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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

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

LA Times: Beekeepers urge L.A. council to allow backyard hives

LA Times article about backyard beekeeping

Beekeepers urge L.A. council to allow backyard hives

by Emily Alpert Reyes—February 12, 2014, 8:22 a.m.

Backyard beekeepers are urging the city to allow Angelenos to keep hives at home, joining the ranks of cities such as New York and Santa Monica that already permit the practice in residential areas.

The Los Angeles City Council is slated to vote Wednesday on whether to ask city officials to draw up a report on allowing beekeeping in residential zones, a possible first step toward permitting backyard beekeeping.

Under Los Angeles city codes, beekeeping isn’t allowed in residential zones, according to city planning officials. Backyard beekeeping has nonetheless blossomed as Angelenos committed to locavore living or worried about the health of honeybees have started tending hives at home.

“It’s the yummiest way of breaking the law,” said Max Wong, who keeps bees in her backyard in Mount Washington. Her neighbors were stunned when she told them it wasn’t allowed there under city code, she said.

“Beekeeping should never have been illegal,” Wong said. The image of urban greenery is “part of what makes Los Angeles, Los Angeles,” she said.

So far, both beekeepers and city officials say few complaints have been lodged about illegal beekeeping in Los Angeles neighborhoods. Such complaints are so rare, said Department of Building and Safety spokesman Luke Zamperini, that the department doesn’t track them in their own category.

Beekeepers argue that new rules would nonetheless wipe out the legal unease they now face in the city, clearing up exactly what is allowed.

“Regulations would bring Los Angeles up to speed with pretty much all the other major metropolitan areas around the country,” said Rob McFarland, co-founder of the Los Angeles beekeeping nonprofit HoneyLove. In addition, “it would give beekeepers the guidelines to help make it as safe as possible.”

More than a dozen neighborhood councils, including those in Van Nuys, Eagle Rock, Hollywood and Palms, have backed at least exploring the idea. Some supporters invoke the threat of colony collapse disorder, which has devastated commercial hives that pollinate billions of dollars in crops globally…

[view the complete article via latimes.com]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove Interviews

PHOTOS: School Outreach in Manhattan Beach

SchoolOutreach1013_2
Thank you to Susan for doing another awesome school outreach in Manhattan Beach! YAY BEES!

SchoolOutreach1013_3 SchoolOutreach1013_4 SchoolOutreach1013_5SchoolOutreach1013_1

Join the HoneyLove School Outreach Team!
Interested in helping to spread a buzz for bees at local Los Angeles schools? We are starting a new task force to visit 50 schools in 2014 and WE NEED YOUR HELP!
HoneyLove will provide outreach materials to all volunteers who complete the training!

Contact us and let us know you are interested in learning how to volunteer! outreach@honeylove.org

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin, School Outreach

READ: “Portlanders add bee crisis to areas honey-do list”

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Beekeeper Damian Magista transfers a new hive of bees to the rooftop of the New Seasons Market in Happy Valley. The Portland grocery chain is educating customers about the vital role that bees play in the food chain.

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT – Beekeeper Damian Magista transfers a new hive of bees to the rooftop of the New Seasons Market in Happy Valley. The Portland grocery chain is educating customers about the vital role that bees play in the food chain.

Written by Jennifer Anderson via portlandtribune.com

You’ve heard of eco-roofs and rooftop gardens, but the latest twist to hit Portland comes with a sweeter payout: rooftop honeybee hives.

New Seasons Market recently installed a honeybee hive atop its store in Happy Valley, a picturesque suburb 15 minutes east of Clackamas that’s a mix of newer homes and farmland.

“They’ll go to all these neighborhoods, start pollinating everyone’s gardens and yards, the fruit trees and farms,” says Portland beekeeper Damian Magista, surveying the skyline from the grocery store’s roof. “It’s a great environment here. There’s plenty of food.”

In other words: Happy bees make lots of honey.

By late August, Magista expects the bees to produce enough honey to start selling it at the Happy Valley store.

But that’s not the primary motivation for New Seasons’ “Bee Part of the Solution” campaign.

The company aims to educate people about the honeybee’s critical link in the ecosystem, and the fact that they are dying out worldwide, due to what’s known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

The number of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to 2.5 million today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A May 2 report by the U.S.D.A. and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points to a variety of stressors, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.

Scientists at the Oregon State University Honey Bee Lab have been focusing on two factors in particular.

They’re studying the impact of a honeybee pest called the invasive varroa mite, as well as poisoning by pesticides applied to crops or to hives to control insects, mites and other pests.

New Seasons sees it as part of its mission to educate people about the phenomenon, because of the direct link to the food chain.

“There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country’s long-term agricultural productivity,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, upon the release of the latest federal report.

New Seasons could install a second rooftop hive at its Sellwood store in Southeast Portland in June after a process required by Multnomah County to notify neighbors.

