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READ: Teaching Children to Love Bees, Not Fear Them

By JENNIFER BERNEY via parenting.blogs.nytimes.com

Several years ago, reports of the declining bee population inspired my partner to keep bees in our yard. Her reasons were mainly practical—not only did she want to support the vanishing bees, she hoped our plum trees might increase their yield. But it took less than one season for my partner to fall in love, and over time the number of hives in our backyard has multiplied from two to 10. At my house this week we know that spring has arrived because my 2-year-old points out the window and yells excitedly: “Bees!”

I consider both of my children lucky to know the honeybees so well. Living with a beekeeper has afforded me a chance to observe how children interact with bees. From what I’ve seen so far, they fall into two distinct camps: those who are fascinated, and those who are afraid.

There are kids who watch in wonder as the honeybees land on the stones in our birdbath and drink water through their delicate tongues, and there are kids who cover their hair with their hands and run away screaming. There are kids who knock on our door to buy a jar of honey and ask to see our bees, and there are kids who will poke a long stick through our fence and bang it against the roof of a hive.

I worry that the child who runs from bees in fear will grow up to be the adult who spots a healthy swarm in her backyard and sprays it with insecticide. I worry that the child who bangs on a hive roof will grow up to be the teenager who knocks over a neighbor’s hive in the middle of the night. These are two kinds of transgressions that happen often in my community, and they are undeserved. Unlike the many varieties of wasps, bees are gentle creatures. They pollinate our crops, make honey, and rarely sting unless provoked.

In recent years, beekeepers have continued to report high annual losses. An annual survey of beekeepers conducted by a partnership that includes the United States Department of Agriculture, released Wednesday, suggested both that significant losses in colonies continue, and that the loss rate in summer has increased. We compensate for this by breeding and replacing our lost colonies year after year. Scientists are no longer concerned that the honeybee’s extinction is imminent, but we are not yet off the hook. The disappearing bees have reminded us that our survival is interdependent. We live in collaboration with other species. A child who squashes bees or runs from them is a child who hasn’t yet learned their value, and it’s our job to teach them.

This might begin by teaching our children what a honeybee looks like. Before my partner brought home our first colony of bees, I was like many adults in that I could not distinguish a honeybee from a bumblebee, and had only the vaguest notion that wasps were a different species entirely. The yellow jacket who is harassing you at the end of summer, trying to take a bite of your ham sandwich, has little in common with the honeybee who is gathering pollen and nectar. Children are capable of making this distinction; like adults, they just need a little guidance.

Teaching children to value the honeybee might also include explaining the phenomenon of swarming, which, contrary to popular belief, is not an angry behavior. Honeybees swarm when their colony has grown healthy enough to divide in two. One half of them remain in the hive to welcome a new queen, while the other half leaves in search of a new home. They fill their bellies with nectar and travel in a cluster to shelter their old queen. The sight of a cluster of bees on a branch in a yard or a park is an opportunity for observation, a lesson about the intelligence of the insect world.

And that is the real lesson the bees offer: as smart as we humans are, we don’t know everything. At my house we can dance to Beyoncé in the living room, but we can’t wiggle our butts in a sequence so precise that it communicates the location of a nectar source three miles away. Bees can.

My partner has a practice that many beekeepers would find silly. Though a typical worker bee lives for only six weeks, in the evening my partner often picks up bees who have grown cold and fallen just outside the entrance to their hive. She collects them in a jar, brings them inside our house to warm them up and later, once they are restored, she returns them to their home. I used to tease her about this. Bees are members of a complex system. They are not individuals, and it struck me as foolish to attend to them as such. But then last week I saw my 6-year-old son crouch in front of a hive at dusk to gather languishing bees in his small hand. In that moment I realized what the bees had taught him — it’s the very lesson we all need to learn: that every small part of the system counts for something.

[Read original article via parenting.blogs.nytimes.com]

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

READ: Backyard beekeeping could soon be legal in Los Angeles

POSTED BY JOHN SCHREIBER via mynewsla.com

Beekeeping would be legal in the backyards of Los Angeles homes under regulations to be considered soon by a City Council committee.

The proposed rules — approved by the city planning commission this week and now headed to the council’s Planning and Land Use Committee — would allow hobbyists and others interested in small-scale beekeeping to maintain hives in single-family residential settings.

