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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

Spokane Washington bans neonicotinoid pesticides

Another City Has Made Its Public Spaces Safer for Bees

Spokane, Wash., is the latest city to pass an ordinance limiting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

 

It’s happening very slowly, one midsize to large city at a time, but the Pacific Northwest is inching its way toward becoming a haven for honeybees. Earlier this week, Spokane, Wash., joined Eugene, Ore., and Seattle in passing citywide bans on neonicotinoids, a class of pesticide that’s widely believed to be harming the pollinators that play such an important role in our agriculture system—a full 33 percent of the crops grown worldwide depend on honeybees.

The 5–2 city council vote (the dissenting votes came from two councilmembers who said the research wasn’t convincing enough) came just after Pollinator Week, amid a rush of bee-related news. There was President Obama’s announcement of a Pollinator Health Task Force, a preview of a report that says neonics are worse for bees than DDT, and another study that showed that the supposedly bee-friendly plants you can purchase at major retail chains contain high levels of the pesticide. Eight years after the first instances of colony collapse disorder occurred, sparking increased interest in pollinator health among both scientists and environmentalists, it appears that new momentum is building behind efforts to protect bees.

In Spokane, the new ordinance won’t cover all city-owned land, as the parks department manages a chunk of public property, but it has assured City Council President Ben Stuckart that neonics aren’t being used in Spokane’s parks. The ordinance mandates that “no department may knowingly purchase or use products or products in packaging containing neonicotinoids,” but it does not apply to personal use of the pesticide on private property.

“This ordinance simply says Spokane prioritizes the protection of our food supply over the ornamental use of pesticides,” Stuckart said in a statement.

Spokane may not have a vested economic interest in protecting honeybees, but Washington state certainly benefits from the estimated $15 billion in increased crop value the bees bring with their highly efficient pollination. The state is the country’s leading apple producer, and the 175,000-some acres of orchards that grow there depend on a healthy population of honeybees and other insects to yield a good crop.

What remains unclear is whether limiting the use of neonics will help stem the nearly one-third of managed beehives that die off every year, on average. Dave Goulson, a professor at the University of Sussex in England, who worked on the latest neonic study, told the BBC he wasn’t in favor of an outright ban. “I think we should use them much more judiciously,” he said. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a bee researcher at the University of Maryland, told me something similar, saying, “I think it’s a little bit naive to think that if we ban neonics, all of our problems will go away.”

The federal Pollinator Health Task Force doesn’t promise any sweeping ban, but perhaps the local actions of cities like Spokane can help propel more measured reforms—ones that could bring limits on neonics and other chemicals that are harmful to bees—out of the city and onto farms.

[Read original article via takepart.com]

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

LAist.com: Los Angeles Considers Legalizing Urban Beekeeping

photo by Krista Simmons / LAist.com

(Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)

 

Los Angeles Considers Legalizing Urban Beekeeping

By Krista Simmons in Food on Feb 12, 2014 12:45 PM

Urban beekeeping, along with other more typically rural pursuits like raising chickens and planting edible gardens, has become more popular as a part of the homesteading movement. Not only do urban beekeepers actually have several advantages over their rural counterparts—rural areas are doused with pesticides, they don’t offer the same variety of plants as cities and the bees don’t have to be trucked in to Los Angeles—but the bees are already here. They also have a more diverse, year-round source for pollen. Unfortunately, up until this point, beekeeping in city limits has been against the law.

Many have been campaigning to change that. And today the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to conduct a study on legalizing urban beekeeping in Los Angeles, according to City News Service.

The study would look into overturning the law banning beekeeping in areas where there are single-family homes. The council also passed a motion that calls on the city to explore more humane ways of removing bees other than extermination. A third motion passed supports federal protections for bees against pesticides.

Councilman Paul Koretz said the state has been losing a third of its bees a year since 2006, threatening California’s avocado and almond growing industry.

“Almonds alone are $4 billion of our state’s economy,” he said. “Bees, it turns out, are thriving in Los Angeles, he said, possibly because there is no large-scale agriculture and fewer pesticides in use. “It’s important to protect these bees that thrive here locally.”

Beekeeping proponents showed up to the City Council meeting to show their support. The LA Times’ Emily Alpert Reyes said there was at least one beekeeping outfit and a fair number of bee costumes, including a doggie bee costume in attendance this morning.

