"Stressed" Young Bees Could Be the Cause of Colony Collapse

ABJ Extra - News   February 10, 2015

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a major threat to bee colonies around the world and affects their ability to perform vital human food crop pollination. It has been a cause of urgent concern for scientists and farmers around the world for at least a decade but a specific cause for the phenomenon has yet to be conclusively identified.

Bees usually begin foraging when they are 2-3 weeks old but when bee colonies are stressed by disease, a lack of food, or other factors that kill off older bees, the younger bees start foraging at a younger age. Researchers attached radio trackers to thousands of bees and tracked their movement throughout their lives. They found that bees that started foraging younger completed less foraging flights than others and were more likely to die on their first flights.

The researchers, from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), Macquarie University in Sydney, Washington University in St Louis, and University of Sydney, used this information to model the impact on honey bee colonies.

They found that any stress leading to chronic forager death of the normally older bees led to an increasingly young foraging force. This younger foraging population lead to poorer performance and quicker deaths of foragers and dramatically accelerated the decline of the colony much like observations of CCD seen around the world.

Dr Clint Perry from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at QMUL, said:

"Young bees leaving the hive early is likely to be an adaptive behavior to a reduction in the number of older foraging bees. But if the increased death rate continues for too long or the hive isn't big enough to withstand it in the short term, this natural response could upset the societal balance of the colony and have catastrophic consequences.

"Our results suggest that tracking when bees begin to forage may be a good indicator of the overall health of a hive. Our work sheds light on the reasons behind colony collapse and could help in the search for ways of preventing colony collapse."

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Bees and Wasps in Great Britain Have Been Disappearing for More Than a Century

The Smithsonian         By Sarah Zielinski    December 11, 2014

BEES and changes in agricultural practices since the 19th century may be major culprit in the pollinators' decline.

Do you like apple pie, guacamole and orange juice? Then you'd better be worried about disappearing bees. The insects are prolific pollinators, credited with helping a variety of fruits, nuts and other commercial crops flourish. But since the early 2000s scientists have been sounding the alarm that pollinating bees are being stricken with disease or mysteriously vanishing from their hives. Culprits behind what is now commonly called Colony Collapse Disorder have ranged from parasites to pesticides.

However, analysis of species diversity in Great Britain shows a decline in pollinating bees and wasps that began far earlier than scientists had suspected. Nearly two dozen species have disappeared from Britain since the middle of the 19th century, according to the study, published today in Science. While managed bees pollinate many commercial crops today, wild bees, wasps and other species also play a significant role in agriculture, particularly for foods such as blueberries, sunflowers and soybeans. 

The study authors found that in Britain, local extinctions—or extirpations—were highest during an agricultural ramp-up that began after World War I, suggesting that changes in agricultural practices sparked the loss of pollinators. 

Lead author Jeff Ollerton at the University of Northampton and his colleagues pored through almost 500,000 records of bee and wasp sightings from the 1850s to the present, held by the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society. This group of British scientists and volunteers collects data about the distribution and biology of insects in the order Hymenoptera (which includes many pollinators). Determining when a species has gone extinct is an inexact science, but the researchers assumed that a species had disappeared from Britain if it had not been seen for at least 20 years. 

Local extinctions occurred as early as 1853 and as late as 1990, but about half occurred between 1930 and 1960. These disappearances line up with patterns of changes to British agricultural practices, the researchers note. In the late 19th century, for instance, farmers began to rely more on imported South American guano for fertilizer. That let farmers intensify their agriculture and resulted in wind-pollinated grasses replacing many of the wildflower species many pollinators relied upon for food. That time period also saw a decline in traditional crop rotation, when farmers would have periodically planted their fields with legumes or left them to weedy flowers—both of which support pollinating insects—to rejuvenate soil nutrients.

But the big decline in pollinators occurred in the middle of the 20th century, when Britain was intensifying its agriculture in response to food security concerns sparked by World War I. For decades before that conflict, Great Britain had relied on imports for much of its food supply, a practice that proved nearly disastrous when Germany began to cut off trade routes. In response, the nation amped up food production at home. This time period also saw the introduction of manufactured inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, which probably contributed to further declines in wildflowers.

“Fundamentally [the decline in bees and wasps] is about a reduction in the size of the area providing food resources on which these pollinators rely,” Ollerton says. Extinctions began to slow down in the 1960s, the researchers note, either because the most vulnerable species had already disappeared or conservation efforts were showing some success. “There were a range of initiatives, including the establishment of more nature reserves,” he says. The country also encouraged efforts to restore wild habitat, and more farmers began turning to organic agriculture, which uses less manufactured fertilizer and pesticides.

Parts of northern Europe, the United States and any other countries that had similar changes in agricultural practices may also have lost native pollinators over that time period, Ollerton adds.

“The U.S. suffers from the same sort of dumbing down of our landscapes across that same time period for the same reasons,” says Sam Droege of the U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. “We are too damn efficient” in our agricultural efforts, he says. “Croplands, pastures, and meadows now grow only crops, no weeds or wildflowers.”

But a continued decline in pollinator species is not inevitable, he says. Roadsides and rights-of-way can be managed to re-create more natural landscapes, for example. “Additionally, we need to reconsider our tree planting tactics to let some lands move only slowly into forest and keep other landscapes as permanent meadows, prairies, sage and scrublands,” he says. Such efforts would foster the growth of pollinator-friendly plant species. “We no longer have the luxury of letting Nature find its own level, but have to consciously foster wildness and diversity everywhere we live."

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/bees-and-wasps-britain-have-been-disappearing-more-century-180953587/#jGT1sJ0Je5ebeC3R.99

Beekeepers Support Ontario's Commitment to Reduced Neonicotinoid Pesticide Use by 80%

The Manitoulin Expositor   By Expositor Staff   November 25, 2015

MILTON–The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA) supports today’s announcement by the Government of Ontario, which commits to an 80% reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed by 2017. “Today the government has shown bold leadership, unique in North America, in moving decisively and measurably to significantly limit the use of these toxic chemicals,” says Tibor Szabo, President of the OBA. “The OBA appreciates the government’s recognition that the prophylactic use of neonicotinoid-coated seed on Ontario’s corn and soy crops is unwarranted and unacceptable.”

