EPA Plans Temporary Pesticide Restrictions While Bees Feed

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Seth Borenstein AP/Science Writer   May 28, 2015

A federal rule to be proposed Thursday would create temporary pesticide-free zones when certain plants are in bloom around bees that are trucked from farm to farm by professional beekeepers, which are the majority of honeybees in the U.S. The pesticide halt would only happen during the time the flower is in bloom and the bees are there, and only on the property where the bees are working, not neighboring land.

The rule applies to virtually all insecticides, more than 1,000 products involving...

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

Live Chat: What's the Buzz About?:

What's the Buzz About?:  A conversation about bee declines, impacts on our food system & what you can do about it.

TODAY: June 16, 2014: Tune into the live stream by going to http://bit.ly/ChatBees at 6pm PT / 9pm ET. And don't forget to submit your questions during the event via Twitter with the hashtag #BeeChat!

Thanks for for joining us for this important conversation.

Bees are responsible for one in three bites of food we eat, and their numbers are declining across the country. And these die-offs point to larger challenges facing our increasingly industrial food system.

As we kick off National Pollinator Week, please join the Berkeley Food Institute and Pesticide Action Network for a lively discussion with scientists, beekeepers and journalists about what's driving bee declines, what it means to our food and farming system and what we can do about it.

The event will be streamed live online. RSVP here to receive the link in an email & join the discussion! And don't forget to submit questions via Twitter during the event with the hashtag #BeeChat.

Co-sponsored by Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and TakePart.


Todd Woody, senior editor for environment and wildlife, TakePart (moderator)

Mr. Woody is the senior editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart, the digital news arm of Los Angeles film production company Participant Media. He previously covered environmental and green tech issues as a contributor to The New York Times, The Atlantic, Quartz and other publications. 

Susan Kegley, PhD, CEO, Pesticide Research Institute

Dr. Kegley is a hobbyist beekeeper, chemist and CEO of Pesticide Research Institute, where she conducts research and environmental monitoring on pesticides, and has acted as an expert consultant to groups from Pesticide Action Network to the Pollinator Stewardship Council.

Gene Brandi, beekeeper and vice-president, American Beekeeping Federation

Mr. Brandi began his commercial beekeeping business in 1978 and has been active in leadership of various beekeeping organizations, including serving as President and Legislative Chairman of the California State Beekeepers Association Board of Directors, serving on the National Honey Board and on the American Beekeeping Federation Board of Directors, including currently as the Vice – President. 

Claire Kremen, PhD, Co-Director, Berkeley Food Institute

Dr. Kremen is a Professor of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at University of California, Berkeley.Her current research focuses on exploring the ecological, social and economic benefits, costs and barriers to adoption of diversified farming systems, and on restoring pollination and pest control services in intensively farmed landscapes.

Event Location

Berkeley Food Institute - live streaming online

If you're in the Berkeley area and would like to join the event in person, please RSVP to Olivier@panna.org.
More info: http://org.salsalabs.com/o/1750/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=82232

Finding Enough Good Food for the Bees

This message brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ: Kim Flottom,  Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Twitter.FacebookBee Culture’s Blog.  

Mapping Large-Area Landscape Suitability for Honey Bees to Assess the Influence of Land-Use Change on Sustainability of National Pollination Services

ABSTRACT: Pollination is a critical ecosystem service affected by various drivers of land-use change, such as policies and programs aimed at land resources, market values for crop commodities, local land-management decisions, and shifts in climate. The United States is the world's most active market for pollination services by honey bees, and the Northern Great Plains provide the majority of bee colonies used to meet the Nation's annual pollination needs. Legislation requiring increased production of biofuel crops, increasing commodity prices for crops of little nutritional value for bees in the Northern Great Plains, and reductions in government programs aimed at promoting land conservation are converging to alter the regional landscape in ways that challenge beekeepers to provide adequate numbers of hives for national pollination services. We developed a spatially explicit model that identifies sites with the potential to support large apiaries based on local-scale land-cover requirements for honey bees. We produced maps of potential apiary locations for North Dakota, a leading producer of honey, based on land-cover maps representing (1) an annual time series compiled from existing operational products and (2) a realistic scenario of land change. We found that existing land-cover products lack sufficient local accuracy to monitor actual changes in landscape suitability for honey bees, but our model proved informative for evaluating effects on suitability under scenarios of land change. The scenario we implemented was aligned with current drivers of land-use change in the Northern Great Plains and highlighted the importance of conservation lands in landscapes intensively and extensively managed for crops.

