Tag Archives: bees

Field tests show how pesticides can wreak havoc on honeybees

Mira Abed, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Humans are big fans of bees. We rely on them to pollinate crops like almonds, watermelons and apples.

But bees probably aren’t big fans of humans — at least, not of our agricultural practices.In particular, they ought to be offended by our fondness for a widely used class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (neonics, for short).

Studies in the lab have shown that some doses of neonics are outright lethal to many bees and that even sub-lethal doses can shorten a colony’s lifespan and harm its overall health. Results have been similar in small-scale field studies.

Still, exactly how these pesticides, which are applied to seeds before planting, would affect bees in the real world remains something of a mystery. Scientists have been locked in a fierce debate over how much — and for how long — bees encounter these pesticides in their daily lives. After all, the conditions in a field are far more complex than those in a lab.

Now, two studies published side by side in the journal Science attempt to answer this contentious question.

One of the studies was conducted in Canada. It combined large-scale field work and laboratory experiments to better understand real-world neonic exposure levels and their effects on honeybees.

The other was conducted in large fields in Hungary, Germany and the U.K. Its goal was to understand how the effects of neonics vary between countries and how exposure during the flowering season affects the long-term health of a bee colony.

Read more at: Field tests show how pesticides can wreak havoc on honeybees – LA Times

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living

Pesticides damage survival of bee colonies, landmark study shows

Damian Carrington, THE GUARDIAN

Prof David Goulson, a bee expert at the University of Sussex, UK, said: “In the light of these new studies, continuing to claim that use of neonicotinoids in farming does not harm bees is no longer a tenable position. In my view we should also consider the bigger picture; the current model of farming based on huge monocultures treated with dozens of pesticides is causing devastating environmental harm, undermining vital ecosystem services that keep us all alive.”

Widely used insecticides damage the survival of honeybee colonies, the world’s largest ever field trial has shown for the first time, as well as harming wild bees.

The farm-based research, along with a second new study, also suggests widespread contamination of entire landscapes and a toxic “cocktail effect” from multiple pesticides.

The landmark work provides the most important evidence yet for regulators around the world considering action against neonicotinoids, including in the EU where a total ban is poised to be implemented this autumn. The insecticides are currently banned on flowering crops in the EU.

The negative impacts found varied across different countries, leading the pesticide manufacturers to question whether the results of the research, which they funded, were real. The new research is published in the prestigious peer-review journal Science.

Read more at: Pesticides damage survival of bee colonies, landmark study shows | Environment | The Guardian

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Wildlife

How rising CO2 levels may contribute to die-off of bees 

Lisa Palmer, YALE ENVIRONMENT 360

Specimens of goldenrod sewn into archival paper folders are stacked floor to ceiling inside metal cabinets at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The collection, housed in the herbarium, dates back to 1842 and is among five million historical records of plants from around the world cataloged there. Researchers turned to this collection of goldenrod — a widely distributed perennial plant that blooms across North America from summer to late fall — to study concentrations of protein in goldenrod pollen because it is a key late-season food source for bees.

The newer samples look much like the older generations. But scientists testing the pollen content from goldenrod collected between 1842 and 2014, when atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide rose from about 280 parts per million to 398 ppm, found the most recent pollen samples contained 30 percent less protein. The greatest drop in protein occurred from 1960 to 2014, when the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose dramatically. A field experiment in the same study that exposed goldenrod to CO2 levels ranging from 280 to 500 ppm showed similar protein decreases.

More than 100 previous studies have shown that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide decrease the nutritional value of plants, such as wheat and rice. But the goldenrod study, published last month, was the first to examine the effects of rising CO2 on the diet of bees, and its conclusions were unsettling: The adverse impact of rising CO2 concentrations on the protein levels in pollen may be playing a role in the global die-off of bee populations by undermining bee nutrition and reproductive success.

“Pollen is becoming junk food for bees,” says Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Research Service in Maryland and lead author of the study. The study itself concluded that the decline of plant proteins in the face of soaring carbon dioxide concentrations provides an “urgent and compelling case” for CO2 sensitivity in pollen and other plant components.

Elevated CO2 levels affect plant physiology by enabling the plant’s starchier parts to grow faster and bigger, since atmospheric carbon dioxide is a building block for plant sugars. For goldenrod, this growth essentially dilutes the plant’s total protein, From 2006 to 2011, losses from managed honeybee colonies averaged 33 percent per year in the U.S. rather than concentrating it in the grain, which makes a starchier pollen.

“I knew there was work done on insects about how rising CO2 would reduce the protein content of leaves, and so insects will need to eat more leaves to get the same amount of protein,” says Ziska. “But until now, we didn’t know about how CO2 affects protein content in pollen.” The study is a synthesis of the knowledge about what is happening to bees and how CO2 impacts the quality of plants, and it brings those two disparate ideas together.