The acute decline in population of bees in Ontario is tied to the widespread use of neonicotinoids on corn, soy and winter wheat. Claims for bee kills in Ontario due to the application of neonicotinoids have been confirmed by Health Canada for both 2012 and 2013. In spring of 2014, Ontario reported 58% overwinter losses, over three times the average of...

Read more... http://www.manitoulin.ca/2014/11/25/beekeepers-support-ontarios-commitment-reduce-neonicotinoid-pesticide-use-80/

Honeybees Stung by Drought from CNBC

California Department of Food & Agriculture   By Mark Koba    October 22, 2014

There’s very little in California’s agriculture industry that’s been left untouched by the ongoing drought, and bees are no exception.

Besides making honey, bees are crucial to pollinating about one-third of all U.S. crops.

But the drought, heading into a fourth year, is threatening honey production and the ability of beekeepers to make a living in a state that was once the top honey producer in the country.

“My honey production is down about 20 percent from the drought,” said Bill Lewis, president of the California Beekeepers Association.

Lewis, who manages around 50 billion bees in Southern California, explained that the lack of rain has reduced plants that provide food for the bees and the nectar they turn into honey.

Lewis said he’s had to feed his bees much less nutritional food such as sugar water that’s threatening the health of the bees and slowing the generation of honey.

“It doesn’t have the minerals that real food from plants have,” he said. “It’s like putting them on Twinkies.”

Lewis added that feeding the bees this way costs him more but it’s a cost he can’t pass on to consumers.

“Imports of honey keep me from raising my prices,” he said. “It’s a real challenge, financially.”

Commodity Cutbacks

In 2003, California was the top honey producer in the U.S., but it has since fallen behind North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and Florida. And according to the Department of Agriculture, California’s honey crop fell from 27.5 million pounds in 2010 to about 10.9 million pounds in 2013, or less than 5 percent of the country’s yearly $317 million crop.

But beyond honey production is bees’ crucial role in the pollination of numerous crops, like plums, strawberries, melons, lemons, broccoli and almonds.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of bees to our industry,” said Bob Curtis, associate director of agricultural affairs at the Almond Board of California. “The drought has decreased forage for bees within California, and ensuring a variety of forage is a long-term challenge.”

Leading Production States

State
Pounds Produced
Dollar Value of Production
North Dakota 33,120,000 $67,565,000
Montana 14,946,000 $31,088,000
South Dakota 14,840,000 $30,570,000
Florida 13,420,000 $27,377,000
California 10,890,000 $22,869,000
Source: US Department of Agriculture

 

Pollination also is a revenue source for beekeepers, but a lack of irrigation water has left many fields empty. An estimated 420,000 acres of farmland went unplanted this year—about 5 percent of the total in the state. That means that fewer farmers are renting hives and beekeepers have less income.

“I’ve had to raise my prices to farmers who do rent, which hasn’t been easy,” said the California Beekeepers Association’s Lewis.

“If we don’t get any water, there will be more cutbacks on commodities,” said Eric Mussen, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. “And that will affect bees, honey production and pollination of crops going forward.”

Call for help

As bad as the situation in California is—80 percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought—the Almond Board’s Curtis said the lack of rainfall has not prevented almond growers from getting sufficient bee pollination so far.

But the drought is just one hazard making honeybees suffer. Beehive losses worldwide have increased over the years due to pesticides, parasites and colony collapse disorder, by which adult bees disappear from colonies due to various causes.

However, for Lewis, the drought is enough of a crisis to make a plea for help, even if it means using more water.

“It’s devastating,” Lewis said. “What people can do here is plant flowers wherever there’s dirt. The bees need them.”

Link to story 

Read at: http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7061

The Head-Scratching Case of the Vanishing Bees

 The New York Times  By Clyde Haberman  September 28, 2014

The mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder has brought honeybees into the public eye.
But the story of their plight — and its impact — is more complicated.  
Video by RetroReport on Publish DateSeptember 28, 2014.

In 1872, a merchant ship called the Mary Celeste set sail from New York, and four weeks later was found by sailors aboard another vessel to be moving erratically in the Atlantic Ocean 400 miles east of the Azores. Curious, those sailors boarded the Mary Celeste, only to find nary a soul. The cargo was intact, as were supplies of food and water. But there was no sign of the seven-man crew, the captain, or his wife and daughter, who had gone along for the journey. To this day, what turned that brigantine into a ghost ship remains a maritime mystery.

It was with a nod to this history that when bees suddenly and mysteriously began disappearing en masse in Britain several years ago, the phenomenon came to be known there as Mary Celeste Syndrome. Beekeepers in this country were similarly plagued. Honeybees, those versatile workhorses of pollination, were vanishing by the millions. They would leave their hives in search of nectar and pollen, and somehow never find their way home. On this side of the Atlantic, though, the flight of the bees was given a more prosaic name: colony collapse disorder.

What caused it remains as much of a head-scratcher as the fate of the Mary Celeste, but the serious consequences for American agriculture were clear. And thus it draws the attention of this week’s Retro Report, part of a series of video documentaries examining major news stories from the past and analyzing what has happened since.

The centrality of bees to our collective well-being is hard to overstate. They pollinate dozens of crops: apples, blueberries, avocados, soybeans, strawberries, you name it. Without honeybees, almond production in California would all but disappear. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that nearly one-third of everything that Americans eat depends on bee pollination. Billions of dollars are at stake each year for farmers, ranchers and, of course, beekeepers.

But in the fall and winter of 2006-07, something strange happened. As Dave Hackenberg, a beekeeper in central Pennsylvania and in Florida, recalled for Retro Report, he went to his 400 hives one morning and found most of them empty. Queen bees remained, but worker bees had vanished.