Citation: Gallant AL, Euliss NH Jr, Browning Z (2014) Mapping Large-Area Landscape Suitability for Honey Bees to Assess the Influence of Land-Use Change on Sustainability of National Pollination Services. PLoS ONE 9(6): e99268. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099268

Available online at http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2014.

The entire article can be found here

Bees Are More Crucial To Modern Agricultural Than Fertilizer

Motherboard    June 11, 2014

Bees are more integral to a successful harvest than fertilizer, according to a new PloS ONE study. Researchers, led by Alexandra-Maria Klein of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, discovered that disrupting insect pollination affected almond tree yields far more than restricting nutrients and water. 

Klein, along with her colleagues at the University of California, exposed three sample groups of almond trees to different levels of pollination. One group was pollinated by insects without intervention, while the blossoms of a second group were caged, preventing insects from reaching them. The third group was pollinated by hand.

In addition to the pollination variables, Klein's team treated one group of trees to a standard helping of water and fertilizer, and compared its yields to a group that was given no fertilizer and very little water. Each experiment was conducted in isolation, but the team also studied the manipulated variables in combination to better observe their effects on almond yields and nutritional quality.

The results were dramatic. The trees with caged blossoms barely produced any fruit, but the nuts that did bloom were abnormally large. The hand-pollinated group produced the most nuts, but they were all markedly undersized. The insect-pollinated trees were right in the Goldilocks zone, agriculturally speaking, and they outperformed the other groups by a factor of about 200 percent.

The team also discovered that trees deprived of fertilizer and water were able to make up for the loss over the short-term by subbing in stored nutrients. But no such flexibility was shown for the lack of insect pollinators, making bees and their blossom-loving cohorts a more valuable factor in the success of a crop yield.

Claire Brittain, one of the authors of the study, explained why insect pollination is so much more effective than other pollination techniques. “Most almond varieties are self incompatible,” she told me in an email. “For this reason, farmers plant two or three varieties in a single orchard. Insect pollination produces better yields because their movement between trees in the orchards helps to transfer pollen from other varieties to the almond flowers.”

The finding further confirms that colony collapse disorder will have disastrous effects on agricultural yields. “Almond needs insect pollinators to be able to produce a commercial crop,” said Brittain. “If there is less availability of honey bees in the future farmers will be forced to pay more for renting honey bee hives. This may in turn increase the price for consumers.”

Given that climate change is also throwing bees off their pollination game, this issue is sure to become more pronounced in the coming decades. For now, Brittain and her colleagues are busy brainstorming novel ways to encourage pollinators to lend their talents to flowering crops.

“One step we are exploring is how to bolster insect pollinators around almond orchards by providing them with floral resources before and after almond bloom,” she said. “This is being done as part of the ICP project which is working on habitat enhancements for crop pollinators across multiple crops in the US.”

Bees and other insects may be small in stature, but their impact on our food supply is clearly enormous. Addressing the multiple problems raised by their declining numbers is paramount, because humans are nowhere near as accommodating about restricted nutritional intake as almond trees.

Read at... http://motherboard.vice.com/read/bees-are-more-crucial-to-agricultural-success-than-fertilizer

Related article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140610101516.htm

What Really Matters to Bees

CATCH THE BUZZ   By Kim Flottum   May 28, 2014
Outstanding Beekeeping Promotion on The Weather Channel

Listen and watch Dave Hackenburg talk about bees and beekeeping and the weather on this short promo for the Weather Channel. Thanks weather folks for the opportunity. Thanks Dave for taking the time.


No Strawberries, No Honey - Without Bees!

Beyond Pesticides    2/4/14

No strawberries, no honey — without bees Valentine’s Day just wouldn’t be the same.

In fact, one out of three bites of food depend on honey bee pollination, but they are in danger from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that Europe has already banned. We know bees can’t wait any longer for increased protections, so we need to take a stand wherever we can.

ShowBeesSomeLoveThat’s why we’re asking you to join thousands of people coast-to-coast toswarm Home Depot and Lowe’s stores the week of Valentine’s Day (February 10-16).

We’ll be delivering valentines, asking these stores to “show bees some love” and stop selling bee-killing pesticides and garden plants poisoned with these harmful chemicals. Planting season is right around the corner. We can’t let another year pass with Home Depot and Lowe’s selling “poisoned plants” with no warning to consumers.

Last year U.S. beekeepers reported a30-100 percent loss of their hives, and right now they are likely facing another winter of historic bee die-offs. You can help BEE Protective of pollinators during another tough winter season by delivering a Valentine to retailers. We’ve made it easy:

Sign up here and we’ll send you a printable valentine with a step-by-step guide closer to the date.


Scientific studies are consistently finding that a new, and increasingly popular class of pesticides, called neonicotinoids, are significant contributors to the devastating decline of pollinators across the globe. They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam, and products containing these pesticides can be found on this list. Peer-reviewed science has repeatedly identified these insecticides as highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. Once applied, plants take up these pesticides and exude them in their pollen and nectar, subsequently endangering any pollinators that forage on these contaminated plants.

A report co-released late last year by Beyond Pesticides, Friends of the Earth, and other allies revealed that the neonicotinoids may be lurking in our own gardens. The study showed that more than half of the “bee-friendly” plants sold at retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s contained these bee-killing pesticides. In lieu of federal action to restrict the chemicals, we must take a stand against retailers who continue to sell poisoned plants.

More BEE Protective Actions:

Help Beyond Pesticides build the buzz on all fronts by asking retailers, administrators, and elected officials to take action by eliminating or curtailing the sale and use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Join Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, Ceres Trust over 60 other groups’ coalition-based national advertising campaign to raise awareness of pollinator declines and urge EPA to stop stalling by enacting substantive restrictions on the use of bee-harming pesticides.

Devote your garden or landscape to the protection of pollinators. Download the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and see our Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind webpage for information on how to create pollinator-friendly habitat in your community.

Keep the pressure on your elected officials to support a bill that would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. The bill currently has 50 cosponsors in Congress. Is your Representative one of them?

Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign includes a variety of educational materials to help encourage municipalities, campuses, and individual homeowners to adopt policies and practices that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms. In addition to scientific and regulatory information, BEE Protective also includes a model community pollinator resolution and a pollinator protection pledge. Pollinators are a vital part of our environment and a barometer for healthy ecosystems. Let’s all do our part to BEE Protective of these critical species.


All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Pollinator Efficiency Measured

CATCH THE BUZZ     12/10/13

Who’s Best At What, When and Where Finally Gets Measured

From tomatoes to pumpkins, most fruit and vegetable crops rely on pollination by bees and other insect species – and the future of many of those species is uncertain. Now researchers from North Carolina State University are proposing a set of guidelines for assessing the performance of pollinator species in order to determine which species are most important and should be prioritized for protection.

"Widespread concerns over the fate of honey bees and other pollinators have led to increased efforts to understand which species are the most effective pollinators, since this has huge ramifications for the agriculture industry," says Dr. Hannah Burrack, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the new guidelines and related research. "However, various research efforts have taken a wide variety of approaches, making it difficult to compare results in a meaningful way.

"We've developed a set of metrics that we think offers a comprehensive overview of pollination efficiency, which would allow researchers to compare data from different crops and regions."

The new comprehensive approach looks at four specific metrics. First is single-visit efficiency, which measures the number of seeds produced when one bee visits one flower. Second is abundance, which measures the number of each type of bee observed in a study area. Third is inclement weather behavior, which tracks how active a bee species is during cool, cloudy and/or windy weather. Fourth is visitation rate, or the number of flowers that a bee visits while foraging, and the amount of time it spends at each flower.

“The perfect bee would produce a lot of seeds and visit a lot of flowers, even in poor weather – and there would be a lot of them," Burrack says. "But as far as we know, the perfect bee doesn't exist."

The researchers conducted a pilot study using their comprehensive approach to assess the pollination performance of various bee species on economically important highbush blueberry crops in North Carolina. They found that small native bees had extremely high single-visit efficiency rates and were active during inclement weather. However, small native bees did not have high abundance nor appear to have high visitation rates.

