That Big Rig You're Passing Might Just Be Full of Bees

Jalopnik By Andrew P. Collins June 25, 2019

Illustration: GMG Art Department/Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Illustration: GMG Art Department/Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

There are still cowboys driving livestock across America in 2019. While most of us are snoozing, they’re rolling up to dark fields with trucks full of creatures that are critical to our nation’s agriculture: thousands and thousands of bees.

“Very few people know that this happens, and it happens as a necessity of the way our agriculture’s done,” Apiarist and filmmaker Peter Nelson explained to me. “I see bee trucks when I’m on the road, but most people don’t recognize them because it looks like a truck with boxes covered by a net.”

Nelson’s new movie The Pollinators is all about the bee industry, its huge role in our food system and the dire situation it’s in today. After months embedded with beekeepers documenting the complicated logistics of hauling bees from one end of the country to another, and years raising bees in his own backyard, he’s become something of an authority on the subject.

After watching his film myself, I have a whole new appreciation for this fascinating biological and economic ecosystem. I will now impart some of this wonder to you, before getting back to the part about trucks filled with bees driving down the highway at night.

Bees: We Fear Them, But We Must Love Them (Or We Starve)

Crops that make some of our favorite foods—almonds, broccoli, blueberries, avocados, apples—all need to be pollinated, and they’re pollinated by bees. But it takes armies of the insects to tend the immense commercial farms that get those foods to grocery stores. Since pollination only happens in certain seasons, it’s not practical for most farmers to stock and feed their own bees year-round. There definitely aren’t enough wild bees to get it done. And that’s why we’ve got a bee industry.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Wild and farm-raised bees have slightly different lifestyles, but they have a lot of the same problems. Wild bees have to contend with their feeding grounds being paved and plowed for crops they can’t eat. Bees that work for humans for a living are at risk of being poisoned by pesticides designed to protect the plants that the bees are hired to pollinate. And all of them can succumb to parasitic varroa mites. These are tiny bugs that ride on bees and drink their blood, identified by the USDA as one of a bee’s biggest threats.

The importance of both natural and commercial pollination is well documented, as are the threats to their systems. If you want to dive deeper into the science of the situation, The Center for Biological Diversity’s paper Pollinators In Peril from 2017 might be a good place to start.

More recently, the plight of pollinators is starting to sneak its way into pop culture. Even PornHub is using its platform to make people realize how important bees are. But to truly appreciate what’s happening, you’ve got to wrap your head around the scale and significance of the bee industry.

Why Are We Trucking Bees Around, Exactly?

There are more than 90 million almond trees in California. They need to be pollinated every year, and it takes over 31 billion bees to make that happen.

Since there aren’t enough natural pollinators to take care of today’s commercial crops, just like there’s not enough rain to water them without the help of irrigation, the rental bees are brought in. Those same bees could get booked in every other corner of the country too, pollinating different crops in different seasons.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

After almond season, the bees might get shipped up to the pacific northwest for apples. Then Massachusetts for cranberries, Maine for blueberries, or, some go to North and South Dakota to relax and focus on making honey, as highlighted by an article in The Conversation that notes many beekeepers are based there.

Nelson told me there are approximately 2,000 beekeepers with “more than 300 hives,” which he also explained was about the threshold from where a hobbyist or sideliner beekeeper becomes a serious commercial player. “The biggest beekeeper in the country is about 100,000 hives,” he added.

And how many bees does that entail? The typical hives Nelson had seen tended to house about 25,0000 bees. But bee colonies expand and contract over the course of a year. An Oregon State University paper cited by GrowOrganic stated that you could have between 10,000 and 60,000 bees living together.

If bees are comfortable, they can multiply fast. A typical worker bee only lives for about 40 days, but population growth can be fast in the right conditions. A queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs a day when the environment is optimized. So a beekeeper renting hives to farmers could be working with many generations of the insects, at the same hive, over the course of a year.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Today beekeepers at big scale make most of their money from pollination services, as opposed to 20 years ago, Nelson told me, when honey production was more lucrative. But as farms expanded and natural bee habitats have contracted, the demand for rental bees has gone up.

Pollination fees vary. “Last year ranged from $175 to $225 per hive for almond pollination,” said Nelson. “And that’s the biggest pollination in the country. Honeybees are essential to almonds, so they command a higher price.”

Almond crops need two hives per acre to be pollinated completely, so the dollar figure starts to swell pretty quickly. The Center for Biological Diversity says “more than $3 billion dollars” changes hands for fruit-pollination services in the U.S. every year.

And yet, sometimes commercial beekeeping business relationships are pretty old-school. “a lot of these contracts or agreements are made on a handshake,” Nelson explained. “Dave Hackenberg, [well-known professional beekeeper, credited as the first to raise awareness about colony collapse disorder] he’s been keeping bees my whole life, and he has some of his regular clients that go back 30 years.”

OK, So Here’s How You Haul Bees

Bees are considered livestock, so people charged with moving them are supposed to be comfortable working with animals. Still, transporting bees presents some unique challenges. Like, if you stop on a warm day, your cargo might just buzz away. That, or get trapped in the net covering the truck’s cargo deck, and that’s just a bad day for everybody.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

If a bee truck crashes, “it’s a mess,” Nelson told me. It happens, and when it does, beekeepers will try to save their wares. If the queen bee stays in the hive, which they normally do, the rest of the bees will buzz back. But the insects can only get back to their hive if it’s in the same place they left it. If a cleanup crew has to move the hives, or replace them, rounding up all the loose bees can be impossible.

Most bee hauling runs don’t end in that kind of disaster, but they are a lot of work. Let’s say a big rig’s worth of bees need to get from Georgia to California early in the year, for the start of the almond season.

Bees are generally loaded up for transportation at nighttime. That’s partially because the cold slows them down, but mainly on account of that geolocation phenomenon I just mentioned. If the bees go to bed in one place and wake up in another, they apparently don’t care, and go about their business pollinating in the new spot. But if you move the hive while the bees are active, they get confused and lost.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Before being heaved onto the deck of an empty flatbed trailer, bees are often calmed down with smoke. (Bees: They’re just like us!) The trick is that beekeepers go around their hives with smoke-dispensing canisters to make the insects think there’s a forest fire.

You might imagine that would send them into an apocalyptic panic, but apparently it has the opposite effect. Kind of. The bees gorge themselves on honey, either in preparation for evacuation or just resignation that doomsday is near, and become significantly more docile than they usually are.

Smoke also “blocks pheromones and makes it harder for them to sting,” says Nelson.

With the bees toked out, about 400 to 425 palletized hives can be stacked onto a semi-truck trailer with a forklift. Multiply that by 25,000 bees per hive, and yeah, you could have more than 10,000,000 on a truck easily.

Once the bees are rolling, their humans like to keep them in motion as much as possible during the day since the wind discourages them from going outside. If beekeepers do have to stop, they try to do it at high elevation where it’s cooler and bees will be more motivated to stay indoors. Once again, I am realizing how bee-like my own existence is... I don’t like to leave the house unless the weather’s soft, either. Also, if my house moved I would definitely get lost.

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Speaking of weather, that’s the last, and most critical, factor bee haulers have to worry about. If it’s too warm, the bees will escape and die. If it’s too cold, the bees will die. If it rains or snows, that presents its own set of problems.

“The thing that they’re all watching is weather... The almond pollination, that’s probably the riskiest one,” Nelson explained, “because a lot of the distances they cover are long. From Florida, Georgia, Alabama, all the way to Central Valley, California. And then also because of the weather that time of year (January and February) is a little more volatile.”

Beekeepers will even pre-run their hauling routes, just like Baja racers, to scout good spots to stop and plan their pacing. “A lot of beekeepers will go these exact routes beforehand,” Nelson added, “so they’ll know places where, ‘OK if you need to pull off, this is a good place, because it has an elevation that’s a little bit higher, so it might be cooler and better for the bees to stay in the hive,’” for example.

A 2018 Agweek article cited Miller Honey Farms Vice President Jason Miller as stating his companies hives “lose about two percent of their bees each time they’re moved,” and also mentioned that bee farmers sometimes have to get creative when it comes to finding places to park the bees in down time. The Miller operation apparently rents potato cellars in Idaho as their bees’ winter home.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

But even if beekeepers manage to keep their bees alive through the cold months, and get them on-and-off trucks safely, they still have to deal with bee bandits.

Yes, beehive theft is a thing. National Geographic recently reported that $70,000 worth of buzzing gold (bees) was heisted from a California farm. In 2016, somebody made off with $200,000 worth of bees in Canada and similar crimes have happened in England, New Zealand and elsewhere.

In the U.S., California’s Rural Crime Prevention Task Force deals with this kind of thing. “These cases are hard to crack because bees don’t have VIN numbers like cars, and we can’t track them by their DNA,” Detective Isaac Torres of the Task Force is quoted saying in that Nat Geo article. But stolen bees do get found, and the California State Beekeepers Association apparently “offers a $10,000 reward for information resulting in the arrest and conviction of a bee rustler.”

How Do We Befriend The Bees, And Earn Their Trust And Respect?

If you’ve read this far, you’ve got an understanding of how hard bees and their keepers have it. Some even say forcing bees to work for us at all is exploitive and wrong. But short of trying to topple the bee industry, it is possible for people to proactively be part of a pollination solution.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

“One of things I like to suggest to people is to support their local beekeepers,” Nelson told me when I asked him how I could help the bees. “Buy[ing] honey locally, certainly buy[ing] U.S. honey,” helps our bee economy, but planning a garden that’s pollinator-friendly if you have the space for it, and minimizing the use of pesticides around your house goes a long way too.

Not all pollinating bees are honeybees that can fly five miles or get carted thousands of miles across the country. Some local pollinators might just hang out in your yard.

Making good food choices, as in buying food that’s pollinated sustainably, can be difficult to do. It’s a very positive step in helping the environment, though. And now that you know that, you might have some more research to do. But at least, next time you see a truck with stacks of boxes covered by a net, you’ll know what it’s up to!

For a longer look at the life of bees on the road and the people making a lot of your food happen, you really should try to see The Pollinators movie, which you might be able to catch at a film festival soon.

https://jalopnik.com/that-big-rig-youre-passing-might-be-full-of-bees-1834383949

Insectageddon: Farming Is More Catastrophic Than Climate Breakdown

The Guardian   By George Monbiot    October 20, 2017

‘Flying insects are the pollinators without which a vast tract of the plant kingdom, both wild and cultivated, cannot survive.’ Photograph: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Which of these would you name as the world’s most pressing environmental issue? Climate breakdownair pollution, water loss, plastic waste or urban expansion? My answer is none of the above. Almost incredibly, I believe that climate breakdown takes third place, behind two issues that receive only a fraction of the attention.

This is not to downgrade the danger presented by global heating – on the contrary, it presents an existential threat. It is simply that I have come to realise that two other issues have such huge and immediate impacts that they push even this great predicament into third place.

One is industrial fishing, which, all over the blue planet, is now causing systemic ecological collapse. The other is the erasure of non-human life from the land by farming.

And perhaps not only non-human life. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, at current rates of soil loss, driven largely by poor farming practice, we have just 60 years of harvests left. And this is before the Global Land Outlook report, published in September, found that productivity is already declining on 20% of the world’s cropland.

The impact on wildlife of changes in farming practice (and the expansion of the farmed area) is so rapid and severe that it is hard to get your head round the scale of what is happening. A study published this week in the journal Plos One reveals that flying insects surveyed on nature reserves in Germany have declined by 76% in 27 years. The most likely cause of this Insectageddon is that the land surrounding those reserves has become hostile to them: the volume of pesticides and the destruction of habitat have turned farmland into a wildlife desert.

It is remarkable that we need to rely on a study in Germany to see what is likely to have been happening worldwide: long-term surveys of this kind simply do not exist elsewhere. This failure reflects distorted priorities in the funding of science. There is no end of grants for research on how to kill insects, but hardly any money for discovering what the impacts of this killing might be. Instead, the work has been left – as in the German case – to recordings by amateur naturalists.

But anyone of my generation (ie in the second bloom of youth) can see and feel the change. We remember the “moth snowstorm” that filled the headlight beams of our parents’ cars on summer nights (memorialised in Michael McCarthy’s lovely book of that name). Every year I collected dozens of species of caterpillars and watched them grow and pupate and hatch. This year I tried to find some caterpillars for my children to raise. I spent the whole summer looking and, aside from the cabbage whites on our broccoli plants, found nothing in the wild but one garden tiger larva. Yes, one caterpillar in one year. I could scarcely believe what I was seeing – or rather, not seeing.

Insects, of course, are critical to the survival of the rest of the living world. Knowing what we now know, there is nothing surprising about the calamitous decline of insect-eating birds. Those flying insects – not just bees and hoverflies but species of many different families – are the pollinators without which a vast tract of the plant kingdom, both wild and cultivated, cannot survive. The wonders of the living planet are vanishing before our eyes.

Well, I hear you say, we have to feed the world. Yes, but not this way. As a UN report published in March explained, the notion that pesticide use is essential for feeding a growing population is a myth. A recent study in Nature Plants reveals that most farms would increase production if they cut their use of pesticides. A study in the journal Arthropod-Plant Interactions shows that the more neonicotinoid pesticides were used to treat rapeseed crops, the more their yield declines. Why? Because the pesticides harm or kill the pollinators on which the crop depends.

Farmers and governments have been comprehensively conned by the global pesticide industry. It has ensured its products should not be properly regulated or even, in real-world conditions, properly assessed. A massive media onslaught by this industry has bamboozled us all about its utility and its impacts on the health of both human beings and the natural world.

The profits of these companies depend on ecocide. Do we allow them to hold the world to ransom, or do we acknowledge that the survival of the living world is more important than returns to their shareholders? At the moment, shareholder value comes first. And it will count for nothing when we have lost the living systems on which our survival depends.

To save ourselves and the rest of the living world, here’s what we need to do:

1 We need a global treaty to regulate pesticides, and put the manufacturers back in their box.

2 We need environmental impact assessments for the farming and fishing industries. It is amazing that, while these sectors present the greatest threats to the living world, they are, uniquely in many nations, not subject to such oversight.

3 We need firm rules based on the outcomes of these assessments, obliging those who use the land to protect and restore the ecosystems on which we all depend.

4 We need to reduce the amount of land used by farming, while sustaining the production of food. The most obvious way is greatly to reduce our use of livestock: many of the crops we grow and all of the grazing land we use are deployed to feed them. One study in Britain suggests that, if we stopped using animal products, everyone in Britain could be fed on just 3m of our 18.5m hectares of current farmland (or on 7m hectares if all our farming were organic). This would allow us to create huge wildlife and soil refuges: an investment against a terrifying future.

5 We should stop using land that should be growing food for people to grow maize for biogas and fuel for cars.

Read at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/20/insectageddon-farming-catastrophe-climate-breakdown-insect-populations?CMP=share_btn_fb

Related: Warning Of 'Ecological Armageddon' After Dramatic Plunge In Insect Numbers

Warning Of 'Ecological Armageddon' After Dramatic Plunge In Insect Numbers

The Guardian    By Damian Carrington   October 18, 2017

Three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany have vanished in 25 years, with serious implications for all life on Earth, scientists say

Flying insects caught in a malaise trap, used by entomologists to collect samples. Photograph: Courtesy of Entomologisher Verein Krefeld

The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists.

Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.

The new data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany but has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture, the researchers said.

The cause of the huge decline is as yet unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected.

“The fact that the number of flying insects is decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an alarming discovery,” said Hans de Kroon, at Radboud University in the Netherlands and who led the new research.

“Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline,” said Prof Dave Goulson of Sussex University, UK, and part of the team behind the new study. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”

The research, published in the journal Plos One, is based on the work of dozens of amateur entomologists across Germany who began using strictly standardised ways of collecting insects in 1989. Special tents called malaise traps were used to capture more than 1,500 samples of all flying insects at 63 different nature reserves.

The malaise traps set in protected areas and reserves, which scientists say makes the declines even more worrying. Photograph: Courtesy of Courtesy of Entomologisher Verein Krefeld

When the total weight of the insects in each sample was measured a startling decline was revealed. The annual average fell by 76% over the 27 year period, but the fall was even higher – 82% – in summer, when insect numbers reach their peak.

Previous reports of insect declines have been limited to particular insects, such European grassland butterflies, which have fallen by 50% in recent decades. But the new research captured all flying insects, including wasps and flies which are rarely studied, making it a much stronger indicator of decline.

The fact that the samples were taken in protected areas makes the findings even more worrying, said Caspar Hallmann at Radboud University, also part of the research team: “All these areas are protected and most of them are well-managed nature reserves. Yet, this dramatic decline has occurred.”

The amateur entomologists also collected detailed weather measurements and recorded changes to the landscape or plant species in the reserves, but this could not explain the loss of the insects. “The weather might explain many of the fluctuations within the season and between the years, but it doesn’t explain the rapid downward trend,” said Martin Sorg from the Krefeld Entomological Society in Germany, who led the amateur entomologists.

The amateur entomologists also collected detailed weather measurements and recorded changes to the landscape or plant species in the reserves, but this could not explain the loss of the insects. “The weather might explain many of the fluctuations within the season and between the years, but it doesn’t explain the rapid downward trend,” said Martin Sorg from the Krefeld Entomological Society in Germany, who led the amateur entomologists.

Goulson said a likely explanation could be that the flying insects perish when they leave the nature reserves. “Farmland has very little to offer for any wild creature,” he said. “But exactly what is causing their death is open to debate. It could be simply that there is no food for them or it could be, more specifically, exposure to chemical pesticides, or a combination of the two.”

In September, a chief scientific adviser to the UK government warned that regulators around the world have falsely assumed that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes and that the “effects of dosing whole landscapes with chemicals have been largely ignored”.

The scientists said further work is urgently needed to corroborate the new findings in other regions and to explore the issue in more detail. While most insects do fly, it may be that those that don’t, leave nature reserves less often and are faring better. It is also possible that smaller and larger insects are affected differently, and the German samples have all been preserved and will be further analysed.

In the meantime, said De Kroon: “We need to do less of the things that we know have a negative impact, such as the use of pesticides and the disappearance of farmland borders full of flowers.”

 As well as being pollinators insects provide food for birds and other animals and help control pests. Photograph: Kevin Elsby/Alamy

Lynn Dicks at the University of East Anglia, UK, and not involved in the new research said the work was convincing. “It provides important new evidence for an alarming decline that many entomologists have suspected is occurring for some time.”

“If total flying insect biomass is genuinely declining at this rate – about 6% per year – it is extremely concerning,” she said. “Flying insects have really important ecological functions, for which their numbers matter a lot. They pollinate flowers: flies, moths and butterflies are as important as bees for many flowering plants, including some crops. They provide food for many animals – birds, bats, some mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Flies, beetles and wasps are also predators and decomposers, controlling pests and cleaning up the place generally.”

Another way of sampling insects – car windscreens – has often been anecdotally used to suggest a major decline, with people remembering many more bugs squashed on their windscreens in the past.

“I think that is real,” said Goulson. “I drove right across France and back this summer – just when you’d expect your windscreen to be splattered all over – and I literally never had to stop to clean the windscreen.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/18/warning-of-ecological-armageddon-after-dramatic-plunge-in-insect-numbers#img-2

Protect Pollinators Stamps to be Celebrated Next Week

American Philatelic Society   U.S. Stamp News    July 27, 2017

The United States Postal Service will issue the Protect Pollinators commemorative forever stamps August 3 in Richmond, Virginia. The ceremony for the stamps will take place at noon during the American Philatelic Society’s StampShow. Here are the participants for the ceremony:

• U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer Gary Shaprio
• U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner
• American Philatelic Society President Mick Zais
• The Pollinator Partnership President & CEO Val Dolcini.

The five stamps, to debut nationwide the same day, will be sold in a pane of 20 format with decorative selvage. Nearby is a preliminary image of the pane layout.

Here are some additional details about the stamp issue from the U.S. Postal Service:

Protect Pollinators
This stamp pays tribute to the beauty and importance of pollinators with stamps depicting two of our continent’s most iconic, the monarch butterfly and the western honeybee, each shown industriously pollinating a variety of plants native to North America. These particular species exemplify the ecological service provided by all pollinators, which include other insects, birds, and bats. Crop pollination by insects contributes approximately $15 billion of produce to the U.S. economy each year. Trending declines in their populations alert us that pollinators are helped by planting pollinator gardens with native flowers or heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. Art director Derry Noyes designed this stamp pane with existing photographs.

http://blog.stamps.org/2017/07/27/pollinators-stampshow/

http://blog.stamps.org/author/american-philatelic-society/

EPA Honors Fifth-Grader from Everett, Washington for Protecting Bees and Other Pollinators

Environmental Protection Agency News Releases from Region 10   June 14, 2017

St. Mary Magdalen School 5th grader Elizabeth Sajan’s project “Bee Happy We Happy” helps protect bees and other pollinators and encourages her Everett, Washington community to promote bee health by planting bee-friendly flowers, keeping “weeds,” becoming a beekeeper, reducing pesticide use, and including water sources in a garden. Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Elizabeth Sajan, a 5th grade student at St. Mary Magdalen School in Everett, Washington, for her outstanding work to promote and protect bees and other pollinators in her local community. Elizabeth’s project is among 15 student projects from 13 states to receive the 2016 President’s Environmental Youth Award for their environmental education and stewardship achievements.  EPA presented the award at a ceremony today at St. Mary Magdalen School.

“Today, we are pleased to honor these impressive young leaders, who demonstrate the impact that a few individuals can make to protect our environment,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These students are empowering their peers, educating their communities, and demonstrating the STEM skills needed for this country to thrive in the global economy.”

As part of the 5th grade science curriculum, Elizabeth learned about pollination and the importance of bees. The topic struck her curiosity and after encouragement from her teacher, Elizabeth embarked on an independent project to educate herself and her community about bee health and beekeeping.

“I am so proud of Elizabeth for taking a topic we were learning about in class and transforming this topic into a passion,” said Julie Tyndall, Fifth Grade Teacher at St. Mary Magdalen School. “She educated the community about the importance of bees as pollinators, how it will affect our lives if bees disappear, and what we can do to help bees thrive in our communities.” 

During her project “Bee Happy We Happy,” Elizabeth did extensive research including reviewing articles, Washington State University Extension videos on pollination and pollinator protection, a TED talk, visiting a local nursery to understand cultivation, and reaching out to organizations and scientists as direct sources. Her research included sources such as the community horticulture wing of the department of pest management of Washington State University Extension, a chemical engineer in Oregon, and a biotechnologist in pharmaceuticals, which helped her to understand chemicals being used in modern agriculture and managing balanced biodiversity. 

Following her research, to engage her community, Elizabeth created an awareness flier, and set out to distribute it across her school and community. Elizabeth shared actions that her community members could take to promote bee health, such as planting bee-friendly flowers, keeping “weeds,” becoming a beekeeper, reducing pesticide use, and including water sources in a garden. She presented to her classmates and principal, and provided fliers to homeroom teachers to discuss with their science classes. At her local grocery, she engaged customers at the door by giving out her flier and discussing her concerns about bee health and how individuals could make a difference in protecting pollinators. Elizabeth plans to continue to get the message out to her family, friends and community to develop more “bee helpers” in her community. 

President’s Environmental Youth Awards information:  https://www.epa.gov/education/presidents-environmental-youth-award

https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-honors-fifth-grader-everett-washington-protecting-bees-and-other-pollinators

Save the bees! Wait, was that a bee?

TEDxTalks   Joseph Wilson / TEDx USU    December 1, 2016

There is a growing movement around the world to “save the bees.” Unfortunately, misunderstandings about what a bee is and what a bee’s needs are can lead to misguided efforts to save them. Much of the movement has focused on honey bees or bumble bees but has ignored the other 95% of bee species, many of which are important pollinators in our wild lands and in agricultural settings. In order to truly save the bees, we first need to understand them.

Joseph Wilson grew up in Utah and was biologically inclined from birth. At the age of two, he declared to his parents that when he grew up, he wanted to be a lion. While he didn’t quite achieve that goal, his studies at Utah State University provided the training to be the next best thing: a professor of biology. His research focuses primarily on the evolution and ecology of bees and wasps. Joseph says that the lives of these insects provide as much drama, mystery, and humor as any prime time TV show—but without the commercials.

Along with a colleague, Joseph recently authored a book, “The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees.” He has been invited to share his knowledge on NPR, Canada Public Radio, and at speaking events across the country.

Joseph loves that his research enables him to travel around the country with his wife and three children, collecting and photographing the beautiful bees and wasps that live all around us.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVDXD3oyMJg&sns=fb

Save the Bees? There's an APP for That

BEE CULTURE - CATCH THE BUZZ    March 1, 2017

A new app, launching later this year, will allow users to explore land management scenarios, and virtually test how bee-friendly decisions would improve their business. Credit: UVM

Let’s say a farmer wanted to plant wildflowers to nurture the bumble bees that pollinate her crops.

Currently, she would have to walk through her fields, assess possible locations, take measurements, spend hours crunching costs and still only guess at the amount of bees and pollination the effort will generate.

Soon, the farmer can do it all on her phone or computer with a mobile app that will calculate the crop productivity and pollination benefits of supporting endangered bees.

University of Vermont (UVM) bee expert Taylor Ricketts, who is co-leading the app’s development, introduced the interactive technology at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy, on Feb. 19.

GIVING FARMERS A “PLAN BEE”

The soon-to-be named app, launching later this year, allows users to explore land management scenarios, and virtually test how bee-friendly decisions would improve their business, says Taylor Ricketts, Director of UVM’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, and Gund professor at UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Loaded with aerial images of North America, the app allows users to “enter their address and begin adding best practices for boosting pollination,” says Ricketts. “You simply draw different options – from wind breaks to planting flowers or bringing in honey bees.”