Beekeepers would need to adhere to certain restrictions under the proposed rules. No more than one hive would be allowed for each 2,500 square feet of space, and there must be a 5-foot buffer between the hive and the front, side and rear lot lines of the property.

Hives also must be at least 20 feet away from public right of way or a private streets and cannot be kept in the front yard, according to the rules.

The proposed ordinance also calls for hives to be surrounded by a 6-foot wall, fence or hedge, or else it must be set 8 feet above ground, so that the bees would be encouraged to stay above “human-level.”

The bees also must have access to a nearby water source within the beekeeper’s property so that the bees would not need to travel outside to look for water.

If the City Council approves the ordinance, Los Angeles would join Santa Monica in legalizing so-called “backyard” or “urban” beekeeping. The hobby also is allowed in other urban areas such as New York City and Denver.

The Los Angeles Planning Department and the city attorney created the proposed rules after the City Council ordered a study last February into ways to legalize backyard beekeeping.

The council action came in response to a growing chorus of Angelenos advocating for “urban beekeeping,” including from some residents in the Mar Vista area who said increased beekeeping helps to fight a troubling, downward trend in the bee population that could threaten the health of local agriculture.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who supports legalizing urban beekeeping, said last year the state has been losing a third of its bees a year since 2006, threatening California’s avocado and almond industry.

Some council members voiced concerns, however, that the bees could pose a danger to residents, with Councilman Bernard Parks referring to a National Geographic documentary entitled “Attack of the Killer Bees,” about a dangerous variety of bees that appear to be encroaching into southern United States.

Planning officials who consulted bee experts over the last year wrote in a recent city report that the variety of honey bees used in beekeeping are “non-aggressive,” but they may “sting in self-defense of their hive if it is approached.”

The report adds that when the bees leave their hives to collect food — potentially coming in contact with humans — they “do not become defensive or aggressive or have reason to sting.”

The report also notes Los Angeles already averages about 8 to 10 feral bee hives per each square mile. The addition of backyard honey bees would not cause a shortage of bee food supply in the city due to the area’s steady climate, but if there were a shortage, the feral populations would likely leave the area to find alternative sources of food supply, according to the bee experts consulted by planning officials.

— City News Service

 

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Sweet! Los Angeles is closer to legalizing beekeeping

Rob McFarland holds a beehive of honeybees. (Los Angeles Times)

By KERRY CAVANAUGH via LA Times

Los Angeles is getting closer to legalizing backyard beekeeping and the proposed ordinance couldn’t come at a better time.

Professional beekeepers reported this week that 42% of their honeybees died in the last year, and, for the first time, they lost more bees during the summer than the winter. That’s surprising and worrisome because bees typically suffer in the cold weather, but fare better during the warm pollination season. And it underscores fears that parasites, pesticides and farming practices might be weakening the bee population, which is essential for pollinating the nation’s food crops.

Backyard beekeeping can’t replace commercial beekeeping operations, but the urban honeybees may help replenish the diminishing supply, or provide disease-resistant genes that can be introduced in the commercial bee lines. The more healthy bees in the environment, the better for everyone.

Current city law prohibits beekeeping, except on land zoned for agricultural uses. The proposed ordinance, approved Thursday by the city Planning Commission, would allow beekeeping by right in single-family neighborhoods. The resident would need to register as a beekeeper with the Los Angeles County agriculture commissioner, have no more than one hive per 2,500 square feet of lot, keep the hives at least five feet from the neighbors’ yards and 20 feet from the street or sidewalk and keep a source of water for the bees so they don’t seek water from the neighbors’ swimming pool or bird bath. There’s no pre-approval needed, but the city will respond to complaints and if residents break the rules or can’t manage their bees, the city can revoke the right to keep hives.

The City Council still needs to OK the new backyard beekeeping policy before it can take effect, but city leaders have been supportive of urban agriculture. And why not? L.A. has the ideal climate and long growing seasons. The city has hillsides, vacant lots and yards that can support small farms and hobby farmers. A vegetable garden or orchard is a more productive use of our precious water supply than a green lawn. And more fruits and vegetables grown locally mean less produce has to be trucked and shipped over great distance, meaning fresher food and less fossil fuels burned in transport.