"This highlights the importance of incorporating multiple metrics," says Dr. David Tarpy, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of the paper. "Because researchers looking only at visitation rates or abundance may think the small native species are unimportant, when they actually appear to be important pollinators for blueberry growers."


The paper, "Multiple Criteria for Evaluating Pollinator Performance in Highbush Blueberry (Ericales: Ericaceae) Agroecosystems," was published online Nov. 25 in the journal Environmental Entomology. Lead author of the paper is Shelley Rogers, a former graduate student at NC State. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the N.C. Blueberry Council and the NC State Beekeepers Association.

This ezine is also available online at http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2013.

This message brought to us by Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Find Bee Culture at - TwitterFacebookBee Culture’s Blog.

What Our World Would Look Like Without Honeybees

Business Insider   By Diane Spector   6/22/13

A world without honeybees would also mean a world without fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds

Nearly one-third of the world's crops are dependent on honeybees for pollination, but over the last decade the black-and-yellow insects have been dying at unprecedented rates both in the United States and abroad.

[Jump straight to the photos]  

Pesticides, disease, parasites, poor weather, and the stress of being trucked from orchard-to-orchard to pollinate different crops all play a role in the decline of managed honeybee populations. A lack of bees threatens farmers who depend on these nectar- and pollen-eating animals for their pollination services.

We have few planned defenses against a honeybee disaster. The Farm Bill, passed on June 10, 2013, allocates less than $2 million a year in emergency assistance to honeybees. 

"The bottom line is, if something is not done to improve honeybee health, then most of the interesting food we eat is going to be unavailable," warns Carlen Jupe, secretary and treasurer for the California State Beekeepers Association.

Honeybees as a species are not in danger of extinction, but their ability to support the industry of commercial pollination, and by extension, a large portion of our food supply, is in serious danger.

Whole Foods recently imagined what our grocery store would like in a world without bees by removing more than half of the market's produce. Here, we also take a purely hypothetical look at how the human diet and lifestyle would change if honeybees and other bee pollinators disappeared from our planet one day. This is the worst case scenario — it's possible that human ingenuity and alternate pollinators can mitigate some of these outcomes, but not necessarily all of them.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-without-honeybees-2013-6?op=1#ixzz2Xj8rdF6W

View Slideshow of What Our World Would Look Like Without Honeybees: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-without-honeybees-2013-6#if-bees-die-beekeepers-who-make-their-living-by-managing-bee-colonies-will-go-out-of-business-1

Europe Steps Up For Bees. EPA, Your Turn

Pesticide Action Network   5/2/13

In a historic vote on Monday, the European Union (EU) passed a continent-wide restriction on the use of bee-harming pesticides. Despite immense pressure from the pesticide industry, a majority of EU countries sided with bees.

Here in the U.S., policymakers have yet to step up. And with beekeepers in this country reporting record-breaking bee losses this year — up to 40% or more — action to protect honey bees is more urgent than ever.

The EU vote comes after significant findings by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) that neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics) in particular pose an unacceptable risk to bees.

With a simple majority of 15 nations voting in support of the neonic ban on Monday, it didn't gain the required “qualified majority.” Protocol in this instance leaves the final decision to the European Commission, which has signaled full support. As stated by Tonio Borg, Health and Consumer Commissioner:

"I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion annually to European agriculture, are protected."

With the European Commission's backing, the two-year ban will go into effect in December, restricting the use of bee-harming neonics clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam throughout the EU.

Industry shenanigans

While powerful grassroots support of bee-protective policies has been growing, the prospect of restrictions on use of their pesticide products prompted a "fierce behind-the-scenes campaign" from Bayer and Syngenta. Bayer manufactures clothianidin and imidacloprid, while Syngenta produces thiamethoxam.

As reported in The Guardian:

The chemical companies, which make billions from the products, have lobbied hard, with Syngenta even threatening to sue individual European Union officials involved in publishing a report that found the pesticides posed an unacceptable risk to bees.

Other pressure tactics employed by the pesticide industry include distorting scientific findings, blaming harms to bees on farmers and convening with decisionmakers behind closed doors.

