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Those Insecticides We’re Told Aren’t Killing Bees Are Also Hurting Birds

by Steve Williams

Despite many politicians being in complete denial about the mounting evidence of a connection between certain insecticides and the collapse of bee populations, new research shows that those same insecticides are probably indirectly leading to bird die-offs, too.

A new study published this month in Nature looks at data from the Netherlands which the researchers say shows a sharp decline in certain bird populations in areas where insecticides known as neonicotinoids were used the most.

Neonicotinoids are among the new wave of insecticides that have been developed in the past 50 years. They were supposed to be revolutionary for the farming industry and were billed as less damaging for the environment and wildlife. However, study after study has linked them to a decline in pollinators and even to bee Colony Collapse Disorder, while a 2013 examination of peer reviewed literature called for tighter restrictions on neonicotinoid use as, used in the concentrations and amounts that we see on farms today, the scientists concluded there is enough evidence to suggest that these insecticides are harming bees and other insects who aren’t supposed to be targeted.

Concerns have also been raised about the wider impact on wildlife beyond our pollinators. While neonicotinoids are billed as not being as toxic to mammals, and in particular birds of prey, scientific literature has suggested an unintended impact: by killing insects that the mammals eat, they may be driving down certain sensitive populations, and that’s precisely what the study from the Netherlands found.

Interestingly the researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands started their research not by exploring the impact of neonicotinoids, but by looking at two different data sets, one of bird counts, and the other of surface water measurements of the most common neonicotinoid, and through this the scientists were able to track the decline in bird numbers during the period of 2003 to 2010 while leaving the door open for other possible causes of bird population decline.

They found that there may be several factors contributing to the fall in numbers, such as an intensification of farming which often means uprooting bird habitats, like digging up hedges or dismantling barns.

Still, the researchers found that the presence of imidacloprid, one of the leading neonicotinoids, is incontrovertibly impacting birds and may be the main cause of bird decline in the region. They found that if ground water had just 20 nanograms of neonicotinoid per liter, there was a 30 percent fall in bird numbers during the study period–and what’s more, some areas had pollution levels that was 50 times higher than that figure.

In total, the researchers found that 14 out of 15 common insect-eating bird species, like barn swallows, tree sparrows and starlings, had suffered sometimes dramatic population declines.

Research similar but not identical to this has been dismissed in the past because it didn’t control for other factors, but this research did, yet the pattern still emerged. That is why lead researcher Hans de Kroon believes its time to take this problem seriously because, if neonicotinoids are indirectly harming birds, they’re probably harming other wildlife that prey on insects, too.

David Gouslon of the University of Sussex, who wasn’t involved in this study but did write a separate commentary, says this research is convincing. He tells the Guardian: “The simplest, most obvious, explanation is that highly toxic substances that kill insects lead to declines in things that eat insects. … This work flags up the point that this isn’t just about bees, it is about everything. When hundreds or thousands of species or insect are being wiped out, it’s going to have impacts on bats, shrews, hedgehogs, you name it. It is pretty good evidence of wholesale damage to the environment.”

Goulson also highlights that unlike the Netherlands, the UK (and much of Europe) isn’t monitoring neonicotinoid pollution. The UK agency responsible for overseeing matters dealing with the environment and wildlife, called Defra, remains stalwart that the research isn’t overwhelming and that, at the moment, there isn’t compelling evidence to show a definite link between neonicotinoids and harm to wildlife.

Defra says that these kinds of pesticides are safe when used as recommended and points to the admittedly (usually) rigorous short-term trials carried out by neonicotinoid producers. The problem though is precisely that they are only short-term trials. Manufacturers haven’t used longer-term systematic trials but if they did, scientists say the data would show the harms neonicotinoids can create over longer periods of time.

It was hoped that this message was, at last, getting through, when in 2013 the EU imposed a two-year suspension of thre neonicotinoids, but it emerged the suspension is largely toothless because the EU is failing to track data during this time, and a two year suspension is unlikely to give any meaningful data anyway.

We have to be clear that this latest study implies a link and not causation, but because this adds to a wider body of data that all suggests a link, the evidence for probable causation is growing ever more formidable. All this leads us to ask: how much scientific data do we need, and how many impartial experts need to speak out, before our politicians will act?

Or perhaps the better question is, how many animal populations have to collapse before our governments see fit to do something and actually tackle the issue of neonicotinoids?

 

Read full story · Posted in News

Beekeeping is booming in Vienna

People living in Vienna have got a new hobby – beekeeping.

The idea really took off a few years ago after the city council started investing in beehives and placing them in prominent locations. The State Opera House, the Burgtheater and the Museum of Natural History all have bee populations on their roofs, and there are even hives on the terraces of the Vienna General Hospital (AKH).

