MSU Economist's Research on Colony Collapse Disorder Published in National Journal

PHYS.org By Montana State University October 4, 2019

The work of a Montana State University professor examining the economic impacts of colony collapse disorder among commercial honeybees was published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists last month.

Randy Rucker, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics in the MSU College of Agriculture, began looking into colony collapse disorder several years ago with colleagues from North Carolina State University and Oregon State University, for the purpose of estimating its economic impacts. The onset of the disorder was an unexpected shock to commercial beekeeping and pollination markets that first received national attention in the winter of 2006-07 when mortality rates were estimated to be almost 30%.

Colony collapse disorder is still a poorly understood phenomenon, wrote Rucker and his co-authors in the paper's introduction. Since its onset, along with other pollinator health issues such as the Varrona mite, which feeds on developing bees, it has caused significant concern among beekeepers and the public.

"With colony collapse disorder, a beekeeper goes out and virtually all the worker bees are gone," said Rucker. "Twenty thousand, 30,000, 40,000 worker bees, just gone. There are very few dead worker bees on the ground near the colony, and the queen, the brood and all the food are still there. But the bees are just gone."

With so little known about what causes colony collapse disorder, Rucker and his team set out to identify its economic ripple effects by examining trends in four categories: number of commercial honeybee colonies nationwide, honey production, prices of queens and packaged bees and pollination fees charged by commercial beekeepers to growers. The team found some surprising results.

Bee population is known to fall during the winter, said Rucker. Prior to the onset of colony collapse disorder, the average winter mortality rate was about 15%. Beekeepers have long known how to replace dead hives and are prepared to deal with losses, typically in one of two ways.

The first method of offsetting winter losses is called splitting, where a beekeeper takes half the bees in a healthy colony, moves them to a struggling colony and adds a newly fertilized queen, purchased for $18-25 and received through the mail. After about six weeks, there are once again two healthy hives.

The other way to increase colony numbers after winter losses is to simply buy a package of bees, also through the mail, which includes a fertilized queen and several thousand worker bees. Beekeepers place the bees in the dead hive and then watch as a healthy hive develops. Both methods are relatively easy and inexpensive for beekeepers—and have remained so after the onset of colony collapse disorder, the study found.

"Beekeepers know how to replace dead hives," said Rucker. "As winter mortality increased after CCD appeared and beekeepers worried about having enough hives to meet their pollination contracts in the spring, they responded by splitting more hives in mid- to late summer and would then end up with the number they needed."

Even with more hives split and more bees purchased, the prices of queens and packaged bees have not increased dramatically, the study found. From this result, the authors infer that "the supply of queens and packaged bees is sufficiently elastic that any increases in demand associated with CCD have not resulted in measurable increases in price."

The team found similar results when they examined trends in colony numbers and honey production. While there were pre-existing downward trends in both metrics before the onset of colony collapse disorder, the rate of decline has not increased, said Rucker. In fact, colony numbers in 2018 were higher than they had been over the last 20 years.

The sole instance of a pronounced negative impact came when the team studied trends in pollination fees for commercial crops. Even there, however, only one commercially important crop showed a significant increase in price: almonds.

"Almonds get pollinated in February or March, and it's really the only major crop that requires pollination during that time of year," said Rucker. With about a million acres of almonds in need of pollination each year, it takes about 70% of U.S. managed honeybee colonies to get the job done.

Pollination fees for almonds rose from roughly $70 to almost $160—adjusted for inflation—over the winters of 2004-05 and 2005-06, but Rucker and his co-authors noticed something unusual about the timing. Those increases happened before colony collapse disorder appeared on the scene over the winter of 2006-07.

"Almond pollination fees did go up substantially, but they went up before CCD hit," said Rucker. "You can't attribute those increases to colony collapse disorder."

The bottom line, he said, is that while there have been changes in the commercial pollinator markets, few can be directly linked to colony collapse disorder or any other recent pollinator health concerns. This is good news for beekeepers and consumers alike, he added.

"When we started this project, we expected to find huge effects, but we found very small ones," said Rucker. "The only effects we found on consumers, for example, is that they probably pay about 10 cents more for a $7, one-pound can of almonds at the grocery store."

The reason the disorder's impacts are so small, said Rucker, is directly linked to the fact that most beekeepers know that bees and honeybee colonies are going to die over the course of the year, and they have developed methods of dealing with those fluctuations. As a result, they have been able to react quickly to disruptions like CCD. But there are still a lot of unknowns about the disorder, and the paper focused on the particular overlap of colony collapse disorder and economics.

"The bottom line is that beekeepers are savvy [businesspeople]," he said. "Our research provides reason for optimism about the future ability of commercial beekeepers to adapt to environmental or biological shocks to their operations and to pollination markets. It says nothing, however, about non-managed pollinators. Data on those pollinators' populations are sparse, and the impacts of maladies like CCD on their populations are not well understood. There is definitely much more work to be done to grasp the effects of CCD and other threats to bee health."

https://phys.org/news/2019-10-msu-economist-colony-collapse-disorder.html

Honey Bees: A Critical Component of Our Agriculture System

EDM Digest (from American Military University) August 5, 2019

By Dr. Brian Blodgett: Faculty Member, Homeland Security, American Military University

Honey Bee EDM.jpg

To many Americans, the sound of a bee’s buzzing results in a swift swipe of the air to shoo the bee away. Finding a hive of bees in a wall of your house will usually result in a call to an exterminator, rather than to the local beekeeping club to have an apiarist safely remove the hive. 