Mr. Hackenberg’s distress resounded in apiaries across the country. Some of them lost up to 90 percent of their colonies. Not that mass bee disappearances were entirely new. They had occurred from time to time for well over a century. But as best as could be told, no previous collapse matched this one in magnitude. It became a national sensation, down to predictable references in television news reports to, yes, the latest “buzz.”

Less predictable was how to explain the catastrophe. Theories abounded. Some suggested that cellphone towers had disoriented the bees. Others said the fault lay with genetically modified crops. More likely, entomologists said, a pathogen might be to blame. Yet other experts pointed damning fingers at pesticides, notably a group known as neonicotinoids, which chemically resemble nicotine. Neonics, as they are known for short, are “systemic” chemicals, meaning that they circulate throughout a plant and reach its leaves or flowers, where bees do their work. One underlying premise is that the pesticides cloud the bees’ brains, leaving them in a haze and short-circuiting their sense of how to return home.

 

A highly probable villain, some scientists say, is a parasitic mite with the singularly unsavory name of Varroa destructor. It burrows into a bee and compromises its immune system. Jeffery S. Pettis, an Agriculture Department entomologist, said in testimony before a House subcommittee in April that “Varroa destructor is a modern honeybee plague.” There is, too, a possibility that honeybees are simply overworked. From season to season, colonies are routinely trucked around the country to pollinate crops. It just may be, some specialists in this field say, that the bees are like many modern workers: They are stressed, and get tuckered out.

With so many theories in play, several federal agencies weighed in last year, with a joint study that effectively checked the “all of the above” box. A mélange of the various factors was behind the colonies’ devastation, the agencies’ report said, putting no more weight on one cause than on any other.

While Mary Celeste Syndrome — it sounds more lyrical than colony collapse disorder, does it not? — caught everyone’s attention, it is not at the core of concerns over bees today. Colonies still die, for a variety of reasons, but there have been fewer instances of the mass collapse that caused so much anguish in 2006 and ’07. Beekeepers have replaced their dead hives. Experts interviewed by Retro Report seemed unperturbed by thoughts that honeybees were about to disappear.

Rather, what worries them is a gradual, steady shrinkage of the honeybee population over the years. Two decades ago, the United States had more than three million colonies; now it is down to an estimated 2.4 million, the Agriculture Department says. And more bees seem to be dying — from all causes, not just colony collapse — in the normal course of what are referred to as the “winter loss” and the “fall dwindle.” Where annual bee losses were once in the range of 5 percent to 10 percent, they are now more on the order of 30 percent. The fear is that this dying-off is too great for the country’s ever-expanding agricultural needs. That, specialists like Dr. Pettis say, is what would really sting.

Read and view comments at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/29/us/the-head-scratching-case-of-the-vanishing-bees.html?smid=tw-share#story-continues-5

________
The video with this article is part of a documentary series presented by The New York Times. The video project was started with a grant from Christopher Buck. Retro Report has a staff of 13 journalists and 10 contributors led by Kyra Darnton. It is a nonprofit video news organization that aims to provide a thoughtful counterweight to today’s 24/7 news cycle.

Are Bees Back up on Their Knees?

The New York Times    By Noah Wilson-Rich    September 24, 2014

In 2006, beekeepers in Pennsylvania’s apple country noticed the first sign of many bad things to come. Once thriving beehives were suddenly empty, devoid of nearly all worker bees, but with an apparently healthy, if lonely, queen remaining in place. Over a period of just three months, tens of thousands of honeybees were totally gone. Multiply this across millions of beehives in millions of apiaries in the more than 22 states that were soon affected, and suddenly we faced a huge, tragic mystery. Up to 24 percent of American apiaries were experiencing colony collapse disorder (C.C.D.)...

Continue reading... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/25/opinion/colony-collapse-are-bees-back-up-on-their-knees.html?smid=fb-share

Honey Bee Viruses, the Deadly Varroa Mite Associates

xtension By Philip A. Moore, Michael E. Wilson, John Skinner     August 21, 2014

Introduction

Varroa mites (Varroa spp.) are a ubiquitous parasite of honey bee (Apis spp.) colonies. They are common nearly everywhere honey bees are found, and every beekeeper should assume they have a Varroa infestation, if they are in a geographic area that has Varroa (Varroa mites are not established in Australia as of spring 2014). Varroa mites were first introduced to the western honey bee (Apis mellifera) about 70 years ago after bringing A. mellifera to the native range of the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana). Varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) in eastern honey bee colonies cause little damage. But after switching hosts and being dispersed across the world through natural and commercial transportation of honey bee colonies, Varroa has became a major western honey bee pest since the 1980’s. Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) are now the most serious pest of western honey bee colonies and one of the primary causes of honey bee decline (Dietemann et al. 2012). A western honey bee colony with Varroa, that is not treated to kill the pest, will likely die within one to three years (Korpela et al. 1993; Fries et al. 2006).

Varroa Life History

Varroa mites attack honey bee colonies as an external parasite of adult and developing bees, by...

Read more...  http://www.extension.org/pages/71172/honey-bee-viruses-the-deadly-varroa-mite-associates#.VA5XBfldUmm

Beekeepers File Lawsuit Against Pesticide Makers Over Bee Deaths

The Globe and Mail   By Eric Atkins    September 4, 2014

Beekeepers in Ontario have launched a lawsuit against two big chemical companies, alleging their pesticides have caused widespread bee deaths that have driven up costs and reduced honey production.

The honey makers allege Syngenta AG and Bayer CropScience were “negligent” in the “design, sale manufacture and distribution” of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are used to grow corn, soybeans and many other crops.

The lawsuit, which seeks $450-million in damages, alleges beekeepers experienced damaged or lost bee colonies, lost profits and unrecoverable costs as a result of neonic use on plants and crops. None of the allegations have been proven.

The case marks an escalation in the battle between Ontario beekeepers and chemical companies, two groups farmers rely on for pollination and crop protection.