More work to do

While the new EU ban is a huge victory for bees — and the network of organizations and individuals working for bee-protective policies throughout Europe — there is more work to be done. Referencing the fact that the ban will expire in two years, Keith Tyrell, executive director of PAN-UK, released the following statement:

“Whilst we welcome the EU vote as a significant step forward, we are dismayed that it is only a temporary half measure which goes nowhere near far enough in protecting our bees and other vital pollinators from the harm of neonicotinoid pesticides."

Here in the U.S., policymakers have yet to take decisive action on behalf of bees. While loss of habitat, pathogens and nutrition all play a role in bee die-offs, a growing body of scientific evidence points to pesticides as a key catalyst. And since neonics are a known factor, policymakers can (and should) address the issue. Quickly.

As PAN spokesperson Paul Towers says, time is of the essence:

"Unless U.S. officials act soon, bee populations may not recover, threatening the livelihood of beekeepers and the agricultural economies that rely on pollination and honey production.”

Bees pollinate one in three bites of food we eat and sustain our agricultural economy. We all rely on them daily, and they are in dire need of help. EPA, time to step up.


Take Action » Urge EPA to protect bees from harmful pesticides. The science linking pesticides to bee die-offs is only getting stronger. And bees are getting sicker. Protecting these vital pollinators is more urgent than ever. 



Honey, It's Electric: Bees Sense Charge On Flowers

NPR  By Adam Cole   2/22/13 (Listen to broadcast and view amazing images.)

Flowers are nature's ad men. They'll do anything to attract the attention of the pollinators that help them reproduce. That means spending precious energy on bright pigments, enticing fragrances and dazzling patterns.

Now, scientists have found another element that contributes to flowers' brand: their distinct electric field.

Bumblebee Vision

Flowers taylor their displays toward the sensory capabilities of their pollinators. Bees can see visible and ultraviolet light, they have precise olfactory receptors, and now we know they can also detect electric fields.

Anne Leonard, who studies bees at the University of Nevada, says our understanding of pollinator-flower communication has been expanding for decades.

"Flowers do a lot of things you might not expect," Leonard says. "We observe they have these distinct bright, beautiful colors, patterns, scents."

But we don't often stop to consider that this incredible display is all an attempt to attract bees and other pollinators. These displays don't just consist of things humans notice. There are also patterns in the ultraviolet spectrum, petal temperatures and textures and shapes.

"We've found that by producing these combinations of sensory stimuli, the plant basically makes its flowers easier for the bee to learn and remember," Leonard says.

That means the bee can forage more efficiently, and flowers are more likely to be pollinated.

"This is a magnificent interaction where you have an animal and a plant, and they both want this to go as well as possible," says Gregory Sutton of the University of Bristol in the U.K. "The flowers are trying to make themselves look as different as possible. This is to establish the flower's brand."

Sutton and a team of researchers led by Daniel Robert have just uncovered a whole new layer to flower brands.

"We found that flowers can use electric fields," Sutton says.

That's right — electric fields. It turns out flowers have a slight negative charge relative to the air around them. Bumblebees have a charge, too.

"When bees are flying through the air, just the friction of the air and the friction of the body parts on one another causes the bee to become positively charged," Sutton says.

It's like shuffling across a carpet in wool socks. When a positively charged bee lands on a flower, the negatively charged pollen grains naturally stick to it. The Bristol team wondered if bees were aware of this electrostatic interaction.

So, they designed an experiment — one described in this week's Science magazine. The researchers built a small arena full of fake flowers. Each flower was simple — a stalk with a small steel dish at the top. Half of the "flowers" held delicious sugar water. The other half held quinine, a substance that bees find bitter and disgusting.

When bumblebees explored this false flower patch, they moved around randomly. They chose to land on sweet flowers just about as often as bitter flowers.

But when the sweet flowers carried a small charge, the bees learned pretty quickly to choose the charged flowers. And when the electric charge was removed? They went back to their random foraging.

The bees had recognized the electric field, and had learned to use it to find sweet flowers. But that's not all.

"In the seconds just before the bee lands, there is electrical activity in the plant," Sutton says.

The plant's electric field is changed by the proximity of that positively charged bee. And once the bee leaves, the field stays changed for 100 seconds or so. That's long enough for the altered field to serve as a warning for the next bee that buzzes by. She won't stop to investigate a flower that's already been visited.