Bee Stings Are Painful and Could Be Deadly

The fear of bees, or melissophobia, is common, often the result of having been stung as a child. However, some people are so allergic to a bee’s sting, they can have a dangerous reaction such as anaphylaxis that could cause death if not immediately treated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published data showing that hornet, wasp and bee stings were the underlying cause of death for 1,109 individuals between 2000 and 2017. That equates to an average of 62 deaths a year. The lowest number of deaths, 43, occurred in 2001 and the highest number was 89 in 2017. Male victims accounted for approximately 80% of the deaths.

A 2016 report by The Ohio State University stated that an estimated one to two million people in the U.S. are allergic to insect venom. Up to one million individuals visit emergency departments each year. The cost for an emergency room visit varies considerably depending on the severity of the reaction and the patient’s insurance plan.

While honey bee stings can be deadly, the bees will rarely attack you unless you threaten their hive or if they are seriously disturbed outside their nest.

When honey bees are threatened, they take a protective stance and extend their stinger, stinging their victim. Once the stinger punctures the skin, it pumps out venom and alarm pheromones, attracting other bees. If a bee decides to attack someone, it will be its last act because its stinger is left in the skin of its victim. In attempting to fly away, the bee disembowels itself.

The African honey bee, found in the southern areas of the United States, is no deadlier than the other six primary species of honeybees found in the United States. Instead, they are much more sensitive to the alarm pheromone, resulting in a considerably faster response to danger and their clustering in large groups. They will attack nearly anything in sight that is moving; they will pursue a person much farther than the other bee species.

Honey Bees Make a Significant Contribution to Agriculture

While the honey produced by bees is wonderfully useful and healthy, the bees’ contribution to agriculture is much more significant. A single bee in one flight can visit up to 50 or more flowers, pollinating each as it flies along.

If you enjoy fresh fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, grapefruit and apples, thank the honey bee. If you like broccoli, nuts, cucumbers, onions and asparagus,  thank the honey bee again. While honey bees are not the only pollinators, they are the most well-known and among the most prolific. Honey bees are estimated to support about $20 billion worth of American crop production annually.

Also, consider the importance to wildlife of our flowering plants and fruit trees. Without the bees, our herbivores and frugivores (animals that feed on fruit) would have a much harder time finding food. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), pollinators are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat and they increase our nation’s crop value by more than $15 billion a year.

In fact, honey bees are so important to agriculture, they are often trucked around the country during pollination season to help farmers grow their crops.

Each winter, beekeepers send their hives to California to pollinate the almond trees. Growers rent nearly two million colonies, over 60% of the nation’s domestic bees. The annual cost for renting the bees is about $300 million, but the California almond economy is worth around $11 billion.

Colony Collapse Disorder and the Plight of Domestic Honey Bees

However, bee colonies are dying in large numbers. According to the June 2019 Bee Informed Partnership's survey, “U.S. beekeepers lost nearly 40% of their honeybee colonies last winter — the greatest reported winter hive loss since the partnership started its surveys 13 years ago. The total annual loss was slightly above average.”

According to the survey, there are multiple causes for what has been called “colony collapse disorder.” Those causes include the Varroa destructor mite, decreasing crop diversity, poor beekeeping practices, loss of habitat, the use of certain pesticides on plants and stress.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), colony collapse disorder (CCD) occurs when most of the worker bees in a hive disappear for any of several reasons. That leaves the queen with plenty of food for the unhatched bees, but only a few bees to take care of them.

Since hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees, the entire colony dies. CCD occurrences have diminished considerably since the winter of 2006-2007 when beekeepers reported losses of 30 to 90 percent of their hives. Nevertheless, the EPA states CCD remains a concern, and scientists are working on several theories for the phenomenon:

Honey bees are being attacked by the small invasive Varroa destructor mites that can destroy an entire colony. Since the introduction of the Varroa destructor in Florida in the mid-1980s, they had spread northward to almost every state by 2017. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) stated that the “Varroa destructor is the greatest single driver of the global honey bee health decline.”

The use of pesticides is also a concern. The EPA took steps in 2016 to limit the use of sulfoxafor, an insecticide that is highly toxic to bees and other pollination insects. However, just last month the EPA removed many of the restrictions on the use of sulfoxafor.

Farmers can now use the insecticide on about 190 million acres of arable land, nearly twice the size of California. The crops that can be sprayed with sulfoxaor include soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, millet, oats, pineapple, sorghum, tree plantations, citrus, squash and strawberries.

According to an article in Mother Jones, the transportation of honey bees around the nation, their attacks by parasites, the use of insecticides and the vast number of single-crop areas needing pollination are causing stress to the honey bee.

Just as data continue to show the decline of domestic honey bees, the USDA, citing budgetary shortfalls, announced in July that it would no longer fund its National Agriculture Statistics Service to collect data on honey bee colonies. The report helped scientists and farmers determine if honey bee populations were declining and by how much.

Honey Bees and Our Food and Agriculture Sector

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under Presidential Policy Directive 21, is responsible for ensuring that our critical infrastructure “must be secure and able to withstand and rapidly recover from all hazards.”

In the 2015 Food and Agriculture Sector-Specific Plan, facilities primary engaged in raising insects, such as bees, fall under DHS purview in the animal production category. A decrease in the number of domestic honey bees can be costly not only for farmers to “rent” them, but also for all Americans because the loss of bees could lead to steeper food prices.

Our nation’s honey bees are not thought of as a target of violent extremists or terrorists. Nevertheless, individuals are attacking them in their hives. In April, someone deliberately set fire to a large number of beehives in Alvin, Texas, just south of Houston. Each hive contained around 30,000 bees. The destruction of the hives resulted in the loss of 500,000 to 600,000 bees.