The lead plaintiffs in the suit are Sun Parlor Honey Ltd. and Munro Honey, both of which are family-owned business in southwestern Ontario, the heart of the province’s agriculture sector.

In the statement of claim filed Wednesday, both companies allege they respectively lost more than $2-million in bees and honey production because of neonics between 2013 and 2006, when the pesticides became widely used in Canada.

Tom Congdon, whose grandfather started Sun Parlor Honey 89 years ago, said Health Canada has confirmed dead and dying honeybees at some of his 1,950 hives. In an interview, he said his business has sustained widespread bee losses all summer, and he has no doubt the neonic pesticides are to blame.

In the statement of claim, Sun Parlor Honey alleges neonic-related bee deaths have cost the company 139,000 pounds of honey over the past seven years worth more than $700,000. Replacing dead bees and hives has cost more than $2-million, Sun Parlor alleges.

Mr. Congdon, whose bees feed on a variety of crops, said bee deaths have worsened in recent years as corn and soybeans have become more widely grown due to rising demand for biofuels.

Syngenta and Bayer did not respond to interview requests on Wednesday about the lawsuit. The chemical companies have said that honeybees do not absorb enough neonics in the field to suffer ill effects, and the pesticides are safe if used as directed.

A spokesman for Bayer Cropscience said the company has not been served with the lawsuit and had no comment on it. 

"We believe the products we develop, market and steward represent the latest innovations in crop protection that have helped make Canadian agriculture productive and sustainable," Derrick Rozdeba said. 

Dimitri Lascaris, a lawyer with the firm representing the plaintiffs, said he has been retained by many large Ontario beekeepers that represent the majority of the country’s honeybee industry. He said he plans to seek Canada-wide certification for the class action, which can take more than a year.

Neonics are systemic pesticides that farmers use to protect their crops against insects. The pesticides are temporarily banned in Europe and their approval is being reassessed by Health Canada. The Ontario government says it plans to regulate the use of neonics, which have been cited as contributing to the 58-per-cent bee mortality rate in Ontario over the past winter.

Health Canada has blamed the planting of corn in Ontario for honeybee deaths, and directed farmers and chemical companies take steps to reduce the amount of pesticide-laden dust that is kicked up during seeding.

Honeybees are important pollinators, responsible for helping produce about one-third of the food we eat. This amounts to $1.5-billion worth of food in Canada every year, and $150-billion globally, said Ernesto Guzman, a scientist who studies honeybees at Ontario’s University of Guelph.

Over the past six years, honeybee losses in Canada have averaged 30 per cent annually. Causes for the decline include pesticides, parasitic mites, viruses, cold winters and the stresses placed on colonies when they are moved among farms. Scientists and bee experts believe neonics weaken the bees and make them more vulnerable to the pathogens.

“Neonic poisoning is, of course, a factor, but it is not the only factor,” Mr. Guzman said.

The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, which tracks bee mortality rates, says normal winter losses are 15 per cent.

Mr. Congdon said the virus-bearing mites are under control in his hives, and are not to blame for the piles of dead bees he sees near hives, nor for the many that never return home.

“The mites have contributed to winter loss, there’s no debate about that,” Mr. Congdon said in an interview. “But it’s nothing compared to what we’ve been seeing. All summer long we’re fighting to keep the colonies in shape. [Neonics] just weaken them down and make them susceptible to other pathogens.”

A group of European scientists known as the Task Force on Systemic pesticides reviewed 800 scientific papers that studied neonics and found clear evidence they pose serious risks to bees and other pollinators. They found the use of the pesticide is unsustainable.

Neonics are applied to the seed or sprayed on fields. They become present in all parts of the plant and are 20 times stronger than DDT, a pesticide that was banned decades ago, Mr. Guzman said.

Read at... http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/beekeepers-plan-to-sue-pesticide-makers-over-bee-deaths/article20319629/

Related:
From: CATCH THE BUZZ - Kim Flottom (Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Twitter.FacebookBee Culture’s Blog.)
http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2014.09.04.07.47.archive.html

The Fall and Rise of the Honeybee

Pollinator Partnership    By Peter Loring Borst    August 12, 2014

By now most people have heard of the “unprecedented losses” of the honey bee; some tabloids have even gone so far as to warn of its impending “extinction.” Are these losses unprecedented? Are these stories even true? It’s pretty hard to make a claim... 

Read more... http://beeinformed.org/2014/08/the-fall-and-rise-of-the-honey-bee/

Fipronil, Imidacloprid Reduce Honeybee Mitochondrial Activity

Science Daily    Source: Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry  August 6, 2014

New research published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistryaddresses the effects of two broad-spectrum systemic insecticides, fipornil and imidacloprid, on honeybees. These insecticides are widely used in agriculture, and the authors conclude that fipronil and imidacloprid are inhibitors of mitochondrial bioenergetics, resulting in depleted cell energy. This action can explain the toxicity of these compounds for honeybees.

Scientists are urgently trying to determine the causes of colony collapse disorder and the alarming population declines of honeybees. The cross-pollination services they provide are required by approximately 80 percent of all flowering plants, and 1/3 of all agricultural food production directly depends on bee pollination. As a result, there has been a flurry of research on honeybee parasitic mite infestations, viral diseases, and the direct and indirect impacts of pesticides.

The effects of pirazoles (e.g., fipronil) and neonicotinoids (e.g., imidacloprid) on the nervous system are fairly well documented. Daniel Nicodemo, professor of ecology and beekeeping at the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Dracena, Brazil, and lead author of the study states, "These insecticides affect the nervous system of pest and beneficial insects,ften killing them. Sublethal effects related to insect behavior have been described in other studies; even a few nanograms of active ingredient disturbed the sense of taste, olfactory learning and motor activity of the bees."

A key characteristic of colony collapse disorder is the incapacity of the honey bees to return to their hives, and these disruptions have a direct impact on that ability.

In this study, Nicodemo et al. looked at the effects of fipronil and imidacloprid on the bioenergetics functioning of mitochondria isolated from the heads and thoraces of Africanized honeybees. Mitochondria are the power plants of a cell, generating most of a cell's supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), used as a source of chemical energy.

Honeybee flight muscles are strongly dependent on high levels of oxygen consumption and energy metabolism. Mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation drives ATP synthesis, which is required to contract the muscles during flight. "If something goes wrong, the energy production is impaired," explains Nicodemo. "Similar to a plane, honeybees require clean fuel in order to fly."

Both fipronil and imidacloprid negatively affected the mitochondrial bioenergetics of the head and thorax of the honeybees. While at sublethal levels, insecticide damage may not be evident, even such low level exposure clearly contributes to the inability of a honeybee to forage and return to the hive, which could result in declining bee populations.

Read at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140806154013.htm

Insecticides Similar to Nicotine Widespread in Midwest

USGS  July 24, 2014

Summary: Insecticides similar to nicotine, known as neonicotinoids, were found commonly in streams throughout the Midwest, according to a new USGS study

Insecticides similar to nicotine, known as neonicotinoids, were found commonly in streams throughout the Midwest, according to a new USGS study. This is the first broad-scale investigation of neonicotinoid insecticides in the Midwestern United States and one of the first conducted within the United States.

Effective in killing a broad range of insect pests, use of neonicotinoid insecticides has dramatically increased over the last decade across the United States, particularly in the Midwest.  The use of clothianidin, one of the chemicals studied, on corn in Iowa alone has almost doubled between 2011 and 2013.

 “Neonicotinoid insecticides are receiving increased attention by scientists as we explore the possible links between pesticides, nutrition, infectious disease, and other stress factors in the environment possibly associated with honeybee dieoffs.” said USGS scientist Kathryn Kuivila, the research team leader.

Neonicotinoid insecticides dissolve easily in water, but do not break down quickly in the environment. This means they are likely to be transported away in runoff from the fields where they were first applied to nearby surface water and groundwater bodies.

In all, nine rivers and streams, including the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, were included in the study. The rivers studied drain most of Iowa, and parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These states have the highest use of neonicotinoid insecticides in the Nation, and the chemicals were found in all nine rivers and streams.

Of the three most often found chemicals, clothianidin was the most commonly detected, showing up in 75 percent of the sites and at the highest concentration. Thiamethoxam was found at 47 percent of the sites, and imidacloprid was found at 23 percent. Two, acetamiprid and dinotefuran, were only found once, and the sixth, thiacloprid, was never detected.

Instead of being sprayed on growing or full-grown crops, neonicotinoids can be applied to the seed before planting. The use of treated seeds in the United States has increased to the point where most corn and soybeans planted in the United States have a seed treatment (i.e., coating), many of which include neonicotinoid insecticides.

“We noticed higher levels of these insecticides after rain storms during crop planting, which is similar to the spring flushing of herbicides that has been documented in Midwestern U.S. rivers and streams,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author. “In fact, the insecticides also were detected prior to their first use during the growing season, which indicates that they can persist from applications in prior years.”

One of the chemicals, imidacloprid, is known to be toxic to aquatic organisms at 10-100 nanograms per liter if the aquatic organisms are exposed to it for an extended period of time. Clothianidin and thiamethoxam behave similarly to imidacloprid, and are therefore anticipated to have similar effect levels. Maximum concentrations of clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid measured in this study were 257, 185, and 42.7 nanograms per liter, respectively.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified all detected neonicotinoids as not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

The paper, “Widespread occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in streams in a high corn and soybean producing region, USA” and has been published in Environmental Pollution. Learn more about the study and the long-term USGS effort to gather information on the environmental occurrence of new pesticides in different geographic, climatic, and use settings here. To learn more about USGS environmental health science, please visit the USGS Environmental Health website and sign up for our GeoHealth Newsletter.

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communications and Publishing
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS 119
Reston, VA 20192

Alex Demas
Kathy Kuivila 

Insecticides Similar to Nicotine Widespread in Midwest

Honey Bee Decline A Buzz Kill For Agriculture

NBC Nightly News    July 25, 2014

July 16: Honeybees, which pollinate much of the U.S. food supply, have been vanishing, mystifying scientists and frustrating farmers. NBC's Anne Thonpson reports on the story first looked at by Nightly News last year.

 

 http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/25706138#55680798

Bees and Colony Collapse

New York Times The Opinion Pages    By Mark Winston    July 14, 2014 

Our Bees, Ourselves   Bees and Colony Collapse

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — AROUND the world, honeybee colonies are dying in huge numbers: About one-third of hives collapse each year, a pattern going back a decade. For bees and the plants they pollinate — as well as for beekeepers, farmers, honey lovers and everyone else who appreciates this marvelous social insect — this is a catastrophe.

But in the midst of crisis can come learning. Honeybee collapse has much to teach us about how humans can avoid a similar fate, brought on by the increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society.

Honeybee collapse has been particularly vexing because there is no one cause, but rather a thousand little cuts. The main elements include the compounding impact of pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites; fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases; nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields that lack diverse flowering plants; and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself, which disrupts colonies by moving most bees around the country multiple times each year to pollinate crops.

The real issue, though, is not the volume of problems, but the interactions among them. Here we find a core lesson from the bees that we ignore at our peril: the concept of synergy, where one plus one equals three, or four, or more. A typical honeybee colony contains residue from more than 120 pesticides. Alone, each represents a benign dose. But together they form a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases.

These findings provide the most sophisticated data set available for any species about synergies among pesticides, and between pesticides and disease. The only human equivalent is research into pharmaceutical interactions, with many prescription drugs showing harmful or fatal side effects when used together, particularly in patients who already are disease-compromised. Pesticides have medical impacts as potent as pharmaceuticals do, yet we know virtually nothing about their synergistic impacts on our health, or their interplay with human diseases.

Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us that our own well-being might be similarly threatened. The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years, and the widespread collapse of so many colonies presents a clear message: We must demand that our regulatory authorities require studies on how exposure to low dosages of combined chemicals may affect human health before approving compounds.

