Can Mushrooms Save the Honey Bee?

bioGraphic     Produced by Louie Schwartzberg    April 25, 2017

A blood-sucking mite is wreaking havoc on honey bees - but scientists have discovered a surprising new way to fight back.

A decade ago, honey bee populations around the world began declining at an alarming rate. In the early years of this trend, beekeepers lost 60 percent or more of their hives to a mysterious phenomenon that came to be known as “colony collapse disorder” (CCD). In each of these cases, worker bees simply disappeared, and it doesn’t take long for a colony to collapse without workers to provide food and to care for the young. Although this trend seems to have leveled off somewhat in recent years, the current average rate of 30 percent annual mortality is still nearly double the average rate reported prior to 2006.

Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are native to Europe, western Asia and Africa, but have also been introduced to many other parts of the world to serve as pollinators of agricultural crops. Today, honey bees pollinate one-third of all the crops we consume—nearly a thousand varieties in all—and are by far the world’s most important and economically valuable pollinators for commercial agriculture. In the U.S. alone, their annual value is estimated at $5–14 billion.

Since the first reports of dead and dying honey bee colonies began to stream in, scientists have scrambled to determine the cause, or causes, of CCD. One threat in particular stood out as a major cause of honey bee declines: varroa mites (Varroa destructor). These tiny parasitic arachnids weaken adult and juvenile bees by sucking their blood. They also transmit a number of viruses that can spread throughout a colony like wildfire. To make matters worse, the mites reproduce quickly and, because of this, can rapidly evolve resistance to traditional chemical pesticides.

While many scientists have continued to search for causes of honey bee declines, others have turned their attention to developing new, more sustainable solutions to these threats. One of the more surprising and promising of these strategies is the use of compounds produced by a widely-distributed mushroom (Metarhizium anisopliae) that is known to parasitize a number of different insects. Researchers from Washington State University have found that spores and extracts from this mushroom are particularly toxic to varroa mites but—in low doses—leave bees unharmed. In fact, bees in hives treated with Metarhizium tend to be much healthier and live longer than those in untreated hives. While large-scale trials are just now being implemented, early results suggest that a common mushroom may hold the answer to at least one major driver of honey bee declines.

Starvation As Babies Makes Bees Stronger As Adults

Phys.org   Arizona State University     March 30, 2016

Short-term starvation as larvae actually makes honey bees more resilient to nutritional deprivation as adults. This suggests they have an anticipatory mechanism like solitary organisms do. These findings change the current understanding of colony collapse disorder and provide new avenues to study. Credit: Christofer Bang

A lack of adequate nutrition is blamed as one of many possible causes for colony collapse disorder or CCD—a mysterious syndrome that causes a honey bee colony to die. Parasites, pesticides, pathogens and environmental changes are also stressors believed responsible for the decline of honey bees.

Since  are critical to the world's food supply, learning how bees cope with these stressors is critical to understanding honey bee health and performance.

In two new studies, researchers from Arizona State University's School of Life Sciences have discovered that the stress of short-term nutritional deprivation as larvae (baby bees) actually makes honey bees more resilient to  as adults.

"Surprisingly, we found that short-term starvation in the larval stage makes adult honey bees more adaptive to adult starvation. This suggests that they have an anticipatory mechanism like solitary organisms do," said Ying Wang, assistant research professor with the school and lead author of the two investigations. Wang said they found evidence of this mechanism in several areas such as behavior, endocrine physiology, metabolism and gene regulation.

The anticipatory mechanism, also called "predictive adaptive response," explains a possible correlation between prenatal nutritional stress and adult metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes in humans. Yet, Athese findings show for the first time that social organisms can have this mechanism.

Since most research on bee nutrition has focused on using adult honey bees, rather than their young, this new information changes the current understanding of  and provides new avenues to study.

The findings are published in two papers appearing today in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Interestingly, Wang and her colleagues also found that when bees experienced starvation as larvae, they could reduce their metabolic rate, maintain their blood sugar levels, and use other fuels faster than the control bees during starvation. This increased the probability of their survival under a starvation situation.

"These studies show how the fundamental physiology of animals separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution maintain central, common features that allow us to learn more about ourselves from studying them and about them by looking to ourselves," said Rob Page, University Provost Emeritus and co-author of the paper. "They reveal key features of honey bee physiology that may help us find solutions to the serious problems of bee health world wide."

Managed  have declined worldwide, down to 2.5 million today from 5 million in the 1940s. This comes at a time when the global demand for food is rising to meet the nutrition needs of 7.4 billion people. Since multiple stressors are negatively impacting bee health, Wang's new findings may provide a different strategy to help solve the problem of  disorder.

"Manipulations during development may be able to increase the bees' resistance to different stressors, much like how an immunization works," added Wang. "However, we are at a starting point with this new discovery and we will have many questions to be answered."

Explore further: A widely used bee antibiotic may harm rather than help

More information: Wang, Y., Kaftanoglu, O., Brent, C. S., Page, R. E., Jr and Amdam, G. V. (2016). Starvation stress during larval development facilitates an adaptive response in adult worker honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) J. Exp. Biol. 216, DOI: 10.1242/jeb.130435

Wang, Y., Campbell, J. B., Kaftanoglu, O., Page, R. E., Jr,Amdam,G.V. andHarrison, J.F. (2016). Larval starvation improves metabolic response to adult starvation in honey bees (Apis mellifera L.). J. Exp. Biol. 216, DOI: 10.1242/jeb.136374 

Provided by: Arizona State University

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-03-starvation-babies-bees-stronger-adults.html#jCp

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 

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

Entomology: The Bee-All, and End-All

Nature    May 21, 2015

Seven scientists give their opinions on the biggest challenges faced by bees and bee researchers.

Robert Paxton

Honeybee viruses

Head of general zoology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

Honeybees are declining in number across the Northern Hemisphere. There is broad consensus within the scientific community that their most serious threats are pathogenic microbes, particularly viruses, and the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, which transmits viruses while sucking the blood of the bee. A major challenge is to show whether Varroa mites also lower the immune response of the host bee to these viruses. Or do the mites provide an environment that selects for better-replicating or more-virulent viral variants? — or both.

Honeybees host more than 50 types of microbe, which next-generation sequencing technologies are helping us to explore. Researchers are ...

Read more...: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v521/n7552_supp/full/521S57a.html

Bring Back the Bees

Care2Causes   By Lia Leendertz      

How to Increase Your Garden's Bee Population

What's Happening to the bees?

Honey bees (and all other bees too, for that matter) are struggling. Recent winters have seen catastrophic cases of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), where entire hives die over winter. Before 2006, the annual expected loss for bees was around 10-15 percent. Since 2006 that number has more than doubled to over 30 percent. CCD is recognized as an international issue, and some predict it will soon...

Read more: http://www.fix.com/blog/bring-back-the-bees/

Bee Losses. Pesticides or Habitat Loss? EPA Uncertain

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Kim Flottum  November 26, 2014

By Paul Bedard, in Washington Secrets.

Over 100 scientists worldwide, citing 800 studies, are demanding that the Obama administration follow Europe’s lead and put a moratorium on the use of a new-style pesticide blamed for the deaths of 30 percent of American honeybees every year.

In a letter to the EPA and Agriculture Department, the scientists said there is overwhelming evidence from 800 studies that the pesticide family called neonicotinoids are to blame for the substantial declines in honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies, all pollinators needed to help farmers produce billions of dollars worth of food every year.

“The 108 signers of this letter therefore urge you to take immediate action to protect bees and other pollinators, particularly from pesticides known to be harmful,” said the letter provided to Secrets.

Despite actions by the European Union and some U.S. cities and states to limit use of the “neonics,” the administration is taking a go-slow approach.

“We share concerns about the decrease in the honey bee population, without question,” EPA Director Gina McCarthy told Secrets during a recent media roundtable sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

She seemed to blame the decade-long die-off of bees on development. “There are a number of factors that need to be considered, a lot of it could be attributable to habitat loss, and much of it might be,” she said.

McCarthy added that the EPA, under President Obama’s direction, is looking into the issue and holding listening sessions around the nation, but is not ready to act until the agency has thoroughly studied the science of the pesticides.

“There is no resolution off the table,” she said. But, she added, the agency won’t be “quick to judge.”

The scientists, from schools such as Harvard University and University of California, and as far away as Germany, however, said the issue has already been studied. They cited a June 2014 worldwide review of 800 studies by 29 independent researches that blamed the bee kills onneonics, which are typically treated on seeds and can stay in the ground for years.

They are blamed for disrupting the homing ability of bees heading back to the hive, a key issue on Colony Collapse Disorder.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com

Read at... http://live.ezezine.com/ezine/archives/1636/1636-2014.11.26.11.32.archive.html

Find EVERY BUZZ Archive at www.BeeCulture.com

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/

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

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

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

The Plight of the Honey Bee

The following was broadcast on Katie Couric (Talk that Matters) July 3, 2014. With Frances Beinecke (President Natural Resources Defense Council), Dennis vanEngelsdorp (Entomologist, Univ. of Maryland), Bryan Walsh (Senior editor, Time magazine).

"If the bee disappears from the surface of the globe, man would have no more than four years to live," Einstein said. For a number of years bees have been dying at an alarming rate. So what does that mean for us? 

http://katiecouric.com/videos/the-plight-of-the-honey-bee/

 

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

Good News and Bad News About Honey Bees

OpenMarketplace.org    By Angela Logomasini    June 6, 2014

News stories related to honeybee health the past few weeks are all over the map. Some headlines claim that new research proves that honeybees are dying off because of pesticides, while others say honeybees are doing just fine. But reality is different than either scenario. Beekeepers surely have their challenges, but banning pesticide’s won’t help them or their bees.

Much of the media “bad news” comes from a recent Harvard University study, which some say proves that a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids are to blame for colony collapse disorder (CCD), a phenomenon in which bees leave the hive and never return.

If we don’t ban these chemicals, these stories suggest, our food supply may be at risk. Yet ironically, if we do ban them, our food supply may be at greater risk because farmers will have a tougher time fighting pests that destroy crops. And they may have to resort to other pesticides that place bees at greater risk.

Yet the Harvard study did not really settle the issue anyway. In this study, researchers fed bees a relatively high level of the pesticides, which may not be a good reflection how the chemicals impacts bees in the real world. All this proves is that high pesticide levels can harm bees, it doesn’t prove that actual real-life exposures have the same impact. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who is the director of a honeybee research initiative called Bee Informed, pointed that out in a New York Times story, which notes:

Dr. vanEngelsdorp said that Dr. Lu and his colleagues gave the bees doses far beyond what they would encounter in nature, and over longer periods of time, so the new study only shows that “high doses of ‘neonics’ kill bees — which is not surprising. 

Meanwhile a survey on honeybee health conducted by Bee Informed shows that bees did much better during the winter of 2013-2014 than prior years. And this happened despite the fact that neonicotinoids were used that year like the others. What explains the improvement? Beekeeper and policy scholar Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center explained in a recent blog post:

Such a significant decline in winter mortality indicates beekeepers are effectively changing their management techniques in response to losing hives. It also shows how hyperbole about honeybees is harming thoughtful discussion about the causes of CCD.

In fact, Engelsdorp noted that losses could have been much lower if beekeepers better managed varroa mites, which present a major challenge to honeybee health. And ironically, pesticides–which beekeepers use in hive to fight of mites and other insects that harm honeybees–are part of the solution. A press statement on the study explains:

“What is clear from all of our efforts is that varroa is a persistent and often unexpected problem,” said vanEngelsdorp. “Every beekeeper needs to have an aggressive varroa management plan in place. Without one, they should not be surprised if they suffer large losses every other year or so. Unfortunately, many small-scale beekeepers are not treating and are losing many colonies. Even beekeepers who do treat for mites often don’t treat frequently enough or at the right time. If all beekeepers were to aggressively control mites, we would have many fewer losses.”

There is no easy answer, but it does appear that pesticides are not the cause of CCD and bans won’t fix things, they will simply make it harder for farmers to grow food. It seems clear that many factors affect honeybee health, and the biggest risks come from diseases and other natural pests. The answer lies in better management of these risks. And if we eventually do find that pesticides are part of the problem–and this is yet to be determined–we should look for ways to manage the risks rather than ban useful products outright without regard to the consequences.

Any policy should ensure beekeepers can continue the great work they do while, at the same time, recognize the fact that farmers need tools–including pesticides–to produce an affordable food supply.

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

How Could the Honey Bee Shortage Affect You?

KWQXNews6 By Akilah Davis    May 18, 2014

Experts say honey bees are more vital than we all realize and the shortage could affect you in ways you might not imagine. The average life span of a worker bee in the summer is six weeks, but that could mean big problems if their life spans are cut short. Without bees pollinating our crops, a lot of them would die off. 

"Honey bees are important to the ecosystem because they pollinate about a third of the crops of the food we eat," said Ronald Fischer, a bee keeper from Illinois.

Fischer has been bee-keeping for over 40 years and says he knows enough to know that if the honey bee shortage continues, it could result in a food desert. 

"Without honey bee pollination you won't get the almonds, apples, citrus. It would be like a food desert out there because you won't be able to get lots of your fruits and vegetables and some of the other products," said Fischer. 

The shortage is the outcome of what's called colony collapse disorder and a lot of factors contribute to it.

"The varroa mite is a mite that sucks on the bees blood and it also brings various viruses with it," said Fischer. "So we've got the varroa mite and viruses, you also have the increase use in pesticides, the neo-nicotine."

That means the weed killer you use to stop them from growing in your yard also stops busy bees from buzzing around.

"None of which is bad by itself, but combine all of them you have an unhealthy hive. When you have an unhealthy hive its susceptible to all these various problems that we have," Fischer explained. 

The shortage is also causing bee keepers like Fischer to take a hit in the wallet and its causing them to pay more for replacement bees. 

"It's about $100 for a three-pound package where you get three pounds of bees and one queen," said Fischer.

That very package used to cost $60.

Our expert says the best way to reverse the trend is plant a bee-friendly garden so bees can pollinate--and cut back on weed pesticides.

Read & View at: http://www.kwqc.com/story/25548929/how-could-the-honey-bee-shortage-affect-you

Report Says Fewer Bees Perished Over the Winter, but the Reason is a Mystery

The New York Times   By John Schwartz   May 15, 2014

Honeybees could be on their way back, according to a new federal report.

The collapse of bee populations around the country in recent years has led to warnings of a crisis in foods grown with the help of pollination. Over the past eight years, beekeepers have reported winter losses of nearly 30 percent of their bees on average.

The new survey, published on Thursday, found that the loss of managed honeybee colonies from all causes dropped to 23.2 percent nationwide over the winter that just ended, down from 30.5 percent the year before. Losses reported by some individual beekeepers were even higher. Colony losses reached a peak of 36 percent in 2007 to 2008.

The survey of thousands of beekeepers was conducted by the Department of Agriculture and the Bee Informed Partnership, an organization that studies apian health and management.

“It’s better than some of the years we’ve suffered,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a director of the partnership and an entomologist at the University of Maryland. Still, he noted, a 23 percent loss “is not a good number.” He continued, “We’ve gone from horrible to bad.”

He said there was no way to say at this point why the bees did better this year...

Read more...  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/16/us/honeybees-report.html

Scientists May Have Finally Pinpointed What's Killing the Honey Bees

Finance.yahoo.com    May 13, 2104

(Another in a number of articles posted within the past week on what's really killing the honey bees.)

Where have all the honeybees gone?

A new study seems to strengthen the evidence linking pesticides used on crops to colony collapse disorder in honeybees.

Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, is a phenomenon in which honeybees inexplicably disappear from their hives. The bodies of the dead bees are typically never found.

Researchers led by Chensheng Lu of Harvard University have pinpointed the collapse of honeybee colonies on a class of pesticides known as neoniotinoids — insecticides that also act as nerve poisons and mimic the effects of nicotine. Scientists specifically looked at how low doses of two neonicotinoids — imidacloprid and clothianidin — affected healthy bee hives over the course of a winter.

The results of the study "reinforce the conclusion that sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids is likely the main culprit for the occurrence of CCD," the authors wrote in their paper, published May 9 in the Bulletin of Insectology.

Read more... http://finance.yahoo.com/news/scientists-may-finally-pinpointed-whats-221000439.html

Related articles: 
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140509110713.htm

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/05/09/pesticides-not-mites-cause-honeybee-colony-collapse/#.U3QU2PldW6N