In January 2018, outside Prunedale, California, over 100 beehives were destroyed when someone knocked over the hives and then sprayed gasoline on them, killing over 200,000 bees. On December 28, 2017, 50 beehives outside Sioux City, Iowa, were destroyed, resulting in approximately 500,000 dead, frozen bees.

DHS needs to recognize the importance and criticality of our nation’s bees and the role they play as a primary contributor to our ecosystem. An attack against bees is an attack against Americans’ wellbeing in general.

Due to our nation’s extreme dependence on honey bees, action is needed to ensure we have enough bees to sustain our crops. There are several steps that we can take to ensure our bee population is not decimated:

  • Ban the use of pesticides that are harmful to bees is a main step

  • Providing shallow sources of water and providing the bees with plenty of bee-friendly flowers, plants and trees

  • Allow leafy vegetables to go to seed after harvest

  • Support local beekeepers by buying their honey

  • Teach children about the importance of bees and the interdependence of living animals

About the Author 

Dr. Brian Blodgett is an alumnus of American Military University who graduated in 2000 with a master of arts in military studies and a concentration in land warfare. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2006 as a Chief Warrant Officer after serving over 20 years, first as an infantryman and then as an intelligence analyst. He is a 2003 graduate of the Joint Military Intelligence College where he earned a master of science in strategic intelligence with a concentration in South Asia. He graduated from Northcentral University in 2008, earning a doctorate in philosophy in business administration with a specialization in homeland security.

Dr. Blodgett has been a part-time faculty member, a full-time faculty member and a program director. He is currently a full-time faculty member in the School of Security and Global Studies and teaches homeland security and security management courses.

https://edmdigest.com/resources/education/honey-bees-critical-agriculture-system/?utm_source=inhomelandsecurity&utm_medium=blog&utm_content=IHS-article-link&utm_campaign=Blog%20-%20In%20Homeland%20Security%20-%20BT%20-%20AMU

EPA Needs to Hear from Beekeepers

The following is a FB post from Virginia Bee Supply dated 2/12/18:

"This message is for all beekeepers having problems with their honeybee colonies collapsing failing to build up etc.

Tom Steeger EPA 703-305-5444 (email: steeger.thomas@epa.gov) would like to hear from you. He would to hear from as many beekeepers as he can. His comment to me was a few days ago if we don't hear from beekeepers and many of them we EPA can't began to fix the problem.
 
Send this to fellow beekeepers as well as encourage them to call. Don't put it off Do it today!!
If Tom doesn't answer leave him a message with your phone number and best time to contact you and which time zone you are in.

Tom will get back to you. He is concerned. I have known Tom for over 10 years and one of few people at EPA trying to help.

This message was sent to me this weekend for me to spread the word."

Accidental Discovery Could Save Bees From Their Greatest Threat

Real Clear Science     By Ross Pomeroy     January 15, 2018

Agricultural Research ServiceGerman scientists primarily based out of the University of Hohenheim have stumbled upon a simple solution that could deal a blow to honeybees' greatest threat. They've found that a tiny dose of the compound lithium chloride kills Varroa destructor mites without harming bees.

The scientists detailed their incredible findings in the January 12th publication of Scientific Reports.

V. destructor, more commonly known as the Varroa mite, is a scourge of honeybees across the globe. Upon infiltrating a colony, the mites latch on to bees, sucking their hemolymph (essentially blood) and spreading the diseases they carry. According to the USDA, 42 percent of commercial hives in the U.S. were infested in summer 2017, and 40 percent of beekeepers said the parasite seriously harmed their colonies. By comparison, only 13 percent reported harm from pesticides.

Chemical compounds exist to combat the parasites but they are outdated and growing increasingly ineffective, the researchers write, adding that no new active compounds have been registered in the last 25 years.

The dearth of options prompted scientists at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to experiment with a technique called RNA interference. In their study, they fed bees double-stranded RNA via a sugar solution to knockout vital genes in Varroamites. The mites ingested the lethal RNA via bees' hemolymph and subsequently died.

Inspired by those results, the German researchers sought to replicate them by repeating the experiment with slightly tweaked methods. Indeed, mites infesting bees that were fed sugar water with the designed RNA rapidly died, but so did mites in a control group given another RNA that should have been ineffective. The astonishing results prompted the researchers to suspect that the lithium chlorideused to produce the RNA – and thus present in the sugar water – was actually killing the parasites. A battery of subsequent examinations confirmed their hypothesis.

The scientists then carried out numerous experiments testing lithium chloride against Varroa mites, including ones that approximated field studies. They found that feeding honeybees minuscule amounts of lithium chloride (at a concentration of no more than 25 millimolar) over 24 to 72 hours wiped out 90 to 100 percent of Varroa mites without significantly increasing bee mortality. (Below: The figure shows the surviving proportion of bees and mites fed lithium chloride compared to those not fed lithium chloride.) Ziegelmann et al. / Scientific Reports

According to the researchers, lithium chloride could be put to use very quickly as it is easily applied via feeding, will not accumulate in beeswax, has a low toxicity for mammals, and is reasonably priced. However, wider studies on free-flying colonies testing long-term side effects are required first, as well as analyses of potential residues in honey.

Francis Ratnieks, a Professor of Apiculture at the University of Sussex, expressed skepticism about the new finding.

"We can kill 97% of the Varroa in a brood less hive with a single application of oxalic acid, which takes five minutes to apply and is already registered and being used by beekeepers," he told RCScience via email. "I think it will be difficult in practice to apply lithium salts to colonies to kill varroa and get the same level of control... There are also the wider issues of registration and potential contamination of the honey with a product that would not normally be there."

It should be noted that studies have shown oxalic acid to be inconsistent at managing mites during the summer months as well as in colonies with capped broods

Regardless, the Hohenheim researchers are pressing forward. They're already speaking with companies to get a lithium chloride treatment refined, approved, and in the hands of beekeepers.

"Lithium chloride has potential as an effective and easy-to-apply treatment for artificial and natural swarms and particularly for the huge number of package bees used for pollination in the United States," they conclude.

Source: Bettina Ziegelmann, Elisabeth Abele, Stefan Hannus, Michaela Beitzinger, Stefan Berg & Peter Rosenkranz. "Lithium chloride effectively kills the honey bee parasite Varroa destructor by a systemic mode of action." Scientific Reports 8, Article number: 683 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41598-017-19137-5

*Article updated 1/15 to include Professor Ratnieks' statement and to include information about oxalic acid.

*An earlier version of this article mistakenly reported that the researchers are based out of the University of Hoffenheim. They are from the University of Hohenheim.

https://www.realclearscience.com/quick_and_clear_science/2018/01/15/accidental_discovery_could_save_bees_from_their_greatest_threat.html

Related articles/info:
http://scientificbeekeeping.com/home/news-and-blogs/

http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?341995-Lithium-chloride-as-miticide&s=cf01c15735e4ecac52336121d381e000

https://badbeekeepingblog.com/2018/01/17/have-you-lithium-chlorided-your-bees-yet/

Asia’s Bee Mites Alarmingly Resistant

AsianScientist       Asian Scientist Newsroom     March 7, 2017

A study of the Tropilaelaps mercedesae genome has revealed that conventional mite control strategies might not work.

The genome of the parasitic bee mite Tropilaelaps mercedesae suggests that existing methods to prevent bee colony collapse might be ineffective. These findings have been published in GigaScience.

Although there are many potential causes for the decline in honey bee colonies, pathogens and parasites of the honey bee, particularly mites, are considered major threats to honey bee health and honey bee colonies. The bee mite T. mercedesae is honey bee parasite prevalent in most Asian countries, and has a similar impact on bee colonies that the globally present bee mite Varroa destructor has. With the global trade of honey bees, T. mercedesae is likely become established world-wide.

To preempt the impact of T. mercedesae infestation, an international team of researchers from Jiaotong-Liverpool University sequenced its genome and compared it to the genome of free-living mites.

 

As opposed to the free-living mites, T. mercedesae has a very specialized life history and habitat that depends strictly on the honey bee inside a stable colony. The researchers found that the T. mercedesae genome has been shaped by interaction with the honey bee and colony environment.

Interestingly, the authors found that the mite does not rely on sensing stimulatory chemicals to affect their behavior. The researchers noted that this discovery meant that, “control methods targeted to gustatory, olfactory, and ionotropic receptors are not effective.” Instead, control measures will have to use other targets when trying to disrupt chemical communication.

“There will be a need to identify targets for biological control,” they added.

Furthermore, the researchers found that T. mercedesae is enriched with detoxifying enzymes and pumps for the toxic xenobiotics, which help them quickly acquire resistance to miticides.

However, the study also revealed a potential alternative to miticides. The researchers found that Rickettsiella grylli commonly infect T. mercedesae, suggesting that targeting these bacteria might be one way to control the mite population.

They also found that R. grylli was involved in horizontal gene transfer of Wolbachia genes into the mite genome. Wolbachia is a bacteria that commonly infects arthropods, but is not present in T. mercedesae.

Although up to a horizontal gene transfer has been detected in as many as a third of all sequenced arthropod genomes, this is the first example of horizontal gene transfer in mites and ticks, the authors noted. Since Wolbachia bacteria do not currently infecting the mites, these findings indicate that Wolbachia was once a symbiont for T. mercedesae or its ancestor but has been replaced with R. grylli-like bacteria during evolution, they added.

The extent of honey bee colony destruction remains a complex problem, but one that has an extensive impact crop productivity since honey bees are needed for pollination of a variety of plants. Indeed, in several places in China, farm workers have begun to carry out manual pollination to maintain high crop yield in orchards. Thus, research and resources to help combat this global threat are needed now. These genome, transcriptome, and proteome resources from the T. mercedesae study add another weapon in the fight to save bee colonies.

The article can be found at: Dong et al. (2016) Draft Genome of the Honey Bee Ectoparasitic Mite, Tropilaelaps Mercedesae, is Shaped by the Parasitic Life History.” ——— Source: GigaScience. Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at: https://www.asianscientist.com/2017/03/in-the-lab/tropilaelaps-mercedesae-genome-bee-mite/

Honeybee Hive Collapse Mystery Rooted In Hive Size

Phys.Org     February 24, 2016

Honeybee. Credit: Adam SiegelUniversity of Idaho professor Brian Dennis is helping scientists understand a baffling but vitally important puzzle: What is causing the decline of honeybees? Working in collaboration with William Kemp, a U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist and UI alumnus, Dennis has built a mathematical model that lays the blame squarely on the bees themselves.

"The tightly organized social lives of honeybees, once such an amazing adaptation for success in the world, turns out to lack resilience against the numerous environmental degradations contributed by humans across the landscape," said Dennis, who has a joint appointment in the UI College of Science and College of Natural Resources.

Humans depend on honeybees for pollinating many crops, especially orchard crops and vegetables. In the U.S. alone, the economic value of honey bees' crop pollination services has been estimated as high as $15 billion a year. If honey bees continue to decrease, it would lead to disastrous upheavals in agriculture and the food on our tables. The decrease is already pushing many beekeepers to the edge of economic viability.

North American scientists have been noting with alarm the increasing collapse of honeybee colonies, during the last decade. In a typical hive collapse, the bees in the hive fail to thrive and end up abandoning the hive or dying. Research studies have tried to pinpoint the cause of hive collapse, investigating such factors such as viruses, fungi, poor nutrition, parasites, pesticides and global warming.