Bees also provide some clues to how we may build a more collaborative relationship with the services that ecosystems can provide. Beyond honeybees, there are thousands of wild bee species that could offer some of the pollination service needed for agriculture. Yet feral bees — that is, bees not kept by beekeepers — also are threatened by factors similar to those afflicting honeybees: heavy pesticide use, destruction of nesting sites by overly intensive agriculture and a lack of diverse nectar and pollen sources thanks to highly effective weed killers, which decimate the unmanaged plants that bees depend on for nutrition.

Recently, my laboratory at Simon Fraser University conducted a study on farms that produce canola oil that illustrated the profound value of wild bees. We discovered that crop yields, and thus profits, are maximized if considerable acreages of cropland are left uncultivated to support wild pollinators.

 

A variety of wild plants means a healthier, more diverse bee population, which will then move to the planted fields next door in larger and more active numbers. Indeed, farmers who planted their entire field would earn about $27,000 in profit per farm, whereas those who left a third unplanted for bees to nest and forage in would earn $65,000 on a farm of similar size.

Such logic goes against conventional wisdom that fields and bees alike can be uniformly micromanaged. The current challenges faced by managed honeybees and wild bees remind us that we can manage too much. Excessive cultivation, chemical use and habitat destruction eventually destroy the very organisms that could be our partners.

And this insight goes beyond mere agricultural economics. There is a lesson in the decline of bees about how to respond to the most fundamental challenges facing contemporary human societies. We can best meet our own needs if we maintain a balance with nature — a balance that is as important to our health and prosperity as it is to the bees.

Bee Foraging Chronically Impaired by Pesticide Exposure: Study

The following is brought to us by the American Bee Journal     July 10, 2014

A study co-authored by a University of Guelph scientist that involved fitting bumblebees with tiny radio frequency tags shows long-term exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide hampers bees' ability to forage for pollen.

The research by Nigel Raine, a professor in Guelph's School of Environmental Sciences, and Richard Gill of Imperial College London was published July 9 in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology.

The study shows how long-term pesticide exposure affects individual bees' day-to-day behavior, including pollen collection and which flowers worker bees chose to visit.

"Bees have to learn many things about their environment, including how to collect pollen from flowers," said Raine, who holds the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation, a Canadian first.

"Exposure to this neonicotinoid pesticide seems to prevent bees from being able to learn these essential skills."

The researchers monitored bee activity using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags similar to those used by courier firms to track parcels. They tracked when individual bees left and returned to the colony, how much pollen they collected and from which flowers.

Bees from untreated colonies got better at collecting pollen as they learned to forage. But bees exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides became less successful over time at collecting pollen.

Neonicotinoid-treated colonies even sent out more foragers to try to compensate for lack of pollen from individual bees.

Besides collecting less pollen, said Raine, "the flower preferences of neonicotinoid-exposed bees were different to those of foraging bees from untreated colonies."

Raine and Gill studied the effects of two pesticides – imidacloprid, one of three neonicotinoid pesticides currently banned for use on crops attractive to bees by the European Commission, and pyrethroid (lambda cyhalothrin) – used alone or together, on the behavior of individual bumblebees from 40 colonies over four weeks.

"Although pesticide exposure has been implicated as a possible cause for bee decline, until now we had limited understanding of the risk these chemicals pose, especially how it affects natural foraging behavior," Raine said.

Neonicotinoids make up about 30 per cent of the global pesticide market. Plants grown from neonicotinoid-treated seed have the pesticide in all their tissues, including the nectar and pollen.

"If pesticides are affecting the normal behavior of individual bees, this could have serious knock-on consequences for the growth and survival of colonies," explained Raine.

The researchers suggest reform of pesticide regulations, including adding bumblebees and solitary bees to risk assessments that currently cover only honeybees.

"Bumblebees may be much more sensitive to pesticide impacts as their colonies contain a few hundred workers at most, compared to tens of thousands in a honeybee colony," Raine said.

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Read at... http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5fd2b1aa990e63193af2a573d&id=a76fdfe404&e=cb715f1bb5

California Stung by Lawsuit to Protect Bees

Pesticide Action Network    By Paul Towers    July 8, 2014

They’re in our garden plants, sprayed on orchards throughout the state, and used as seed coatings on commodity crops in California and across the country. After five years of review, California officials have not only failed to complete an evaluation of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics), they continue to allow more and more of these bee-harming chemicals into the market.

Fed up with the years of hand-sitting, PAN and our partners brought the state and pesticide manufacturers to court today.

PAN and partners at Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety warned the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) in February that they were violating the law by approving new neonics. They ignored our concerns, despite a mounting body of evidence showing harms to bees. We reminded them again in June, only to have the agency approve more pollinator-toxic products.

Our attorney Greg Loarie at Earthjustice summed up our decision to bring DPR to court pretty well:

“It’s past time for DPR to fix its broken evaluation system and protect our bees and our agricultural economy. It obviously will take legal action to accomplish this.”

Despite five years of review, the agency has yet to finish an evaluation of any neonic product. And over the past couple of years, state officials have either allowed significantly expanded use of neonics or brought new products to market in at least fifteen separate instances.

As I recently noted, this lack of action persists even as independent scientists from around the globe concluded — after review of over 800 studies — that it’s time for international action to restrict neonics and protect bees.

Beekeepers are weighing in too, demanding accountability. Todd Bebb, vice president of the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association and sponsor of bee-protective legislation in California, said:

“Bees are in trouble unless California officials do their part. Our food system, including farms and backyard gardens, rests on bees and beekeepers for continued pollination and support.”

While beekeepers and food and farming groups duke it out with state officials and pesticide manufacturers in court, the California legislature continues to move ahead with a bill that would force DPR to complete its evaluation of neonics on a specific timeline. That bill will be taken up after the July recess.