The initial hope was to install honeybee hives on all 12 of the local grocery chain’s rooftops (a 13th location opens late August in Northeast Portland’s Eliot neighborhood). But Washington County won’t allow it, so the Progress Ridge store in Beaverton may miss out.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT – Katie Passero dresses as a bee to work the counter at New Seasons Market, as part of the companys Bee Part of the Solution campaign.

The rooftop hive idea was sparked by an incident last summer, when a swarm of bees made its home above the New Seasons sign at its Raleigh Hills store in Southwest Portland. Local TV cameras came and documented the removal of the swarm, which was safely relocated.

A few other grocery store chains have begun rooftop hive projects, including Bi-Rite in San Francisco, which New Seasons used as a model, says Mark Feuerborn, the Happy Valley store manager.

Feuerborn, a home beekeeper who’ll manage his store’s hives, is excited for what’s to come. A “bee cam” will let people peek in on the hives and the honey harvesting. Shoppers can draw a direct link to the products in the store through new displays of honey-based products — everything from lip balm and candles to jars of pure, unprocessed honey made in Portland.

“Two miles away is Saelee Farms,” Feuerborn says. “We can see our bees pollinating their products, ending up on our shelves. This is a way for people to remember that.”

Lots of local buzz

Interest in urban beekeeping has soared in recent years.

“Portlandia” could even write an episode called “Put a bee on it.”

There’s a Portland Metro Beekeepers’ Association, whose members keep bees for hobby and business.

The Portland-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit invertebrate conservation group, launched a “Bring back the pollinators” campaign. That’s attracted more than 1,000 people who signed a pledge to do four things: grow a variety of bee-friendly flowers that bloom from spring through fall; protect and provide bee nests and caterpillar host plants; avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides; and talk to neighbors about the importance of pollinators and their habitat.

There’s also a Portland Urban Beekeepers group, which aims to promote the public’s awareness of “apiculture” and the overall health and diversity of bees in the Pacific Northwest. Club president Tim Wessels says his group started with a dozen or so people meeting informally in 2010. Last spring they’d grown so large that they created officer positions and began meeting monthly. Today there are 115 members who pay the $15 annual dues, plus another 240 members on Facebook.

As president, he’s asked people why they’re drawn to bees, and he more or less gets the same answer: “Well, the bees are hurting, aren’t they? We just want to help out and see if we can bring the population back.”

Others just like honey, and he’s cool with that, too.

Wessels and fellow beekeeper/business partner Glen Andresen are working with a grad student at OSU’s Honey Bee Lab and retired entomologist Dewey Caron on an effort to breed a local queen bee. Most of the purchased queens here come from Southern California or Kona, Hawaii, Wessels says. Unsurprisingly, they’re not able to survive Oregon’s winters.

Wessels believes it’s possible to breed a Portland honeybee with “hygienic behavior,” which is their behavioral mechanism of disease resistance. After the queen lays an egg in a cell, if a worker bee somehow determines mites are in the cell, it would remove the mite. The result is that the mites aren’t able to reproduce.

It might sound like a far-fetched idea, but Wessels and his team have about 100 hives around Portland, and they’re collecting swarms that did survive this past winter.

“If we are successful in developing a more locally adapted honey bee, perhaps others can use this model in other cities,” he says.

Sweet new products

Magista, the beekeeper working with New Seasons, owns a startup company called Bee Local, which harvests and sells micro-batches of artisan honey varieties — with flavors made distinct by the flora and fauna of each neighborhood. He works with backyard beekeepers in the Mt. Tabor, Laurelhurst, Powellhurst and Brooklyn neighborhoods, and the buzz is spreading.

Beekeepers estimate there are about 500 hives being kept by people in Portland, many on rooftops, since bees are attracted to trees at about the 15-to-20-foot height.

One of those rooftops is at Noble Rot restaurant in Portland, and more could soon follow. That’s good news for honey connoisseurs.

“What dictates the taste is the flowers and forage in that particular area,” says Magista, who won a 2013 “Local Food Hero” award in March, presented by Ecotrust.

“It’s more than just the honey, it’s really about getting people to be more in touch with their immediate environment. What can I do at my home, in my yard to make a difference?”

[read original article via portlandtribune.com]

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: “Saving the honeybee is a ‘sweet’ effort”

AnneMarieBeekeeper

Hancock Park resident Anne Marie Host and her fiancée,
Sean Austin, have joined the fight to save the honeybee.



A local couple is among a group of urban beekeepers striving for relaxed regulations on their trade, an effort that provides a sanctuary for bees, which pollinate 80 percent of the world’s plants.

In recent years, honeybees have been impacted by a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a problem that results in adult honeybees disappearing from their hives. The cause remains unknown, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“There’s so much adding to the problem that it can’t be any one thing,” Hancock Park resident Sean Austin said.