Dennis and Kemp's model indicates that any or all of the suspected environmental factors, alone or in combination, could lead to hive collapse by destabilizing a hive's adult bee population.

Hive Size Matters

Adult worker bees cooperate to make the hive function almost as a single organism. The workers feed and tend to the egg-laying queen and eggs, larvae and pupae; regulate the temperature of the hive; fight enemies and predators; search for food and communicate its location; and gather food and transport it back to the hive.

Beekeepers know that a hive that has too few workers will tend not to thrive. Dennis and Kemp noted the reason for this: a queen can lay only so many eggs in a time interval, and too few adult workers cannot maintain all the functions of the hive at a quality level where new workers are produced faster than deaths of existing workers. Like a hotel with inadequate staff, the hive with too few bees fails to serve its residents.

If the number of adult bees drops below a threshold known as critical hive size, the bees decrease in number, leading to collapse. Normally, critical hive size does not pose a problem for bees. With favorable environmental conditions, the critical size for a beehive is quite small, in the neighborhood of 1,000 bees. Commercial bee packages for starting a hive contain well over 10,000 bees.

However, Dennis and Kemp's model found an unexpected surprise: Critical hive size turned out to be extraordinarily sensitive to any degrading of cooperative hive functions.

Dennis and Kemp built a mathematical model of the growth of adult worker numbers in a beehive. The presence of more adult workers reduced the deaths of adult workers. Likewise, having more adult workers improved "rearing effectiveness," or how well eggs, larvae and pupae are nurtured and raised to adulthood.

The critical hive size increases in response to any environmental factors that reduce rearing effectiveness or increase deaths of  in the hive. In the presence of such an environmental factor, a beehive could find itself below the new, larger critical hive size. Loss of viability and hive failure would result.

Dennis and Kemp point out that a beehive is a severe example of an "Allee effect," a concept in ecology named after animal ecologist Warder Allee. Working in the 1930s, Allee suggested that a critical population size might exist when organisms become rare—for example, when mates cannot find each other, or when groups of cooperatively hunting predators are too small for effective hunting.

Help for Honeybees

In light of this study, how can honeybees be helped? Dennis and Kemp conclude that much might be gained from coordinated regional management of pesticides for beekeepers and crop producers and from conservation programs that contribute to improving foraging resources for all pollinator species.

Dennis and Kemp further warn that evidence of Allee effects has been found in many other species, and the prospect that minimum critical population sizes exist argues for adopting more stringent precautionary principles in environmental management.

Explore further: Honeybees entomb to protect from pesticides

More information: How hives collapse: Allee effects, ecological resilience, and the honey bee, PLoS ONEdx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150055 

http://phys.org/news/2016-02-honeybee-hive-collapse-mystery-rooted.html

Study Blames Pollinator Decline on Disease, Despite Overwhelming Evidence Pointing to Bee-Killing Pesticides

Beyond Pesticides    February 12, 2015

A new study published last week asserts a viral epidemic driven by parasitic mites is contributing to the global decline in bees, problematically underplaying the significant impact that bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides have on pollinator populations, as supported by a growing body of scientific literature, especially findings that show bees’ increased vulnerability to parasites and viruses.

BeesResearchers of the study, titled“Deformed wing virus is a recent global epidemic in honeybees driven by Varroa mites” and published in the journal Science, conclude that the deformed wing virus (DWV), which is typically transmitted through its main vector, the Varroa mite, is globally distributed and recently spread from a common source, European honeybee Apis mellifera. Lead researcher Lena Bayer-Wilfert, PhD, of the University of Exeter, said European bees are at the heart of the global spread of what she calls a “double blow” for colonies. “This is clearly linked to the human movement of honey bee colonies around the globe,” she told BBC News.

Co-researcher Professor Roger Butlin of the University of Sheffield said DWV was a major threat to honey bee populations across the world with the epidemic “driven by the trade and movement of honeybee colonies.” Professor Stephen Martin of the University of Salford, another co-researcher, said the combination of the virus and the mite were at the heart of the crash in honeybee populations. “It supports the idea that DWV is the main cause for the colony losses associated with Varroa and that this comes from European bees,” he said, according to BBC.

The new study, however, fails to acknowledge the role that neonicotinoids are playing in the pollinator decline. Other studies on the subject reveal a clear link between these chemicals and the synergistic effects they have on bees when combined with parasites and disease, such one published by Di Presco et al. (2013), which found that the neonicotinoid clothianidin reduced insect immunity, as well as promoted of viral replication in honey bees by up to 1,000-fold, after exposure to field-realistic and sublethal doses. A review of recent literature concludes that the weight of evidence “strongly confirms that systemic insecticides, notably the neonicotinoids…, are the primary factor in the death of millions of bee colonies globally.”

Neonicotinoid are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets from which bees forage and drink. They are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses, they also result in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical, as well as dust that is released into the air when coated seeds are planted with automated vacuum seed planters. These effects cause significant problems for the health of individual honey bees as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies. Effects include disruptions in bee mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow in the European Union’s footsteps and suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of neonicotinoids. See how you can help through Bee Protective.

Sources: ScienceBBC

http://goo.gl/7aDQfx

Hop-Based Pesticide Could Help Fight Colony Collapse Disorder

New Times   By Doug Fairall   October 26, 2015

Bees. Nature's pollinators, honey makers, and wing shakers. They're one of man's greatest resources and one of the oldest insects we have exploited.

But they are constantly under attack by pests, including the Varroa destructor mite: a parasite that infests a honey bee colony and is believed to contribute to colony collapse disorder. There are ways of handling these pests, though they've mostly been synthetic-chemical-based, through physical means, or derived from herbal essential oils.

Now there's another tool in the fight against pests: a hop-based pesticide. Yes, the same ingredient that gives beer its signature bitterness is now being used as a pesticide to help save bees...

Continue reading...http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/restaurants/hop-based-pesticide-could-help-fight-colony-collapse-disorder-7346261

What Is Killing America's Bees and What Does It Mean For Us?

Rolling Stone   By Alex Morris   August 18, 2015

There was a moment last year when beekeeper Jim Doan was ready to concede defeat. He stood in the kitchen of his rural New York home, holding the phone to his ear. Through the window, he could see the frigid January evening settling on the 112-acre farm he'd just been forced to sell two weeks earlier. On the other end of the line, his wife's voice was matter-of-fact: "Jimmy, I just want to say I'm sorry, but the bees are dead."

By then, Doan was used to taking in bad news. After all, this was long after the summer of 2006, when he had first started noticing that his bees were acting oddly: not laying eggs or going queenless or inexplicably trying to make multiple queens. It was long after the day when he'd gone out to check his bee yard and discovered that of the 5,600 hives he kept at the time, all but 600 were empty. And it was long after he'd learned back in 2007 that he was not alone, that beekeepers all around the country, and even the world, were finding that their bees had not just died but had actually vanished, a phenomenon that was eventually named colony collapse disorder and heralded as proof of the fast-approaching End of Days by evangelicals and environmentalists alike. Theories abounded about what was causing CCD. Were bees, the most hardworking and selfless of creatures, being called up to heaven before the rest of us? Were they victims of a Russian plot? Of cellphone interference? Of UV light? Were they the "canary in the coal mine," as the Obama administration suggested, signaling the degradation of the natural world at the hands of man? Possibly. Probably. No one knew.

Even to Doan, at the epicenter of the crisis, none of it had made a lick of sense. As a third-generation beekeeper, he and his family had been running bees since the 1950s...

Continue reading... http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/what-is-killing-americas-bees-and-what-does-it-mean-for-us-20150818#ixzz3mhvUJske 

Insecticide Could Be Culprit in Honey Bee Die Offs

New York Post     Reuters   August 18, 2015

A type of insecticide under scrutiny by the White House because of fears about its impact on honeybees has been found in more than half of streams sampled across the United States, according to a study by government researchers published Tuesday.

The study, published in Environmental Chemistry and conducted by US Geological Survey researchers, found that five types of insecticides that are known as neonicotinoids were present in varying degrees in 149 samples taken from 48 streams.

At least one type was detected in 63 percent of the samples collected, USGS researcher Michael Focazio said. The samples included many waterways through the Midwest and Southeast. Concentration levels varied.

Over the last few years, evidence has mounted that links the use of neonics, as they are known, to widespread die-offs of honeybees needed to pollinate crops. There are also fears the insecticides are harming other pollinators.

Neonicotinoids, chemically similar to nicotine, are one of the fastest-growing classes of insecticides worldwide and are used both in agricultural and urban settings. They are popular with farmers and are often used to coat seeds before they are planted.

The study represents the first national-scale investigation of the environmental occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in agricultural and urban settings, the USGS said. The research spanned 24 states as well as Puerto Rico.

“In the study, neonicotinoids occurred throughout the year in urban streams while pulses of neonicotinoids were typical in agricultural streams during crop planting season,” USGS research chemist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author, said in a statement.

Neonics and their impact on the environment have been a topic of debate in Washington lately.

The US Environmental Protection Agency in May proposed a rule that would create temporary pesticide-free zones to protect commercial honeybees.

The restrictions are aimed at protecting honeybees, which pollinate plants that produce roughly a quarter of the food consumed by Americans. Losses of managed honeybee colonies hit 42.1 percent from April 2014 through April 2015, up from 34.2 percent for 2013-2014, and the second-highest annual loss to date, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Beekeepers, environmental groups and some scientists say it is the neonics that are harming the bees.

Agrichemical companies including Bayer and Syngenta disagree, and instead blame mite infestations and other factors.

Read at: http://nypost.com/2015/08/18/insecticide-could-be-culprit-in-honeybee-die-offs/

USGS Summary: Insecticides Similar to Nicotine Found in About Haqlf of Sampled Streams Across the United States

To Save Bees, Some States Take Aim At Pesticides

The PEW Charitale Trusts    By Sarah Brietenbach   July 29, 2015

A Varroa mite feeds on a honeybee. Varroa mites, thought to be a cause of the decline in the bee population, suck a blood-like substance from honeybees, leading to disease and deformities. (AP)The orange groves in Fort Myers, Florida, have turned to poison for David Mendes’ honeybees. The onetime winter havens for bees have been treated with a popular pesticide that he says kills his livelihood.

States and the federal government are searching for ways to protect managed bees like Mendes’

and their wild counterparts. The White House issued a strategy in May to promote the health of honey

bees and at least 24 states have enacted laws to protect bees and other pollinators such as bats, birds and butterflies.

Of the 100 crops that supply about 90 percent of the food for most of the world, 71 are pollinated by bees. Pollination has a direct effect on the quality of food and the diversity of crops. Declines in bee populations mean fruit and vegetables are less available and more expensive.

Though the number of honeybee colonies managed by beekeepers appears to be on the rise for the first time since “colony collapse disorder” was identified in 2006, U.S. bee populations have not returned to what they had been before a devastating parasite appeared in the late 1980s, causing the loss of up to 70 percent of managed bee colonies.

Advocates hope they can stem future colony losses by...

