Seed (Oilseed and Condiment) and Cotton. Page 5. Web:
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/cleared_reviews/csr_PC-044309_2-Nov-10_b.pdf

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Oregon bans some insecticides following bee deaths

By John Upton via grist.org

Bees and other insects can breathe a little easier in Oregon — for now. The state has responded to the recent bumbleocalypse in a Target parking lot by temporarily banning use of the type of pesticide responsible for the high-profile pollinator die-off.

For the next six months, it will be illegal to spray Safari or other pesticides [PDF] containing dinotefuran neonicotinoids in the state.

Oregon’s ban comes after more than 50,000 bumblebees and other pollinators were killed when Safari was sprayed over blooming linden trees to control aphids in a Wilsonville, Ore., parking lot. A similar incident in Hillsboro, Ore., was also cited by the state’s agriculture department as a reason for the ban.

Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba said in a statement [PDF] that she has directed her agency to impose the ban to help prevent further such “bee deaths connected to pesticide products with this active ingredient until such time as our investigation is completed. Conclusions from the investigation will help us and our partners evaluate whether additional steps need to be considered.”

Somewhat confusingly, retailers will still be allowed to sell the products. It will just be illegal for landscapers and gardeners to actually use them. From The Oregonian:

“We’re not trying to get it off the shelves, or trying to tell people to dispose of it, we’re just telling people not to use it,” said Bruce Pokarney, a spokesperson for the department of agriculture.

While Pokarney acknowledged it would be difficult to cite individual homeowners, he said licensed pesticide applicators would be violating Oregon regulations if they use dinotefuran-based insecticides on plants in the next 180 days.

The temporary ban only affects pesticide use that might harm pollinators, like bumblebees. Safari is one of the insecticides restricted by the Agriculture Department. Most of the restricted insecticides are used primarily for ornamental, not agricultural, pest control.

Dinotefuran use in flea collars, and ant and roach control will still be allowed.

The Xerces Society, a nonprofit insect conservation group that’s helping to investigate the pollinator die-offs, thinks the temporary ban is a good idea. But Executive Director Scott Black said it would be an even better idea if sales of the pesticides were suspended, lest consumers unwittingly use them in violation of the law. “At a minimum, all products on the shelf should have clear signage about the restriction on their use,” he told Grist.

Guess who thinks the ban is not such a good idea?

“We do not believe the scope of these measures is necessary with the information available,” Safari manufacturer Valent said in a statement, “and we will work to get the restrictions lifted as soon as possible.”

[read original article on grist.org]

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Entomologists: “Stop feeding corn syrup to honeybees.” Duh.

photo by rebeccacabage.com
By John Upton via grist.org
 
If you want to a kill a honeybee hive’s buzz, take all its honey away and feed the bees a steady diet of high-fructose corn syrup.
 
Believe it or not, apiarists have been doing just that since the 1970s — feeding HFCS to their colonies as a replacement source of nourishment for the honey that gets taken away from them to be sold.
 
And believe it or not, HFCS, which is bad for humans, is also bad for honeybees. It’s especially bad for those that are exposed to pesticides, which these days is a high proportion of them.
 
It’s not that HFCS contributes to honeybee diabetes, nor does it result in honeybee obesity. But it weakens their defenses. And right now, the bees need all the defenses they can get in order to survive.
 
When honeybees collect nectar from flowers, they also gather pollen and a substance called propolis, which they use to make waxy honeycombs. The pollen and propolis are loaded with three types of compounds that University of Illinois entomologists discovered can help the bees detoxify their cells and protect themselves from pesticides and microbes.
 
“The widespread apicultural use of honey substitutes, including high-fructose corn syrup, may thus compromise the ability of honey bees to cope with pesticides and pathogens and contribute to colony losses,” the scientists wrote in a paper reporting their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.From Phys.org:

The researchers aren’t suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup is itself toxic to bees, instead, they say their findings indicate that by eating the replacement food instead of honey, the bees are not being exposed to other chemicals that help the bees fight off toxins, such as those found in pesticides.

Cutting the crappy sweeteners from honeybees’ diets and allowing them to eat a bit more of their own honey won’t necessarily save them in a world doused in pesticides. But it might give bees back some of their natural defenses against the poisons they encounter every day.

It’s time to share more honey with the honeybees that make it.

[read original article on grist.org]

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VIDEO: Arrested Development Tackles Urban Beekeeping

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“Netflix has released another four teaser clips for the highly anticipated season 4 of Arrested Development, which will be available for streaming in its entirety on Sunday. In one, George Oscar Bluth Jr (G.O.B.), played by Will Arnett, seems to have ventured into the beekeeping trade.”

[view original post via lamag.com]

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