A number of new and accumulating pressures are threatening bee populations. From 2006 to 2011, annual losses from managed honeybee colonies averaged 33 percent per year in the United States, according to the USDA. Beekeepers have had to replace 50 percent of their colonies in recent years. Factors such as mite outbreaks and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides have been implicated in so-called “colony collapse disorder.”

Read more at: How Rising CO2 Levels May Contribute to Die-Off of Bees by Lisa Palmer: Yale Environment 360

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Wildlife

How to keep honeybees

Rene Ebersole, MODERN FARMER

For information on bee-friendly gardening, visit thehoneybeeconservancy.org.

You can hardly say “honeybee” anymore without hearing the reverb “colony collapse disorder.” Back in 2006, American beekeepers began reporting staggering losses, ranging from 30 to 90 percent of their hives. Since then, the alarming phenomenon—in which adult bees disappear, leaving the brood behind to die—has afflicted Europe as well. And honey’s far from the only reason to care. In America alone, the pollinators enable the production of roughly 90 commercial crops, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Without honeybees, some of the foods we eat, like almonds, could become extinct; the cost of others, such as cherries and avocados, would likely skyrocket. A decade after the disorder first surfaced, scientists have yet to identify a definitive culprit.

Meanwhile, U.S. citizens have taken up the cause, establishing hives in backyards, atop roofs, at restaurants, even on the White House lawn. Bee Culture magazine, already a publication with a narrow focus, recently launched a spin-off targeted even more specifically at beginners. Williams-Sonoma, ostensibly a kitchenware retailer, started selling beekeeping equipment in 2012. Even Costco carries hives these days.

Longtime beekeeper Rob Keller of Napa, California, should not be counted among the recent converts. He does, however, have the current apiary craze to thank for his success. Since launching the Napa Valley Bee Company in 2008, the 52-year-old has helped more than 100 clients—individuals and businesses, including Alice Waters’ legendary Chez Panisse—start and maintain honeybee colonies. “I can’t just sell my bees and walk away. I know that queen’s mother and her mother’s mother. I’d rather guide someone through all four seasons,” Keller explains. “It’s weird, man. It’s like I’m turning into, not a crazy cat lady, but a crazy bee guy. I have the utmost respect for this six-legged insect.”

Read more at: How to Keep Honeybees – Modern Farmer

Filed under Agriculture/Food System

Create a garden both you and Sonoma County bees will love 

Meg McConahey, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

There are a lot of practical and ecological reasons to turn your landscape into a way station and home for bees. In fact, the list of advantages is so compelling it may dramatically change how you see and use the space around your home.

Not only is a bee-friendly garden organic and sustainable, but a garden humming with bees will lead to a more bountiful harvest of larger and healthier fruits and vegetables. It will also attract other beneficial insects that will go after garden pests as well as provide habitat for butterflies, moths, bats, hummingbirds and other wildlife.

But on an even more global scale, bees provide a critical link in the world’s food chain by facilitating the fertilization of more than 70 percent of the world’s plants, says acclaimed North Coast garden designer Kate Frey. This includes many edibles, from nuts and fruits to tomatoes, peppers, berries and even some root crops like carrots and beets.

For all their virtues, bees have been suffering, not only from the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder in which the worker bees in hives can die off or desert, but from new pathogens, parasites, pesticides on the flowers they visit, herbicides that wipe out the plants they depend on and pests. In addition, habitat is disappearing due to development and monoculture — vast acreage of the same crop — that leave no sustenance for bees.

The good news is that even urban and suburban homeowners can help the bee cause and without sacrificing beauty, says Frey, co-author with San Francisco State University biology professor Gretchen LeBuhn of “The Bee-Friendly Garden” (Ten Speed Press, $19.99).

Read more at: Create a garden both you and Sonoma County bees will love | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living, Wildlife

The EPA finally admits that the world’s most popular pesticide kills bees

Tom Philpott, MOTHER JONES

Bees are dying in record numbers—and now the government admits that an extremely common pesticide is at least partially to blame.

For more than a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency has been under pressure from environmentalists and beekeepers to reconsider its approval of a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, based on a mounting body of research suggesting they harm bees and other pollinators at tiny doses. In a report released Wednesday, the EPA basically conceded the case.

The report card was so dire that the EPA “could potentially take action” to “restrict or limit the use” of the chemical by the end of this year.