Austin, along with his fiancée Anne Marie Host, tends to bees at the HoneyLove Sanctuary in Simi Valley, where Austin’s sister, Chelsea McFarland, runs the nonprofit conservation organization with her husband, Rob…

In May, Councilman Bill Rosendahl drafted a motion to have the city formally support beekeeping initiatives in the city and decrease the inhumane removal of the insects. Chelsea said the motion is now in the city’s Planning and Land Use Committee.

Although some people may be concerned about living near a beehive, there are likely 9 to 11 colonies of bees living in every mile of Los Angeles right now, she said…

Austin said he and his fiancée would keep bees at their home near Larchmont Boulevard if they could.

“It’s actually a really cool pet,” he said.

While people continue to sign HoneyLove’s petition on change.org and vie for legalized beekeeping, HoneyLove goes to schools and educates children about the necessity of honeybees.

“A lot of fear around bees comes from early childhood experiences,” Chelsea said, adding that her nephew was recently stung by a wasp, and he now has an aversion to bees. “We need kids to grow to like bees.”

Next, HoneyLove and its supporters will undergo a pesticide-free movement. Chelsea said that once a person thinks about the smallest common denominator — the honeybee — their concern for the environment increases substantially.

“Bees are the gateway drug to a sustainable lifestyle,” she added.

[click here to read the full article via parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

HoneyLove Sanctuary Photos

Photos by Rebecca Cabage @ HoneyLove Sanctuary

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin

SIGN THE PETITION!

CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO SIGN OUR PETITION!
http://www.change.org/petitions/legalize-urban-beekeeping-in-los-angeles-2

Legalize Urban Beekeeping

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, Yay Bees

Bees Buzz Each Other, but Not the Way You Think

by Sid Perkins via news.sciencemag.org

Electric bees? Honey bees may use electrical fields that accumulate on their bodies when they fly or move about to communicate with each other within the hive, a new study suggests.
Credit: Ken Thomas/Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The electric fields that build up on honey bees as they fly, flutter their wings, or rub body parts together may allow the insects to talk to each other, a new study suggests. Tests show that the electric fields, which can be quite strong, deflect the bees’ antennae, which, in turn, provide signals to the brain through specialized organs at their bases.

Scientists have long known that flying insects gain an electrical charge when they buzz around. That charge, typically positive, accumulates as the wings zip through the air—much as electrical charge accumulates on a person shuffling across a carpet. And because an insect’s exoskeleton has a waxy surface that acts as an electrical insulator, that charge isn’t easily dissipated, even when the insect lands on objects, says Randolf Menzel, a neurobiologist at the Free University of Berlin in Germany.

Although researchers have suspected for decades that such electrical fields aid pollination by helping the tiny grains stick to insects visiting a flower, only more recently have they investigated how insects sense and respond to such fields. Just last month, for example, a team reported that bumblebees may use electrical fields to identify flowers recently visited by other insects from those that may still hold lucrative stores of nectar and pollen. A flower that a bee had recently landed on might have an altered electrical field, the researchers speculated.

Now, in a series of lab tests, Menzel and colleagues have studied how honey bees respond to electrical fields. In experiments conducted in small chambers with conductive walls that isolated the bees from external electrical fields, the researchers showed that a small, electrically charged wand brought close to a honey bee can cause its antennae to bend. Other tests, using antennae removed from honey bees, indicated that electrically induced deflections triggered reactions in a group of sensory cells, called the Johnston’s organ, located near the base of the antennae. In yet other experiments, honey bees learned that a sugary reward was available when they detected a particular pattern of electrical field.

Altogether, these tests suggest that the electrical fields that build up on bees due to their flight or movement are stimuli that could be used in social communication, the researchers report online this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The team’s findings “are very significant,” says Fred Dyer, a behavioral biologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. “I hadn’t heard about the possibility that honey bees could use electrical fields.”

One of the honey bees’ forms of communication is the “waggle dance.” When the insects have located a dense patch of flowers or a source of water, they skitter across the honeycomb in their hive in a pattern related to the direction of and the distance to the site. Fellow worker bees then take that information and forage accordingly. The biggest mystery about the dance, Dyer says, is which senses the bees use—often in the deep, dark recesses of their hive—to conduct their communication. “People have proposed a variety of methods: direct contact between bees, air currents from the buzzing of their wings, odors, even vibrations transmitted through the honeycomb itself,” he says.

But the team’s new findings introduce yet another mode of communication available to the insects, Dyer says. He notes that the group found that antenna deflections induced by an electrically charged honey bee wing are about 10 times the size of those that would be caused by airflow from the wing fluttering at the same distance—a sign that electrical fields could be an important signal.

“They show that the electrical fields are there and that they’re within the range of what the animal can sense,” Dyer says. “Their claim of evidence is quite compelling.”

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees