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Chemical compounds exist to combat the parasites but they are outdated and growing increasingly ineffective, the researchers write, adding that no new active compounds have been registered in the last 25 years.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

Vanishing Act: Scientists Find Possible Clue to Disappearing Bees

University of Texas at Austin      By Nancy Moran     March 14, 2017

In the winter of 2004/05, many beekeepers across America went to check on their honeybee hives and were shocked to find most of the adult bees had vanished, leaving behind the queen and immature bees. Millions of bees mysteriously disappeared, leaving farms with fewer pollinators for crops.

Colony collapse disorder, as it was later dubbed, has continued to vex beekeepers year after year — and there’s still no effective solution. Explanations for the phenomenon have included exposure to pesticides, habitat loss and bacterial infections. But now, a new study from The University of Texas at Austin suggests that antibiotics could play a role.

Researchers found that honeybees treated with a common antibiotic were half as likely to survive the week after treatment as a group of untreated bees. The antibiotics cleared out beneficial gut bacteria in the bees, making way for a harmful pathogen, which also occurs in humans, to get a foothold. The research is the latest discovery to indicate overuse of antibiotics can sometimes make living things, including people, sicker.

Vanishing bees is cause for concern because many of our most cherished food crops are pollinated by honeybees including almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, carrots, cranberries, onions, squash, and watermelon. And that’s not to mention honey itself.

In large-scale U.S. agriculture, beekeepers typically apply antibiotics to their hives several times a year. The strategy aims to prevent bacterial infections that can lead to a widespread and destructive disease that afflicts bee larvae, called foulbrood.

“Our study suggests that perturbing the gut microbiome of honeybees is a factor, perhaps one of many, that could make them more susceptible to declining and to the colony collapsing. Antibiotics may have been an underappreciated factor in colony collapse.” 

-Nancy Moran, professor of integrative biology at UT Austin and co-author of the study published March 14 in the journal PLOS Biology.

To learn more, read the press release: “Overuse of Antibiotics Brings Risks for Bees — and for Us

https://news.utexas.edu/2017/03/14/scientists-find-possible-clue-to-disappearing-bees-1

Believe It Or Not, The Bees Are Doing Just Fine

The Washington Post    By Christopher Ingraham    October 10, 2016

You've probably heard the bad news by now that bees were recently added to the endangered species list for the first time. But if you're part of the 60 percent of people who share stories without actually reading them, you might have missed an important detail: namely, that the newly endangered bees are a handful of relatively obscure species who live only in Hawaii.

The bees you're more familiar with — the ones that buzz around your yard dipping into flowers, making honey, pollinating crops and generally keeping the world's food supply from collapsing? Those bees are doing just fine, according to data released by the USDA this year.

In 2015, there were 2.66 million commercial honey-producing bee colonies in the United States. That's down slightly from the 2.74 million colonies in 2014, which represented a two-decade high. The number of commercial bee colonies is still significantly higher than it was in 2006, when colony collapse disorder— the mass die-offs that began afflicting U.S. honeybee colonies — was first documented.

 

Look at how happy and healthy this little fuzzball is. (Brad Smith/Flickr)

Those 2.66 million colonies represent a greater number than just about any year since the late 1990s. How's that possible, considering all the die-offs we've been hearing about?

As I wrote last year, America's beekeepers are busy at work managing their colonies and replacing the ones that die off. Beekeepers have a number of ways to replenish their stock: They can split one healthy colony into two. They can also breed their own queen bees, which can be sold to other keepers in need of a queen to start a new colony.

For the 2017 season, 3 pounds of bees plus a queen will set you back about $100 or so.

The thing is, all of this colony-splitting and queen-breeding takes time, money and effort. It means that the main effects of colony collapse disorder aren't being felt by the bees themselves, but by the people who breed and manage them. Beekeeping is a business, after all.

“Honey bees are not about to go extinct,” Kim Kaplan, a researcher with the USDA, said in an email. “It is the beekeepers who are in danger, facing unsustainable economic losses."