Farmers can save and compare different scenarios. “The app will do a pollination, productivity, and eventually, a cost-benefit analysis,” adds Ricketts, who is developing the app with Philadelphia software company Azavea. “Farmers can then determine which choices bring the best return on investment.”

A research team led by Insu Koh (right) and Taylor Ricketts, bee experts at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, has been studying the decline of wild bees in the US–and has helped create a mobile phone app …more

APP BUILDS ON FIRST U.S. BEE MAP

The app builds on the first national map of U.S. wild bees, which found the key insects are disappearing in the country’s most important farmlands – including California’s Central Valley, the Midwest’s corn belt and the Mississippi River valley.

That study, led by UVM bee researchers, showed that with further bee losses, farmers could face higher costs and the nation’s food production could experience “destabilization” due to climate change, pesticides, habitat loss and disease.

“We found 139 counties – which together contain 39% of pollinator-dependent U.S. crops – at risk from simultaneously falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand,” says Ricketts, who published the map with UVM’s Insu Koh in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in December 2015.

FARMERS KEY TO SAVING BEES

“Farmers are a natural partner to protect bees, because pollinators are essential for growing many foods,” says Ricketts, noting that more than two-thirds of the most important crops either benefit from or require pollinators, including coffee, cacao, and many fruits and vegetables.

With the app, Ricketts aims to make the best available science and bee-friendly practices accessible to society – to make real steps to reverse bee losses.

“Government action is key, but saving bees requires more than that,” says Ricketts. “Leadership from the private sector, especially farmers and agricultural businesses, is crucial. Their choices will have a huge impact on whether pollinators fail or flourish.”

“This gives farmers a chance to help with an issue that directly impacts their businesses,” he adds.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-buzz-save-bees-theres-app/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=80302e8d03-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-80302e8d03-256242233

 

Habitat Partnerships Webinar: Pollinators and Pollinator Habitat

Pheasants Forever:

Our own Pete Berthelsen, PF Director of Habitat Partnerships will be giving another national webinar on pollinators and pollinator habitat next week - Tuesday, May 31st at 7:00 pm CDT. (NOTE: Check time for your time zone.)

Creating Critical Pollinator Habitat with the Honey Bees and Monarch Butterfly Partnership: Learn about this new and innovative partnership designed to bring specific habitat needs to the landscape for honey bees and monarch butterflies. This partnership is being introduced in the key states for honey bees and will be expanding to additional states in the Midwest and Great Plains in 2017. This partnership and its habitat efforts will offer unique opportunities for hobbyist and sideliner beekeepers to participate. The presentation will also provide guidance on how to plant and manage the most important habitat components for pollinators.

To view the webinar, please register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/436595550728564483

U.N. Warns the Declining Bee Population Is Going to Devastate Our Food Supply

Huffington Post Blog - Huff Green  By Clint Rainey    March 1, 2016

(Photo: Patrick Pleul/dpa/Corbis)It's no secret that the world's bees are dying off  in alarming numbers, but sometimes it's worth remembering what's at stake beyond just hot toddies and a topping for biscuits, and the U.N. Friday has just the thing: A new report by the organization warns that if the disturbing trend continues, there will be awful consequences for the world's food supply.

The number of "pollinators" -- a group composed of roughly 20,000 flying creatures -- is shrinking rapidly worldwide, putting "hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of crops each year" at risk, according to the report, which took two years to compile and is the first of its kind. It says that two out of five species of invertebrate pollinators (primarily bees, but butterflies and other insects, too) now face extinction, and one in six of the vertebrate pollinators (birds) do as well.

The report amounts to a pretty serious downer because it reiterates how baffling these mass die-offs remain, then directly links their existence to food shortages down the road. No one's sure who or what to blame because there are too many options -- pesticides, global warming, disease, so-called "habitat loss" caused by deforestation and urban sprawl, even modern farming itself, which is reducing the biodiversity pollinators use for food. One of the authors lays it out: "Everything falls apart if you take pollinators out of the game. If we want to say we can feed the world in 2050, pollinators are going to be part of that."