[Read original article on LA Times]

 

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, News

READ: A Sharp Spike in Honeybee Deaths Deepens a Worrisome Trend

NY TIMES

A prolonged and mysterious die-off of the nation’s honeybees, a trend worrisome both to beekeepers and to farmers who depend on the insects to pollinate their crops, apparently worsened last year.

In an annual survey released on Wednesday by the Bee Informed Partnership, a consortium of universities and research laboratories, about 5,000 beekeepers reported losing 42.1 percent of their colonies in the 12-month period that ended in April. That is well above the 34.2 percent loss reported for the same period in 2013 and 2014, and it is the second-highest loss recorded since year-round surveys began in 2010.

Most striking, however, was that honeybee deaths spiked last summer, exceeding winter deaths for the first time. Commercial beekeepers, some of whom rent their hives to farmers during pollination seasons, were hit especially hard, the survey’s authors stated.

“We expect the colonies to die during the winter, because that’s a stressful season,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant entomology professor at the University of Maryland who directs the survey for the bee partnership. “What’s totally shocking to me is that the losses in summer, which should be paradise for bees, exceeded the winter losses.”

Bees are not in danger of extinction, but their health is of major concern to agriculture, where honeybees’ pollination services are estimated to be worth $10 billion to $15 billion a year.

Nobody knows with certainty why honeybee deaths are rising. Beekeepers once expected to lose perhaps 10 percent of their bees in an average year. But deaths began to spike in the middle of the past decade, when a phenomenon in which bees deserted their hives and died en masse, later named colony collapse disorder, began sweeping hives worldwide.

Those mass die-offs have abated somewhat in recent years, experts say, but colonies remain in poor health, and overall death rates remain much higher than in the past.

Dr. vanEngelsdorp said increasingly poor nutrition could be a factor in the rising summer death rate. Rising crop prices have led farmers to plow and plant millions of acres of land that was once home to wildflowers; since 2007, an Agriculture Department program that pays farmers to put sensitive and erosion-prone lands in a conservation reserve has lost an area roughly equal to half of Indiana, and budget cuts promise to shrink the program further. Dr. vanEngelsdrop and other scientists cite two other factors at work in the rising death rate: a deadly parasite, the varroa mite,and pesticides.

In recent years, some experts have focused on neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides used almost universally on some major crops in the United States. The European Commission has banned the use of three variants of the pesticide on flowering plants, citing risks to bees, and questioned whether they should be used at all.

The Environmental Protection Agency said last month that it was unlikely to approve any new uses of the pesticides until more tests on the risks to bees and other pollinators have been completed.

Neonicotinoid manufacturers say that the pesticides are much safer than others they have supplanted, and that in any case, they are safe when used according to instructions.

In a news release, an entomologist at one of the major neonicotinoid manufacturers, Bayer CropScience LP, called the survey results good news because wintertime bee deaths appeared to have stabilized at a lower rate than in the past. The entomologist, Richard Rogers of the company’s Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said that scientists had yet to establish a normal range for summer bee deaths.

The annual survey released on Wednesday did not directly address the causes of honeybee deaths. But it said varroa mites were a much bigger problem among so-called backyard beekeepers, who keep fewer than 50 hives, than among commercial beekeepers, who are probably on higher alert for deadly infestations.

The survey’s authors called the spike in summer honeybee deaths troubling, noting that in the past, more bees have died during the winter months than in good weather.

The Bee Informed Partnership has collected data on summer bee deaths since 2006, and it expanded its survey to cover winter deaths in 2010. The surveys are financed largely by the Agriculture Department.

[read original article via nytimes.com]

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Brood diseases and lagging bees

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Spring is the time of year when bees go into high gear to get ready to do their instinctive reproductive act of procreation—swarming. A colony grows to fill its space, replacement queens are drawn and nurtured, and the final event is a leaving from the mother hive of about 50% of the workers and the old queen. These bees will attempt to found a new colony somewhere else and begin the cycle again. During this build up in Spring we urban beekeepers must watch carefully for the signs of swarm preparation and guide it so that a swarm is not the outcome—in the city such swarms are not appreciated by the general public living in close proximity to us.

I have now been keeping bees almost four years and am getting a better feel for the rhythm of the growth cycle in a colony. We have mild winters in Los Angeles, so the Spring brooding up period often begins in January. This means we will begin seeing drones and drone brood, new brood comb being drawn, and a general increase in the number of bees and activity of the queen.