From there however, with all the publicity, people living in Vienna also started buying rooftop beehives, and now the local beekeeping association estimates there are hundreds of tonnes of honey being harvested in Vienna. The meadows, trees, parks, gardens, roadside verges, balconies and green rooftops provide a constant, yet ever-changing palette of blossoming flowers for the insects to feed on. Temperatures also remain higher for longer in the city than in rural areas.

Over 600 Viennese have even started investing in so many hives that they have registered officially as beekeepers with a special association, the Stadt-Imker (urban beekeepers), which is dedicated to monitoring and managing the various hives in the capital.

Josef Beier who is head of the Vienna beekeeping association said: “I never would have thought it possible but it really is getting to the situation now where the only problem is space for the beehives and to store the equipment needed for the honey gathering.

“With the fact that many colonies have been dying out en masse, the subject has been very present in the media and as a result a lot of people had become interested in it – and some of those have decided to do their bit to help the bees. With many having positive experiences, others have become involved and so it has spread.

“To keep healthy bees you need a wide variety of plants and with all the exotic varieties available in window boxes and gardens, it’s a paradise for these. There is always something in bloom and at the same time the bees of course are great for Vienna’s plants.

“It only takes about 250 GBP to start off as an amateur beekeeper, which includes the beehive and the basic equipment and tools as well as protective clothing.”

[view original article via viennatimes.at]

Read full story · Posted in News

Edmonton moves forward with urban beekeeping

By Mack D. Male 

Urban beekeepers are buzzing in Edmonton now that City Council has given the green light to a pilot project that will allow hives in backyards within city limits. On July 7, the Community Services Committee approved the pilot with urgency, pushing for the rules against urban beekeeping to come to an end. The City will now undertake a pilot and will report back with recommended bylaw changes in early 2015.

The battle to keep bees has been going on for quite some time and given that numerous other cities allow urban beekeeping, this decision was seen by many as long overdue. Importantly, it’s another recommendation from Fresh that will see implementation, and it’s a sign from Council that they are serious about food and agriculture in Edmonton.

Here’s an audio story about the news:

Edmonton moves forward with urban beekeeping by Mack Male on Mixcloud

Further Reading

Sources

[view the original article via blog.mastermaq.ca]

Read full story · Posted in News

As Honeybees Die Off, First Inventory of Wild Bees Is Under Way

By Sasha Ingber via nationalgeographic.com

Not every bee may count, but Sam Droege is counting every bee.

On Saturdays, the head of the landmark Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program at the U.S. Geological Survey leaves his straw-bale house, where bees burrow in the walls, and goes to his office—for pleasure. From his desk, a recycled segment of a lane from a bowling alley, he pores over bee specimens with a microscope.

“I’m looking deeply into [their] eyes to see what they reveal,” said Droege. “I’m looking for species in potential trouble, gathering information on their status before they’re designated an endangered species.” (See “Intimate Portraits of Bees” for more of Droege’s bee pictures.)

Droege is pioneering the first national inventory of indigenous wild bees, a task of growing importance. The buzz started in 2006 when honeybees, the non-native species used commercially to pollinate crops, began to mysteriously vanish after leaving their hives. If honeybees continue to wane in coming decades, scientists believe wild bees could save our crops. (See “The Plight of the Honeybee.”)

Problems for Pollinators

More than half of managed U.S. honeybee colonies have disappeared in the past ten years. Though native to Eurasia and northern Africa, honeybees pollinate a third of the American diet, from nuts to produce—not to mention coffee and cotton. In 2010 they contributed to more than $19 billion worth of crops. (Related: “U.S. Honeybee Losses Not as Severe This Year.“)

Pesticides, fungicides, and viruses, among other factors, have contributed to the honeybees’ decline. Though they lack a traditional vertebrate circulatory system, they’re vulnerable to parasites, such as the bloodsucking varroa mite, which deforms their bodies and shortens their life span.

Little is known about the hardiness of the honeybee’s native counterpart, the mostly solitary wild bee. Many scientists believe that wild bee populations were once greater, but have dwindled as land was developed and agriculture intensified.

Home gardeners may also be contributing to the bees’ habitat loss. Gardeners with a love of exotic plants often uproot native ones, not realizing that this deprives most pollinators of their food. Other factors limiting the bees’ food supply include the effects of climate change, droughts, floods, and flowers blooming prematurely as the days grow warmer.

The Bees in Our Backyard

“People were collecting bees in the early 1900s, but they weren’t doing quantitative analyses,” said Georgetown University biologist Edd Barrows.

In 1998, Barrows gathered bees in Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in Alexandria, Virginia, using mesh, tentlike structures called Malaise traps. The bees he collected then—still awaiting examination due to lack of time and funds—could serve as a historical reference point to show scientists how the preserve’s bee fauna is changing due to water and air pollution, erosion, and invasive plants.

“We need to have some way of measuring whether native bees are increasing or decreasing,” said Droege.

His own survey methods are unconventional, albeit familiar to scientists on shoestring budgets. To collect bees, plastic party cups act as pan traps. (Droege says the idea stems from the 1970s, when butchers gave their customers yellow pans, which people would fill with soapy water to catch bugs outside.)

Workers from New Horizons Supported Services, an organization that helps adults with developmental disabilities in Maryland gain employment, paint the cups to mimic the colors bees prefer in flowers. Then the cups are filled with propylene glycol—the same substance used to maintain moisture in food, medicine, and cosmetics. Its low surface tension means that insects will sink to the bottom. Every two weeks, the traps are emptied by volunteers.

After that the bees are washed, dried, and stored at the USGS lab in repurposed pizza boxes. Their deaths serve as a chance to learn about, and monitor, potentially endangered native bee species.

The biggest problem is telling the bees apart. Bees are often difficult to differentiate, and about 400 species—ten percent of North America’s bees—lack names. (Compare that to the 1,000 ant species that have been named.)

“[They're] not something someone like a birder could look at, and say, ‘That’s a robin,’” said biologist Daniel Kjar of Elmira College in New York.

So Droege spends hours trying to identify species. His team captures the pitting on their skin, the striations of hair on their abdomens, and other physical traits with a macro lens camera—a sort of insect portraiture. Droege says these body features may help bees avoid predation and attract mates.

Harvesting the Unknown

Today, scientists will go to great lengths to study the small insects.

Sean Brady, head of the Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Entomology, is studying evolutionary relationships between different bee species. He’s sequencing their genetic material, which can cost between $10,000 and $50,000 for a complete genome.

He’s also interested in understanding why, among certain bee species that produce offspring twice in a season, the first brood spends its lifetime caring for the second hatching instead of reproducing. The work may help him understand the social behavior and pollination strategy of wild bees.

“The unknown can be a good thing,” said Brady. “There is a lot to learn in the next 10 to 20 years.”

In 2010 and 2011, Brady and Droege set up traps in the cacti and thorn scrub of Guantanamo Bay, where the native habitat is preserved in the midst of the prison camp. They collected more than a third of the bee species that live on the entire island of Cuba. A new species they discovered was quickly named—Megachile droegei, after Droege.

Read full story · Posted in News

Beehive Air-Conditioning via @nytimes

Q. Why are honeybees drinking water from my birdbath?

A. The birdbath may be closer to the hive than a natural source of water, said Cole Gilbert, a Cornell entomologist. Or the bees may have discovered it while foraging for nectar and pollen, then returned when conditions in the colony changed.

Bees collect water from many nonpure sources — even urine, by one report, Dr. Gilbert said — but prefer pure water, like that in a birdbath, when specifically foraging for it.

The most important factor in a hive’s water requirements is temperature control in the area where larvae are raised.

Water is collected by the same means as nectar, by sucking through the proboscis, Dr. Gilbert said. It is stored in the honey stomach, a pouch where nectar is also stored. “When foragers return to the hive, the water is regurgitated and passed by trophallaxis, a fancy word for mouth to mouth, from the forager bee to a younger hive bee,” he said.

While the hive bee smears droplets on the comb, other bees hang out near the hive entrance, fanning their wings to increase airflow through the hive. The vaporizing droplets remove heat.

When extra water is needed, a hive bee signals to a forager bee by refusing to take her nectar for some time. When it is eventually accepted, the forager bee looks for water on her next foray.

[view original article via nytimes]

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

BEES KNEES art exhibition in St. Louis

ATTN: ST. LOUIS HONEYLOVERS <3!!!

July 19th Alexi Era Gallery is throwing a BEES KNEES art exhibition at their gallery where 100% of the proceeds go to HoneyLove!! Beautiful honey bee inspired postcards, honey tasting, wine and food! There will also be 10 larger art pieces posted online for the rest of us to bid on!

Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/events/710777705630253/

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin

Cards Against Humanity LA Edition

By  and  via LA Weekly

For those of you who aren’t already wise to America’s edgiest new pastime, Cards Against Humanity – its name a play on “crimes against humanity” – is a game most similar to Apples to Apples, but *WARNING* rated R, if not NC-17. While playing the game doesn’t require extreme violence or nudity, cards make reference to both, and players have been known to blush.

At its simplest, Cards Against Humanity is a multi-player, fill-in-the-blanks game using black “question” cards and white “answer” cards (detailed instructions below). But it’s unusual in many respects: It was funded through Kickstarter. It’s downloadable for free on the internet. And it’s not hard to create your own version – which we’ve done.

Click here to download Cards Against Los Angeles 

Instructions:

To begin, each player draws 10 white cards. A Card Czar is then randomly chosen (this is a rotating title – don’t worry, you’ll get your turn) and plays a black card from the single black card pile. The Card Czar reads the question to the group, and each player answers by passing one white card (or two or three, depending on the question) face down to the Czar.

The Czar shuffles all answers and reads them aloud. The Chicagoans emphasize, “For full effect, the Card Czar should usually re-read the black card before presenting each answer.” After all, this game isn’t just about winning and losing, it’s also about attitude. And shock value.

When the hoots, hollers and hurling have died down, the Czar picks a favorite. Whoever played the favored answer keeps the black card as one Awesome Point and everyone draws back up to ten white cards. Then a new player ascends to Card Czar and play begins again. The original instructions don’t say how the game ends, but we assume you can determine the length of game however you’d like, and whoever has the most Awesome Points at the end wins. (Woot-woot!)

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, Yay Bees

Boulder neighborhood state’s first to be declared ‘bee-safe’

Melody-Catalpa volunteers secure pledges to shun pesticides
By Charlie Brennan 

The Melody-Catalpa neighborhood of Boulder is proudly wearing the mantle of the first “bee-safe” locality in Colorado.

It may not be a title for which there was fierce competition, but those in the roughly 200 households of the north Boulder neighborhood who signed a pledge not to use neonicotinoids or similar systemic pesticides are buzzing with excitement over earning the distinction.

Three neighborhood residents earlier this year banded together to sign on about 20 volunteers to go door to door. And, faster than they’d dared hope, they convinced more than half of the area’s 389 households to sign a pledge not to use neuroactive chemicals that many believe are contributing to the colony collapse phenomenon reported in global honeybee populations.

Those doing so were awarded green flags, signifying their commitment, to plant in their front lawns. Some homes there have not yet been contacted by the volunteers, but will be.

“We felt really good about it,” said Anne Bliss, one of the three organizers and a resident of the 3500 block of Catalpa Way. “We thought we would finish this by the end of May, and we more than had our goal really quickly. It took us a couple weeks.”

Molly Greacen, another of the drivers behind the Melody-Catalpa bee-safe initiative, said, “The real concern is that if we can get lots of other people to get excited about this idea, then all of Boulder can become bee-safe.”

[view full article via dailycamera.com]

Read full story · Posted in News

Gumuchian “B” Collection benefits HoneyLove!

Check out Gumachian’s “B” Collection!!
A portion of the proceeds of all sales will go to HoneyLove.org! 

Press Release: http://www.gumuchian.com/files/b-collection-pressrelease.pdf

[via pricescope]

Did you know that the declining honeybee population is affecting the world’s food supply? We didn’t. And we also didn’t know that one in every three bites of food consumed in the U.S. is a direct or indirect result of bee pollination. According to HoneyLove.org, bees pollinate a whopping 80% of the world’s plants. 

So Patricia Gumuchian–who designed the “B” collection of rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces–answered the call to action to support urban beekeeping.

“I have never been afraid of bees. I think they’re wonderful,” said Patricia Gumuchian. “I look around our office of women and think about the worker bees – who are the female bees – and how valuable they are to our livelihood. Our family gatherings and holidays largely center on all types of foods. What would happen if these things just went away? The effects could be detrimental. We need to change what’s going on.”

gumuchian

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

VOTE FOR HONEYLOVE!

We are thrilled to announce that HONEYLOVE was chosen as a finalist of the “Communities with Drive” program, sponsored by Zipcar, Inc. and Ford Motor Company.  Communities with Drive is designed to acknowledge and reward organizations that are having a profound impact on the communities in which they operate.

As one of 25 finalists from over 400 entries, HoneyLove is eligible to win $50,000 in cash as well as $15,450 in Zipcar credit to support the organization’s needs. Here’s where you come in: winners are voted on by the public at
http://on.fb.me/1jwsmxR

vote-button

We would LOVE for you to spread the buzz that HoneyLove is a finalist to increase our chances of receiving the substantial prize in order to continue to best serve the beekeeping community.

If you are a supporter of HoneyLove, we sincerely hope you will increase our chances of winning this impactful prize by voting for us. For additional information please check out: http://bit.ly/1m9cCzx.

Many Thanks—YAY BEES!!

And… bonus points for buzzing about it on twitter: @iheartbees @Zipcar @ Ford #CommunitiesWithDrive

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove HQ