“Bees are in real trouble, and urban beekeeping is part of the solution,” Rob McFarland of HoneyLove, an organizing supporting bee farming in Los Angeles, told the City Council.

Hopefully the buzz will turn into a sweet resolution for city dwellers and aspiring hive owners alike.

[More from LAist]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove Interviews

Gunther Hauk Interview by Focus on Food


Spikenard Farms Radio
Listen to the latest Focus On Food interview with renowned biodynamic beekeeper Gunther Hauk via instituteofurbanecology.org

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, Yay Bees

This Week in News features HoneyLove.org and National Honey Bee Day!

THIS WEEK IN NEWS via James Rojas

National Honey Bee Day, 2013, Santa Monica. August 17th is National Honey Bee Day & a local non-profit organization, HoneyLove, celebrated in Santa Monica to help spread the message of how important it is to help bees.

this week in news

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List of Foods We Will Lose if We Don’t Save the Bees

By: Christina Sarich, Natural Society.

800px-Bee-apis-300x200

Many pesticides have been found to cause grave danger to our bees, and with the recent colony collapses in Oregonit’s time to take a hard look at what we would be missing without bee pollination.

In just the last ten years, over 40% of the bee colonies in the US have suffered Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Bees either become so disoriented they can’t find their way back to their hives and die away from home, or fly back poison-drunk and die at the foot of their queen. There are many arguments as to what is causing CCD, but the most logical and likely culprit is the increased usage of pesticides by the likes of Monsanto and others.

A study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has labeled one pesticide, called clothianidin, as completely unacceptable for use, and banned it from use entirely. Meanwhile, the U.S. uses the same pesticide on more than a third of its crops – nearly 143 million acres. Two more pesticides linked to bee death are imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam. These are also used extensively in the US, while elsewhere, they have been taken out of circulation.

Recently, the FDA also seized Terrence Ingram’s bees, a naturalist who had been studying bees for over 30 years, and had a  colony that was resistant to Monsanto’s Round Up. Ingram’s prized hives, along with their queens, were destroyed by the FDA, and Ingram was given no warning that his bees would be demolished.

List of Crop Plants Pollinated by Bees

While we don’t need bees to pollinate every single crop, here is just a brief list of some of the foods we would lose if all our bees continue to perish:

  • Apples
  • Mangos
  • Rambutan
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Plums
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Guava
  • Rose Hips
  • Pomegranites
  • Pears
  • Black and Red Currants
  • Alfalfa
  • Okra
  • Strawberries
  • Onions
  • Cashews
  • Cactus
  • Prickly Pear
  • Apricots
  • Allspice
  • Avocados
  • Passion Fruit
  • Lima Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Adzuki Beans
  • Green Beans
  • Orchid Plants
  • Custard Apples
  • Cherries
  • Celery
  • Coffee
  • Walnut
  • Cotton
  • Lychee
  • Flax
  • Acerola – used in Vitamin C supplements
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Goa beans
  • Lemons
  • Buckwheat
  • Figs
  • Fennel
  • Limes
  • Quince
  • Carrots
  • Persimmons
  • Palm Oil
  • Loquat
  • Durian
  • Cucumber
  • Hazelnut
  • Cantaloupe
  • Tangelos
  • Coriander
  • Caraway
  • Chestnut
  • Watermelon
  • Star Apples
  • Coconut
  • Tangerines
  • Boysenberries
  • Starfruit
  • Brazil Nuts
  •  Beets
  • Mustard Seed
  • Rapeseed
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
  • Turnips
  • Congo Beans
  • Sword beans
  • Chili peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, green peppers
  • Papaya
  • Safflower
  • Sesame
  • Eggplant
  • Raspberries
  • Elderberries
  • Blackberries
  • Clover
  • Tamarind
  • Cocoa
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Vanilla
  • Cranberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes

If one of your favorites is on this list, you should consider becoming a bee activist.

[read original post via realnews24.com]

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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]

Read full story · Posted in News

Join us August 17th for National Honey Bee Day!

honeybeedaybee

Learn the WAGGLE DANCE and send it to us to bee in our compilation video!!

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NATIONAL HONEY BEE DAY!!

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, HoneyLovin, Yay Bees

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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