Continue reading: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/07/29/to-save-bees-some-states-take-aim-at-pesticides

Pesticides Found in Most Pollen Collected from Foraging Bees in Massachusetts

ABJ Extra    July 24, 2015

Boston, MA -- More than 70% of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry.

"Data from this study clearly demonstrated the ubiquity of neonicotinoids in pollen and honey samples that bees are exposed to during the seasons when they are actively foraging across Massachusetts. Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including CCD," said Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bee colonies. Scientists, policymakers, farmers, and beekeepers are concerned with this problem because bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide.

Previous studies analyzed either stored pollen collected from hives or pollen samples collected from bees at a single point in time. In this study, the Harvard Chan School researchers looked at pollen samples collected over time--during spring and summer months when bees forage--from the same set of hives across Massachusetts. Collecting pollen samples in this way enabled the researchers to determine variations in the levels of eight neonicotinoids and to identify high-risk locations or months for neonicotinoid exposure for bees. To do so, the researchers worked with 62 Massachusetts beekeepers who volunteered to collect monthly samples of pollen and honey from foraging bees, from April through August 2013, using pollen traps on the landings of beehives. The beekeepers then sent the samples to the researchers.

The researchers analyzed 219 pollen and 53 honey samples from 62 hives, from 10 out of 14 counties in Massachusetts. They found neonicotinoids in pollen and honey for each month collected, in each location--suggesting that bees are at risk of neonicotinoid exposure any time they are foraging anywhere in Massachusetts.

The most commonly detected neonicotinoid was imidacloprid, followed by dinotefuran. Particularly high concentrations of neonicotinoids were found in Worcester County in April, in Hampshire County in May, in Suffolk County in July, and in Essex County in June, suggesting that, in these counties, certain months pose significant risks to bees.

The new findings suggest that neonicotinoids are being used throughout Massachusetts. Not only do these pesticides pose a significant risk for the survival of honey bees, but they also may pose health risks for people inhaling neonicotinoid-contaminated pollen, Lu said. "The data presented in this study should serve as a basis for public policy that aims to reduce neonicotinoid exposure," he said.

Read at: http://goo.gl/ae562o

Stung By Dead Bees

California Lawyer    By Glen Martin  July 2015

Commercial pollinators demand that regulators protect honeybees from potent insecticides.

Photo: Vern EvansFor about two weeks in the early spring, the San Joaquin Valley is a vast confection of pink and white, and the air is heavy with a magnolia-like scent. To some, the odor may seem overpowering, almost cloying. But to Jeff Anderson, a beekeeper in the small Stanislaus County town of Oakdale, it is the smell of money.

Oakdale is near the center of California's almond belt, and the pastel froth across the valley floor consists of hundreds of millions - maybe billions - of almond tree blooms. Each little blossom can produce a highly valuable nut - the 2012 crop was worth $4.8 billion. But the blossoms can't pollinate themselves.

That's where Anderson's bees come in. He sells honey, but he gets most of his income by providing pollination services to Central Valley growers. Some 35 percent of the world's food crops - including almonds, plums, kidney beans, okra, coffee, and watermelons - must be pollinated by insects to produce edible fruits, vegetables, and nuts, not to mention the seeds to sustain ensuing generations. Among all the insect pollinators, honeybees do...

Read more and comments...https://goo.gl/Er7JEk

What Would Happen If Honey Bees Disappeared (Video)

 Care2    By Ashlyn Kittrell  July 15, 2015

(Video "The Death of Bees Explained: Parasites, Poisons, and Humans from Kurzgesagt and The Nova Project)

Although we don’t entirely know why, bees are disappearing. While scientists have several theories as to why this might be happening, the overarching conclusion is that widespread impact will occur as the bee population dwindles. Some theories about the disappearance of bees include parasites called varroa mites that weaken the bee by sucking fluid from their bodies. It’s hard to kill these mites without also harming the bees, making this a particularly hard problem to navigate. Bees also need plenty of food and water to survive; but with human population growth their access to clean water and plants may be limited.

There are several things we can do to help bees stick around. Supporting local beekeepers by buying their honey products is one way to make sure that they have the resources to help their hives survive. Another helpful strategy is planting blooming plants. Not only does this provide bees with the pollen they need, but it’s also great motivation to have a beautiful garden. However, when planting anything it is important to avoid insecticide dusts as well as any neonicotonoid pesticides. Both of these can get carried back to the hive.

In 1988, there were five million hives. Today, there are 2.5 million. While we aren’t entirely sure why so many colonies are collapsing, we can be sure that the loss of bees would change the world.

To see what other effects the loss of bees would have as well as what may be causing the decline, watch the video from Kurzgesagt and The Nova Project.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-would-happen-if-honey-bees-disappeared-video.html#ixzz3g5FeSNlp

Examining The Neonicotinoid Threat To Honey Bees

PHYS.org   American Chemical Society  July 8, 2015

The decline of honey bees has been a major concern globally for the past decade. One of the factors that could be contributing to the decline is the use of insecticides—specifically neonicotinoids—that persist in rivers and streams. Researchers now report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters that although sunlight plays an important role in degrading pollutants, its effects on neonicotinoids can diminish dramatically even in shallow water.

Neonicotinoids protect crops from pests, such as whiteflies, beetles and termites. They are a popular tool in a farmer's arsenal, but they end up washing into surface waters and soil. Some research has suggested the  play a role in the disappearance of bees, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. But scientists didn't fully understand the fate of neonicotinoids in the environment, an important factor in determining how they might contribute to the disorder. Charles S. Wong and colleagues wanted to investigate sunlight's effects on these insecticides in water.

Out of five neonicotinoids the researchers tested in water under simulated sunny conditions, three degraded considerably within minutes.

Two took a few days to break down. But a depth of just 3 inches of water was enough to shield at least one, thiamethoxam, from the degrading effects of the sun. The researchers say that this persistence at shallow depths could increase the chances aquatic life and other wildlife, including bees, could get exposed to the insecticide.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-07-neonicotinoid-threat-honey-bees.html#jCp

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by American Chemical Society.

Swing & A Miss on Bee Harming Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network   May 28, 2015

Once again, it looks like federal decisionmakers are sidestepping the issue of bee-harming pesticides. The Pollinator Health Task Force, launched almost a year ago by President Obama, released its strategy for addressing pollinator declines last week — without tackling the pesticide problem.

While the plan sets an ambitious goal for reining in honey bee losses, and calls for state plans to increase habitat for pollinators, it fails to directly address the impact of neonicotinoids and other insecticides, despite crystal clear science that these chemicals are impacting pollinators. 

TELL CONGRESS TO ACT

Call on your Rep. to support the Saving America's Pollinators Act! Help get neonicotinoids and other bee-toxic pesticides off the shelf.Act Now

The creation of this inter-agency task force — led jointly by USDA and EPA — signaled a renewed commitment at the federal level to address the crisis facing bees and other pollinators. And while regulators were formulating their new strategy, more than four million beekeepers, farmers, scientists and concerned advocates across the country urged them to directly and meaningfully address the issue of bee-toxic pesticides.

Unfortunately, the plan falls short.

Goals without a plan

The task force strategy focuses on three goals:

  1. Reduce honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels;
  2. Increase monarch butterfly numbers to protect the annual migration; and
  3. Restore or enhance millions of acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action.

All important, certainly. But it's unclear how regulators intend to meet their goal of reducing annual honey bee losses to an "economically sustainable" average of 15% — commonplace for healthy hives — when losses in recent years have hovered around 30-40% or more.

Recent reports show that last year's bee losses were the second worst on record for U.S. beekeepers.

An ever growing body of independent science shows that neonics and other pesticides play a critical role in declining bee populations. Without action on pesticides, the problem will persist.

In a media statement last week, PAN organizer Lex Horan put it this way:

“A lopsided federal policy that takes decisive action on habitat, mites and other issues, while remaining stuck on pesticides, will not turn the tide on bee declines.”

Read at: http://www.panna.org/blog/swing-miss-bee-harming-pesticides

Microbiome: The Puzzle in a Bee's Gut

Nature   By Alla Katsnelson    May 21, 2015

Sometimes, serendipity arrives on the wings of disease. It was colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious condition that hit honeybee hives in autumn 2006, that brought bees to the laboratory of evolutionary biologist Nancy Moran. Moran, working at the time at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, had been studying microbes that live inside aphids and leafhoppers since the early 1990s. Owing to her knowledge of insect-associated bacteria, she was brought in by a team of genome sleuths...

Read more... http://goo.gl/JSpC2t

 

USDA Must Protect Its Scientists

The Pollinator Stewardship Council    By Michele Colopy  May 5, 2015

["Seriously, this has happened and it is important for us to write to our Senators to Take Action." 
Bill Lewis, 2013-2014 President California State Beekeepers Association, Past President Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association, Owner Bill's Bees]  

A recent article in Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/27/usda-petition-idUSL2N0WT1TQ20150327 ) stated USDA scientists are being harassed and their work is being censored or suppressed, especially work related to insecticides and herbicides. The USDA Inspector General’s office should conduct a thorough investigation into this matter and take necessary steps to ensure the USDA maintains scientific integrity by not interfering with the valuable work of its scientists.

All of the research the USDA conducts must maintain scientific integrity and transparency to ensure it is guiding science-based policy decisions. 

Scientific evidence has implicated insecticides as a leading driver of bee declines, and herbicides as a leading driver of the destruction of pollinator habitat.  Beekeepers, honey producers, and the crops pollinated by managed and native pollinators rely on USDA scientists to protect the health of our food supply.  Honey bees and native bees pollinate one third of the human diet.  For a sustainable and affordable food supply pollinators are key to crop yields, affordable food, and diverse nutritious food.

In March, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a citizen petition requesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture adopt new policies to increase job protection for government scientists who question the health and safety of agricultural chemicals. The petition urges the agency to adopt policies to specifically prevent the “political suppression or alteration of studies and lay out clear procedures for investigating allegations and of scientific misconduct.”

PEER found more than ten USDA scientists who have faced consequences or investigations, when their work called into question the health and safety of agricultural chemicals. These scientists documented clear actions that violated their scientific integrity, including:
•    USDA officials retracting studies
•    watering down findings
•    removing scientists’ names from authorship
•    delaying approvals for publication of research papers.

The USDA must maintain scientific integrity, and not allow harassment, censorship or suppression of science-based findings.  Please join us in support of USDA scientists.  Email your Senator today urging the USDA Inspector General to take the necessary steps to ensure USDA maintains scientific integrity in the protection of the health and safety of the American public.

Thank you,
Michele Colopy
Program Director
The Pollinator Stewardship Council

http://pollinatorstewardship.org/

Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Honey Bee: New Clues About Decline

Science Daily     Source:  Wellesley College  April 30, 2015

A new study shows poor nutrition for honey bee larvae leads to compromised pollination capabilities as adult bees. This is a possible link to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

A new study by Heather Mattila, a leading honey bee ecologist and Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Wellesley College, published this April in PLOS ONE, reveals that inadequate access to pollen during larval development has lifelong consequences for honey bees, leading not only to smaller workers and shorter lifespans, but also to impaired performance and productivity later in life. For the first time,...

Continue reading: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150430141606.htm