Local governments in Oregon and Washington have stepped up with bee-protective policies in recent months. And news out of Canada just this week is that at least one province is considering a licensing system to better regulate widespread use of the products.

With legal pressure building on California policymakers and related legislation on the horizon, it's time for the Golden State to get serious about protecting bees from harmful pesticides too.

Read at... http://www.panna.org/blog/california-stung-lawsuit-protect-bees

Bees From The Inside Out

National Science Foundation    July 7, 2014

It is 1,825 miles from New Haven, Conn., to Austin, Tex., which typically means 30 hours of driving and three nights in motels, not an easy trip for anyone. But for researchers moving from Yale University to a new lab at the University of Texas last August, it proved especially challenging. They made the journey in a minivan with a pet cat and 100,000 bees.

"That was probably the most heroic event in our beekeeping saga to date," says evolutionary biologist Nancy Moran, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who studies symbiosis, particularly among multi-cellular hosts and microbes. "We didn't want to be without bees upon arrival in Texas, and...

Continue reading... http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?org=NSF&cntn_id=131953&preview=false

National Pollinator Week: Checking in on Colony Collapse Disorder

Food Safety News     By James Andrews    June 20, 2014

The week of July [June] 16 is being celebrated as National Pollinators Week in an effort to bring more awareness to the integral role that pollinators such as bees, birds, and the other flying creatures play in the life cycles of an estimated 75 percent of the world’s crop varieties and 35 percent of total crop production.

The occasion is also a time to reflect on the current understanding of colony collapse disorder (CCD), the phenomenon causing a spike in die-offs of honey bee populations around the world over the past decade.

One of the biggest developments in CCD research from the past year has been a study from the Harvard School of Public Health on the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bee populations. The study found that, while non-lethal doses of these pesticides would not seem to harm the bees during spring and summer, they had dramatic effects on the bees during winter.

Six out of 12 pesticide-treated bee colonies in the study abandoned their hives after winter and died off, while only one out of six of the non-pesticide colonies died off — and that was from a different disease that killed the bees inside their hive. One of the trademarks of CCD is a low number of dead bees left behind, with most abandoning the hive to die elsewhere.

While research is still being done to clearly define the cause of CCD, at this point believed to be the cumulative effect of numerous stressors on bees, the Harvard study’s authors concluded that their experiment singled out neonicotinoid pesticides as the leading cause of the problem.

At the same time, neonicotinoids are facing more legal scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic.

Last August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced mandatory labels on neonicotinoid pesticides that warn users to be wary of harming pollinators and advising them not to spray under certain conditions during which pollinators are most likely to be present.

In December 2013, a two-year ban on neonicotinoids went into effect in Europe in order to study how well European bee populations fare in the absence of the pesticides. The U.S. EPA will be keeping a close eye on how that ban plays out.

“Based on currently available data, the EPA’s scientific conclusions are similar to those expressed in the EFSA [European] report with regard to the potential for acute effects and uncertainty about chronic risk,” EPA stated. “However, the EFSA report does not address risk management, which, under U.S. federal law, is a key component of the EPA’s pesticide regulatory scheme.”

Chemical companies fought the European ban, saying that it placed an unfair blame on pesticides when evidence suggested a number of other factors, such as viruses and parasites, played into CCD.

Bee experts aren’t all ready to place the blame squarely on pesticides, either. As more research time focuses on CCD, more researchers are coming to the conclusion that it’s caused by a complex synergy of factors, said Dr. Gene Robinson, director of the Institute for Genomic Biology and the Swanlund Chair of Entomology at the University of Illinois.

“The simple fact of the matter is that no single factor can explain the occurrence, distribution and severity of colony collapse disorder,” Robinson said.

Researchers are increasingly designing studies that account for multiple stressors on bees — not a simple feat to achieve in a controlled study environment. Measuring one effect really well is difficult enough, Robinson noted.

At this point, Robinson said he viewed insecticides as receiving too much of the blame. He cautioned against focusing solely on chemicals when pathogens, parasites and environmental changes have shown to have a significant effect on CCD.

“Colony collapse disorder can be regarded as a warning sign for all of our interactions with the environment and the species that are important to us,” Robinson said. “There are a variety of different factors in different combinations that can all have serious effects.”

And, while conducting research is expensive and public attention may wane until the next dire news of massive die-offs emerges, Robinson said it’s incredibly important to continue understanding CCD and what it could mean for our environmental interactions on a bigger scale.

“Using honey bees as canaries in the coal mine, what does this say about other species?” he asked.

Read at: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/06/draft-national-pollinators-week-checking-in-on-colony-collapse-disorder/#.U6QyXfldUmt

Cool Things About Bees That Have Nothing To Do With The Beepocalypse

 greenpeaceblogs.org  By Jason Schwartz    June 18, 2014

It’s National Pollinator Week, seven days the US government sets aside to honor the butterflies, birds, beetles, and bats that keep a lot of our plants (and food supply) going. But if you’ve been paying even the most casual attention, you probably know that that bees, particularly honeybees, are in some serious trouble.

Colony Collapse Disorder is decimating bee populations in the U.S. and Europe. For years, scientists have been trying to understand its causes. But a recent study by Harvard scientists confirms what many in the EU have already taken to heart: a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids are, in large part, to blame.

While we’re super concerned about bees and believe, like any sensible people, that their problems are our problems, we’re not here to talk about Colony Collapse Disorder right now. We think it’s a bummer that so much of the press around bees is about catastrophe, pesticides, mites, viruses, and doom and gloom, while the other great discoveries around bees — which seem to pop up constantly — get little fanfare. So here’s a little sampling, just from the past couple months.

Small brain, big maps

Animal pollinators like birds and butterflies use the sun as a navigational tool, sort of like a compass. Mammals, on the other hand, tend to create mental maps using landmarks. Recent research is showing that despite their tiny brains, bees may actually do both, creating cognitive maps using memorized ‘landscape snapshots’ to find their way home, at times when the sun can’t be relied upon. 