Marketed by European chemical giants Syngenta and Bayer, neonics are the most widely used insecticides both in the United States and globally. In 2009, the agency commenced a long, slow process of reassessing them—not as a class, but rather one by one (there are five altogether). Meanwhile, tens of millions of acres of farmland are treated with neonics each year, and the health of US honeybee hives continues to be dismal.

The EPA’s long-awaited assessment focused on how one of the most prominent neonics—Bayer’s imidacloprid—affects bees. The report card was so dire that the EPA “could potentially take action” to “restrict or limit the use” of the chemical by the end of this year, an agency spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.

Read more at: The EPA Finally Admitted That the World’s Most Popular Pesticide Kills Bees—20 Years Too Late | Mother Jones

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Wildlife

Pesticides linked to honeybee deaths pose more risks

David Jolly, NYTIMES.COM

A growing body of evidence shows that the widespread use of the pesticides “has severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity,” the report’s authors said.

An influential European scientific body said on Wednesday that a group of pesticides believed to contribute to mass deaths of honeybees is probably more damaging to ecosystems than previously thought and questioned whether the substances had a place in sustainable agriculture.

The finding could have repercussions on both sides of the Atlantic for the companies that produce the chemicals, which are known as neonicotinoids because of their chemical similarity to nicotine. Global sales of the chemicals reach into the billions of dollars.

The European Commission in 2013 banned the use of three neonicotinoids — clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam — on flowering plants after a separate body, the European Food Safety Authority, found that exposure to the chemicals created “high acute risks” to bees.

But the chemicals continue to be employed on an industrial scale in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing their use after President Obama last year established a national Pollinator Health Task Force to help address concerns about so-called colony collapse disorder, a not fully understood phenomenon that has devastated commercial apiaries.

Pesticides are thought to be only one part of the widespread deaths of bees, however. Other factors are believed to include varroa destructor mites, viruses, fungi and poor nutrition.

Read more via Pesticides Linked to Honeybee Deaths Pose More Risks, European Group Says – NYTimes.com.

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Wildlife

Bee killing pesticides phased out of federal refuges

Brian Stallard, NATURE WORLD NEWS

Wildlife refuges in the Northwest and Hawaii will be "phasing out" a class of pesticides suspected to be causing severe damage to pollinator populations, planning to have the pesticides completely out of these protected areas by the start of 2016.

"We made the decision because we are concerned over the global decline in all pollinators, bees and butterflies," US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) spokeswoman Miel Corbet explained to press on Monday, as reported by the Associated Press.

According to Corbet, the FWS made the decision to start phasing out the pesticides called neonicotinoids after a great deal of scientific evidence suggested that they may be one of the main causes of honeybee population declines.

Nature World News has previously reported how neonicotinoids can encourage Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) – a condition that causes wintering bees to suddenly wake up and abandon their hives, only to die in frigid temperatures. A more recent report has found that even if gardens are not treated with the pesticide directly, plants purchased at chain gardening stores may have been pre-treated with this toxin that can last for years.

via Bee Killing Pesticides Phased Out of Federal Refuges : News : Nature World News.

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Wildlife

Pesticides to be blamed for dying honeybees

Brian Stallard, NATURE WORLD NEWS

Two widely used pesticides appear to be making honeybees abandon their hives during inopportune seasons, a new study suggests.

According to the study, published in the Bulletin of Insectology, a pair of neonicotinoids –  a type of insecticide popular in developed countries – appears to be directly related to the collapse of honeybee colonies over cold winter seasons.

You may be familiar with the plight of the world’s honeybees, even if you found out about it just because of the ever-increasing price of pure honey. The total population of these insects appears to be declining, despite efforts to protect them from the effects of climate change – one of the original factors theorized to be behind an increasing number of failed hives. Other studies have revealed a recent influx of flower pollen transmitted diseases which can destroy a hive from the inside out.

via Pesticides to be Blamed For Dying Honeybees : News : Nature World News.

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Wildlife

Beekeepers search for answers as colonies show up damaged after almond farm pollination

Edward Ortiz, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

As many as 80,000 bee colonies have died or been damaged this year after pollinating almond trees in the San Joaquin Valley, and some beekeepers are pointing to pesticides used on almond orchards as a possible cause.

The damaged colonies are the latest worry in the beekeeping community, which is already struggling to deal with colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon in which beekeepers open hives after pollination and find them empty, with the bees nowhere to be found.

The damaged hives are a significant agricultural issue. Ninety percent of honeybees that pollinate crops in the United States are used during the California almond bloom. And there is a cascading effect. Bees used to pollinate almond trees typically are moved to pollinate other crops, such as apples, cranberries, cherries and watermelons.

via Beekeepers search for answers as colonies show up damaged after almond farm pollination – Environment – The Sacramento Bee.

Filed under Agriculture/Food System