However, early this year, two of my hives at the house were not showing these changes and I really began to notice by February. It seemed they were just staying in a holding pattern—no new comb was being drawn and, at first, this was the most noticeable issue. By the beginning of March, I was seeing sac brood, perforated cappings (small holes in the brood caps), lots of uncapped pupae in the purple eye stage, dried up “mummies” of brood in cells, and some cells of open brood with watery goop that may have been European Foul Brood.  There were also some adult bees with DWV, or deformed wing virus. The wings of the bee are twisted little stumps or thread-like and useless. The colonies had plenty of stored honey and many frames of bee bread. Together, these conditions and the different maladies of the larvae and pupae are sometimes lumped under the name “Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome”  which describes diseases vectored by the activities of the varroa mite.

Here is a website entry detailing what I was seeing—

Information compiled by Beekeeper Lonnie E. Campbell of The Loudoun Beekeepers Association.

Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome was first named by The Beltsville Bee Lab to explain why colonies infested with both varroa mites and tracheal mites were not thriving. BPMS was first reported by European beekeepers whose colonies were already stressed by varroa mites. Colonies that are apparently very healthy and productive suddenly experience a sudden decrease in adult population often resulting in the total loss of the colony. Plenty of food stores are often present, but very spotty and unhealthy brood are observed.

I began searching my readings and books to find out what I might do to help these two formerly thriving hives (one hive is 5 mediums, the other 2 deeps and 3 mediums). I wanted to support them before their population dropped too much that they would be weakened beyond recovery. I saw on inspection March 22 that very little open brood was present and no eggs. One queen was seen (in the biggest colony) but in the other I didn’t find the queen.

Michael Bush’s book offered the best information for this situation that I could find. A brood break, or a cessation of egg laying by the queen, is one of the best responses for breaking the cycle of the pests and diseases that may afflict a hive. By denying the pathogens a food source the disease cycle is automatically broken. One way of doing this is to find and kill the queen and then introduce a new queen. Another way is to dispatch the queen and let them raise another one. By the time the new queen is laying, the brood break will have cleansed the disease cycle.

But the method I thought I would settle on was the use of a push in cage. This is a small confinement cage made out of eighth inch hardware cloth that holds the queen on the face of a frame for a period of time to prevent her laying eggs in the normal pattern. It is just a shallow 3 sided box of wire, 5 X 10 inches, pushed into the face of the wax comb. You try to place it in a zone with some honey cells, some emerging brood, and some open cells—all of these to serve the needs of the confined queen.

On March 28, after preparing two cages and getting my mind clear about what I was going to do, I opened up the first hive to start my search for the queen. I had at hand a  good tool for safely catching a queen— a “hair clip” catcher.

However, I soon saw that something better than my plan had already occurred. The frames that had lacked any eggs or open brood were now completely filled with eggs! The queens had stopped laying eggs by their own accord and interrupted the brood cycle of the diseases and varroa that had been afflicting them. I was very excited that the queens and their workers seemed to have a inborn strategy to get over their problems. My notes to Michael Bush to report this were confirmed in his answer here:

         Yes, the bees often do a brood break to resolve the issues.  Sometimes it’s done by dispatching the old queen and sometimes she just shuts down. EFB usually clears up on it’s own when whatever stress was the cause is relieved.  Usually by a flow in a dearth.

And this one:

It doesn’t always work out well, but then interfering doesn’t always work out well either.

“Our attentions may be useful to them but are oftener noxious to them; thus far goes our interference.” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

“…without the foresight, or rather the astonishing presence of mind of the bees, who always do at the proper time what needs to be done…” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

So, there we have it. Another beek lesson learned!

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Urban beekeeping becomes therapy for at-risk communities

By North By Northwest, CBC News

Julia and Sarah Common started their urban beekeeping non-profit organization in 2012

Bees play an important role in the ecosystem, as they pollinate plants and produce honey, but it turns out they can also play a therapeutic role for humans.

Since 2012, Julia Common and her daughter Sarah have been engaging at-risk communities in urban beekeeping through their non-profit organization, Hives for Humanity.

Mother and daughter started by placing a colony of bees at a community garden on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“The community really quickly took ownership of that hive and responsibility for the protection and care of this living, breathing colony of working insects that are just this inspiration to everyone who sees them,” Sarah told North By Northwest‘s Sheryl MacKay.