Bees are better than water

Researchers in California found that neither lack of fertilizer nor insufficient watering were as damaging to almond yields than a lack of bees and other wild pollinators. In other words, the presence of bees is more important to crop yields than fertilizer and sufficient watering(WHAT?!) As climate change sends us down a path of food insecurity, preserving bee populations is that much more urgent.

Berries are better with bees

Pollination by bees doesn’t just make more fruit, it makes better fruit.Researchers found that strawberries pollinated by bees were redder, better formed, heavier, firmer, and had better sugar-acid ratios (a marker of flavor) than self-or-wind pollinated strawberries. Another study found similar results when diverse bee species visited their blueberry plants. The economic implications of better berries with longer shelf lives are self-evident, but for most of us, that’s not the point, is it? 

Get your wag on

The waggle dance is how honey bees show hivemates the direction and distance of the good stuff. A recent study shows the waggling bees tend to urge their peers toward nature reserves and rural areas that are managed for agri-ecological diversity. Heavily managed, conventionally-farmed areas are low on bees priority list, even when they house nectar rich flowers. Why? Well don’t they sound boring to you too? 

Buzzed Bees

A recent study showed that bees experience improved long-term memory (along with a predictable mild high) when visiting plants who provide them with caffeine. The caffeine acts as a kind of reward, perhaps provoking bees to remember where they found it. The report also found that bees like to visit those plants in the morning and again at 3pm, when the workday feels like it’s never going to end. Actually that last part is me. 

Rambling men

Neotropical orchid bees, which evolved to depend on year-round warm and moist habitats, are really at risk, as climate change and habitat loss from deforestation have taken a toll on their homes. Fortunately for their continued survival, a sexual variation in orchid bees that has males traveling up to 7km a day means that genetic variation and vitality may be maintained, across fragmented habitats. It’s probably best not to ask where those guys have been though, unless you want to hear bad excuses. They may travel far and use their mental maps to get home, but scientists are still pretty sure bees are bad liars. 

Stuff like this comes out in science journals all the time. There are thousands of scientists all over the world whose job is to figure out new things about bees. That’s their job. Where did I go wrong?

During this National Pollinator week, can we expect legislation from the White House and President Obama about protecting our bees and pollinators? Might we finally see legislation to limit the use of neo-nicotinoids?

We’re not holding our breath, but we hope so.

Read at... http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2014/06/18/national-pollinator-week-six-bee-studies-arent-beepocalypse/?utm_source=gpusafb&utm_medium=blog&utm_campaign=bees

Honey Bee Genotypes and the Environment

International Bee Research Association (IBRA)   June 4, 2014

In recent years, much attention has been focused on the global problem of honey bee colony losses. Among the many explanations for these losses, variability in the genetic makeup and vitality of honey bee populations might help to explain some of the variability in honey bee colony losses experienced in different regions. This has led to the innovative honey bee Genotype-Environment Interactions (GEI) experiment carried out by members of the international honey bee research association COLOSS. The results are published today in a Special Issue of the Journal of Apicultural Research.

A total of 621 colonies of 16 different genetic origins were set up in 21 apiaries in 11 different European countries managed by 15 research partners. Each location housed the local strain of bee together with two of “foreign” origins. The colonies were set up in the summer of 2009 and were managed and evaluated according to a standard protocol used by all participants until 2012.

IBRA Science Director Norman Carreck says: “The results of these experiments show that the locally adapted strains of honey bee consistently performed better than the “foreign” strains. This may seem logical to many bee scientists, but may come as something as a shock for many beekeepers who believe that purchased queens are likely to be in some way “better” than the bees that they already have in their own hives. There is growing evidence of the adverse effects of the global trade in honey bees, which has led to the spread of novel pests and diseases. These papers which provide evidence that locally-adapted honey bee strains consistently perform better than imported strains may thus strengthen local bee breeding programmes, and encourage the use of locally bred queens over those imported from elsewhere”.

Related:
http://www.ibra.org.uk/articles/Honey-bee-genotypes-and-the-environment
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0031653

Colony Collapse Disorder: Still With Us?

Green Blog/Green News-UC Agriculture & Natural Resources  By Kathy Keatley Garvey  May 28, 2014

He's asked this question a lot. 

"Does colony collapse disorder (CCD) still exist?"

Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis says "yes."

But the winter losses are being attributed to many other causes. "Less than 10 percent of the losses are now attributed to CCD," Mussen points out.

CCD surfaced in the fall of 2006 when beekeepers starting seeing their colonies decimated. They'd open the hive, only to find the queen, the brood and the food stores. The adult workers? Gone. 

"CCD still exists and it appears as though in cases where multiple other stresses combine to severely weaken the bees, then  viruses can overwhelm the immune system and the bees fly away and die," Mussen says. "We do not know what causes apparently-sick bees to fly from the hive, and we still have a difficult time describing how all the bees could become affected so swiftly."

"As colony losses mounted, the beekeepers had to spend even more time monitoring the conditions of their colonies. They noted things that might be done to prevent some problems that seemed to be starting. So, we are better at preventing the losses, but the percentage for about 25 percent of our beekeepers is still way too high."

Mussen says that "the other 75 percent of the beekeepers are doing relatively well (5-15 percent losses), so we have leveled off in national colony numbers. If the 25 percent can better determine what is going wrong, we should see improved data in the future."

Scientists attribute CCD to a combination of causes, including pests, pesticides, viruses, diseases, malnutrition, and stress. The No. 1 problem in the hives, they agree, is the varroa mite. Mussen writes about those topics - and others in his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries and "Bee Briefs." Both are available free on his website.

Mussen, who is retiring in June after 38 years of service, was recently named the recipient of the 2013-14 Distinguished Service Award, sponsored by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Mussen devotes his research and extension activities toward the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices. Mussen, who joined the UC Davis department in 1976, is known throughout the state, nation and world as “the honey bee guru” and “the pulse of the bee industry" and as "the go-to person" when consumers, scientists, researchers, students and the news media have questions about honey bees.

Read at... http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=14107