Tag Archives: pollinators

After Sonoma County fires, beekeepers prepare for difficult winter

Michele Anna Jordan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The bees that survived within fire zones face a loss of forage, not only the wild and cultivated plants that would normally be blooming now but also plants like Eucalyptus that bloom throughout the winter and early spring.

Among the questions we are still asking about the impact of the October fires is, “What about the bees?”

A comprehensive answer will unfold over time, as bees and their keepers have three aspects of impact to deal with, destruction of colonies by the fires, loss of fall and winter forage, and long-term exposure to smoke. For wild bees, there’s a fourth, potentially catastrophic, impact: Loss of habitat. A beekeeper can build a new box for his colonies but it takes years for a tree, for example, to develop the sort of nutritious hollow that wild bees need in order to thrive.

For now we know that many hobbyist beekeepers lost their hives, although some randomly survived, like lone houses in otherwise destroyed neighborhoods.

Read more at: After Sonoma County fires, beekeepers prepare for difficult winter

Filed under Habitats, Sustainable Living

Flying insects have been disappearing over the past few decades, study shows

Ben Guarino, THE WASHINGTON POST

Helping these tiny helpers can take only a small effort, he said. Habitat restoration can be as simple as a garden with plants that flower throughout the year. Unlike mammals, insects don’t require vast tracts of land to be satisfied — a back yard blooming with native flowers will do.

Not long ago, a lengthy drive on a hot day wouldn’t be complete without scraping bug guts off a windshield. But splattered insects have gone the way of the Chevy Nova — you just don’t see them on the road like you used to.

Biologists call this the windshield phenomenon. It’s a symptom, they say, of a vanishing population.

“For those of us who look, I think all of us are disturbed and all of us are seeing fewer insects,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Portland, Ore.-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental group that promotes insect conservation. “On warm summer nights you used to see them around streetlights.”

The windshield phenomenon is not just a trick of Trans Am nostalgia. A small but growing number of scientific studies suggest that insects are on the wane.

“The windscreen phenomenon is probably one of the best illustrative ways to realize we are dealing with a decline in flying insects,” said Caspar Hallmann, an ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands. Hallmann is part of a research team that recently waded through 27 years’ worth of insects collected in German nature preserves.

Between 1989 and 2016, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, the biomass of flying insects captured in these regions decreased by a seasonal average of 76 percent.

Read more at: Flying insects have been disappearing over the past few decades, study shows – The Washington Post

Filed under Wildlife

Santa Rosa may rethink use of chemical sprays such as Roundup in parks

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa is the latest Sonoma County city to take a harder look at how it uses synthetic herbicides like Roundup following the state’s action to list the key ingredient in the weed killer as a known cause of cancer.

The City Council agreed Tuesday to re-bid a large landscaping contract to see if there are maintenance options that don’t use glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup, or neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides suspected of contributing to the demise of bee populations.

The city will seek bids for landscaping methods using common chemical sprays, as well as bids using more organic methods outlined by the Russian River Watershed Association.

“I will be very interested to see the Russian River-friendly proposal,” said Councilman Chris Rogers, who urged the city rethink its approach.

The move was the latest by a local government amid rising regulatory and scientific scrutiny of glyphosate, listed this month by California as a cancer-causing agent over the objection of agrichemical giant and Roundup maker Monsanto, which contends it is safe when used appropriately.

Read more at: Santa Rosa may rethink use of chemical sprays such as Roundup in parks | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living, Water, Wildlife

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 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