The Commons say beekeeping is therapeutic because it brings people together and the responsibility gives them a sense of self worth and community pride.

“At the beginning, we thought it was the beekeeping, but then from beekeeping, other things come,” said Julia.

“The bees have wax, someone needs to [process] the wax. Other people come forward who want to help with equipment maintenance.”

Hives for Humanity now has almost a hundred hives placed in community gardens, the rooftops of single room occupancy hotels and people’s backyards.

“No matter where you are, people take great pride in taking care of the bees, keeping them safe,” said Julia.

“Everyone from kindergarten right up to somebody who is 92 realizes bees are threatened and they just feel wonderful that they’re playing their [part].”

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver beekeeping program engages at-risk communities

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Bees prefer the buzz of a town

Bees prefer the buzz of a town: Urban sites found to have more species than rural areas

By Fiona Macrae via dailymail.co.uk

  • Agriculture and mass crops blamed for decline of bee numbers 
  • Towns and cities have wider variety of plants and flowers in autumn
  • Pesticides, climate change and disease causing bee numbers to fall 

We think of them as thriving in wildflower meadows and rolling fields. But new research suggests Britain’s bees are happier near towns and cities.

A study of wildlife sites across four English counties has found that most are home to fewer species of bee today than they were in the past.

It found that the expansion of farmland has actually been more damaging to Britain’s bee population than the concreting over of the countryside for housing.

Reading University researcher Deepa Senapathi believes intensive agriculture is to blame.

While the gardens, parks and churchyards of towns and cities provide bees with a variety of plants to forage on and an extended flowering season, popular crops such as oilseed rape only bloom for a few weeks.

She said: ‘While concreting over the countryside may appear to be bad news for nature, we’ve found that progressive urbanisation may be much less damaging than intensive agriculture.

‘Urban areas may benefit bees more than farmland by providing a wide variety of flowering plants, providing a cosmopolitan menu for insects from spring through to autumn.

‘Over the past century rural landscapes in Britain have become increasingly dominated by large expanses of monoculture – the growing of a single type of plant, which has helped boost crop production.

‘But without a mixture of habitat and food sources, rural areas can sometimes be little better than green deserts for biodiversity.

Scientists around the country are trying to work out why populations of bees and other insects are plummeting.

Pesticides, climate change and disease may, like intensive farming, be playing a role.

[view full article here: dailymail.co.uk]

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

READ: Commercial bees, the unsung heroes of the nut business

[HoneyLover] Bill Lewis is waiting for the sun to set, the time of day when his bees crawl back inside the short white boxes that house their colonies. As the sky turns pink behind the San Gabriel mountains, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Lewis climbs into the seat of a forklift and starts moving the hives onto the back of a flatbed truck. These bees are on the move. “As soon as you get on the freeway and there’s air flowing past the entrances, all the bees run back inside,” says Lewis, of any stragglers. Lewis, who runs Bill’s Bees, is taking about 700 of his hives on a road trip to the California’s Central Valley, where he’ll unload them across acres of almond orchards, working until 1 or 2 a.m. under the light of full moon. All across the country, more than a million-and-a-half colonies are making a similar journey – traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to pollinate California’s almonds. Farmers rent hives for few weeks because in order for almond trees to produce nuts, bees need to move pollen from one tree to another. No bees, no almonds. “This pollination season there will be [some] 800,000 acres of almonds that need to be pollinated,” says Eric Mussen, a honey bee specialist at the University of California Davis. He says more than 100 different kinds of crops need these rent-a-bees, but almonds are significant for the number of acres that require pollination all at the same time. About 85 percent of the commercial bees in United States – which Mussen calls “bees on wheels” – travel to California for almonds. The state supplies roughly 80 percent of the world’s almonds, worth $6.4 billion during the 2013-2014 season, according to the Almond Board of California. “It’s a matter of numbers,” he says. “You’re trying to provide enough bees to be moving the pollen around between the varieties and whatnot. It’s just a huge, huge number of bees. The only way we can get a huge number of bees in one place at one time is to bring them in on trucks.” In fact, bees are such an important part of the almond business that Paramount Farms, one of the biggest almond growers in the world, has decided they need to be in the bee business, too. The company just bought one of the largest beekeepers in the United States, based in Florida. “Bees are so essential for the process of growing almonds,” says Joe Joe MacIlvane, Paramount’s president. “If we don’t have a reliable supply of good strong colonies, we simply won’t be a viable almond grower, so that’s our primary motivation for getting into the business.” Renting bees is about 10 to 15 percent of Paramount’s production costs, but the motivation to keep their own bees isn’t simply economic. “Many bee keepers are individual or family business and many people are getting on in years and we don’t see a lot of young people coming into the business,” says MacIlvane. Additionally, bee populations are struggling. A significant number having been dying each year for the past decade or so, thanks to a mix of factors, from pesticides to lost habitat for feeding. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what’s killing them. “We had a large problem last year with bees dying in the orchard because of something that was going on during bloom,” says Bill Lewis. He thinks a pesticide or fungicide may have been to blame. This year, Lewis and his bee broker are being pickier about the farms they’re working with, vetting them more carefully because those lost bees had big economic consequences – about $300,000 in lost income for Lewis.
Read full story · Posted in News