The cost of those losses are currently getting passed on to the consumer. The average retail price of honey has roughly doubled since 2006, according to the National Honey Board. And pollination services, where keepers drive semi-trucks full of bees from farm to farm to pollinate crops, are getting more expensive, too.

Of course, the discussion above concerns  only commercial bees that are managed by humans and businesses. Wild bees — whether they're honeybees or one of our 4,000 other native bee species — face different difficulties. If those species suffer die-offs, there's nobody around to breed new queens and help them recover. Wild bees are on their own.

Recent research has shown that the use of certain insecticides called neonicotinoids has been linked to declines in wild bee populations. But assessing the true magnitude of the effect is difficult, because it's a lot harder to survey wild bee populations than domesticated ones.

For now, the placement of seven bee species into the Endangered Species List might be less of a sign that America's bees are in dire straits and more of an indicator that our other 3,993 bee species are probably doing fine.

By and large, our domesticated honey producers appear to be doing just fine, too.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/10/believe-it-or-not-the-bees-are-doing-just-fine/?postshare=51476408556930&tid=ss_fb

Beepocalypse Myth Handbook: Dissecting Claims of Pollinator Collapse

Myths and truths about bees: There is no dangerous recent decline in the global honey bee population and a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids are not fostering a global pollinator crisis.

For years, environmental activists and the media have been warning of an impending “bee-pocalypse” in which a drastic fall in the honey bee population, which they claimed was already underway, would threaten bees with extinction and – because bees pollinate much of the food we eat – the word with starvation. The number one culprit in this extinction scenario is a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, for short.

In fact, the honey bee population did face a crisis in 2006, when honey bee queens...

Continue reading: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/07/28/beepocalypse-myth-handbook-dissecting-claims-of-pollinator-collapse/

(Note: Lots of good info in the comments section of this article.)

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

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 

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

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

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

 

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

A London Street Artist Paints Swarms of Bees on Urban Walls to Raise Awareness of Colony Collapse Disorder

COLOSSAL   By Christopher Jobson   March 24, 2015

Street artist Louis Masai Michel is on a one-man mission to raise awareness of the plight of the humble honey bee through his Save the Bees mural project . The murals began shortly after Michel returned from a trip to South Africa where he was painting endagered animals, when he began to learn about about bees and the grave implications of colony collapse disorder. He immediately set out to paint a series of murals incorporating bees on walls around London in May of last year, but the endeavor proved wildly popular and has since spread to Bristol, Devon, Glastonbury, Croatia, New York, Miami, and New Orleans. Many of the bee works were done in collaboration with artist Jim Vision, including pieces in Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, and Hackney.

Michel is currently taking a break from bees to open a show of unrelated artwork at Lollipop Gallery later next month, but plans are in the making for a phase two sometime next year. You can see more of his bee work in thisgallery.

We learned about this Michel’s #SavetheBees work through a collaboration between Sony’s #FutureofCitiesproject and photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith who has been documenting urban beekeeping in London. You can read a short interview with her here.

Read and view more of Louis Masai Michel's amazing street art and bees at: 
http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/03/save-the-bees-mural-project/

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

ABJ Extra - News   February 10, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here  to see a digital sample of the American Bee Journal.
 
To subscribe to the American Bee Journal click here and choose digital or the printed version.

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

The Smithsonian         By Sarah Zielinski    December 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Manitoulin Expositor   By Expositor Staff   November 25, 2015

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

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

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

Honeybees Stung by Drought from CNBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commodity Cutbacks

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

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

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

Leading Production States

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

 

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

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

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

Call for help

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

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

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

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

Link to story 

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

The Head-Scratching Case of the Vanishing Bees

 The New York Times  By Clyde Haberman  September 28, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Bees Back up on Their Knees?

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

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

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

Honey Bee Viruses, the Deadly Varroa Mite Associates

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

Introduction

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

Varroa Life History

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

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