Almond growers plant wildflowers to help bees

via modbee.com

Almonds are among the top-grossing farm products in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and statewide, and the largest users of commercial colonies in the nation each year. About 1.7 million bee boxes are delivered to the orchards for the pollination, which runs from mid-February to mid-March.

Beekeepers expect to lose some of their colonies each winter, but many have had much larger losses in recent years. Researchers say the causes could include diseases, parasites, trucking stress, pesticides or poor nutrition where drought has reduced flowering plants. Even when rain is abundant, winter does not provide much food.

“Those are times of dearth for bees, when there isn’t much for them to eat,” said Heintz, who works out of Tucson, Ariz., and previously was with the Almond Board of California, based in Modesto.

Heintz talked about the effort during a visit Wednesday to Silveira’s orchard, on 40 hilly acres along Twenty-Six Mile Road. The seeds he sowed came free from Project Apis m., which operates on about $100,000 in grants each year. The mix includes a few varieties of mustard, which put out yellow flowers before the almond bloom, and clover, which bear red, white or purple flowers afterward.

Heintz said the diverse food in the orchard, combined with nearby drinking water, “is exactly what we need. This is a bee spa.”

Almond blooms still are the favored food for the bees, she added, and they will not fill up on the supplemental plantings at the expense of pollinating the crop.

The effort so far covers only about 3,000 of the 860,000 acres of almonds in California, but Heintz said she would like to see it become a common practice. She is collecting data on how the supplemental food sources affect nutrition, colony population and other factors.

Silveira has taken part for two years. He said some almond growers might worry about these plants taking soil moisture from the trees, but that has not been a problem. He also noted that the mustard and clover protect the ground from erosion and take up nitrate from fertilizer, reducing the risk of tainted groundwater.

Silveira plans to mow the plants when the flowering in done, so they will decompose well in advance of the almond harvest. The nuts are shaken to the ground by machines, and growers do not like to have too much debris lying there.

Silveira rented the colonies from Hughson-area beekeeper Kevin Peavey, who is taking part in the effort for the first time this year.

“The bees are going to have more pollen and nectar to gather,” Peavey said. “The more they are fed, the stronger they are.”

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

BY THE NUMBERS

$18 billion: Estimated worth of U.S. crops pollinated by honeybees and other creatures each year. About a third of that is in California, including almonds, cherries, apples, apricots, plums, kiwis, avocados, alfalfa seed, onions, broccoli, cucumbers, melons and squash.

$2.3 billion: Estimated gross income to almond growers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley in 2013.

1.7 million: Number of commercial honeybee colonies rented to California almond growers each year, two-thirds of the U.S. supply.

Sources: American Beekeeping Federation, county crop reports

HOW TO TAKE PART

Project Apis m. has free seed for almond growers hoping to supplement the food available to pollinating honeybees. Send an email to projectapis@gmail.com. Other interested people can learn about the effort at http://projectapism.org.

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/news/local/article10897667.html#storylink=cpy
Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

Outlawing a type of insecticides is not a panacea. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

via Todd Woody | qz.com

As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.

Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.

Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.

Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two years in Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But vanEngelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health.

“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying.

“It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says vanEngelsdorp.

[read original article via qz.com]

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