U.N. researchers suggest making a handful of "relatively simple, relatively inexpensive" moves -- common-sense things like not devoting the majority of farmland to corn and soy, and using fewer toxic chemicals to grow crops, a move the FDA seems to be getting behind already.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/grub-street/un-warns-the-declining-be_b_9360274.html

Increasing pollinator numbers and diversity a possible way to increase crop yields

Phys.org    By Bob Yirka  January 22, 2016   

Apis mellifera on Phacelia tanacetifolia. Flower strips along crop fields attract pollinators and can increase the number of pollinators in the focal crop. Here, a honey bee is seen approaching a lacy phacelia in bloom, a highly attractive plant to bees (note the blue pollen baskets on the hind legs). This material relates to a paper that appeared in the 22 January 2016, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi at Instituto de Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural (IRNAD) in Río Negro, Argentina, and colleagues was titled, "Mutually beneficial pollinator diversity and crop yield outcomes in small and large farms." Credit: Sondre Dahle

A large team of researchers with members from across the globe has found that small farms with higher densities of pollinators produce more food than those with lower densities—for larger farms, the difference in yield was more closely related to pollinator diversity. In their paper published in the journal Science, the team describes their study and analysis of multiple farms in Asia, South America and Africa over a five year period and what they learned about ways to increase crop yields in the years ahead.

Some scientists have predicted that the amount of food grown will have to double by 2050 to keep up with a growing world population, and one way to do that, the  with this new effort contend, is by narrowing or closing the  gap (the difference in yield between the most productive  and the least). One way to do that, they believe, is by increasing the number of pollinators on small (less than 2 hectares) farms and increasing diversity on larger farms.

The researchers came to this conclusion by conducting a five year study of 344 farms of all sizes, looking at 33 crops in particular, all of which need pollinators to bear fruit. The team monitored pollinator visits for each field counting numbers of pollinators broken down by species to allow for calculating diversity. In analyzing the data that was collected, the researchers found that the yield gap on small farms was approximately 47 percent and that there were far fewer pollinators visiting lower yield farms than the higher yield ones, suggesting that increasing pollinator numbers on less productive farms would likely bump up yields. The researchers note this is important because approximately 2 billion people around the world rely on food from such small farms. With larger farms, the story was different, rather than pollinator density making a difference, it was diversity—farms with a higher degree of different pollinators, such as bees, beetles, wasps, butterflies, etc. had higher yields. This suggests of course that lower yield producing large farms could bump their yields simply by attracting more different kinds of pollinators.

The researchers suggest that farms of any size could attract more pollinators by planting strips of plants, such as flowers, close to crops that are very attractive to pollinators or by changing pesticide application patterns to minimize exposure to .

    Explore further: Pollinator decline not reducing crop yields just yet

More information: L. A. Garibaldi et al. Mutually beneficial pollinator diversity and crop yield outcomes in small and large farms, Science (2016). DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7287

Abstract 
Ecological intensification, or the improvement of crop yield through enhancement of biodiversity, may be a sustainable pathway toward greater food supplies. Such sustainable increases may be especially important for the 2 billion people reliant on small farms, many of which are undernourished, yet we know little about the efficacy of this approach. Using a coordinated protocol across regions and crops, we quantify to what degree enhancing pollinator density and richness can improve yields on 344 fields from 33 pollinator-dependent crop systems in small and large farms from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For fields less than 2 hectares, we found that yield gaps could be closed by a median of 24% through higher flower-visitor density. For larger fields, such benefits only occurred at high flower-visitor richness. Worldwide, our study demonstrates that ecological intensification can create synchronous biodiversity and yield outcomes.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-01-pollinator-diversity-crop-yields.html#jCp

USGS Pollinator Research and Monitoring

 Download at: http://gallery.usgs.gov/videos/988

The USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, located in the Northern Great Plains state of North Dakota highlights their current and ongoing research on land use and pollinator health. 

This part of the country represents critical summer forage habitat for commercial beekeepers and their honey bees. Colonies located here in the summer produce honey and go on to pollinate many crops throughout the country, particularly almonds in the Central Valley of California. Researchers at Northern Prairie are studying how diversity and abundance of pollen (protein) resources differ with land use and result in varying outcomes for honey bee colonies. This research fits within the Presidential Memorandum on pollinators and the subsequent "National Strategy to promote the Health of Honey Bees and other Pollinators" created by the Pollinator Health Task Force. USGS scientists are measuring colony health, productivity, and survival of colonies in varying landscapes, and collaborating with the USDA to evaluate conservation program lands for their contribution to the honey bee diet. 

This research will be useful in equipping land managers and policy makers with the best-available science to improve forage and habitat for pollinators.

Videographer: Clint Otto, USGS
Credits:
Kirk Mason filmed, edited, and produced the video 
Feature Speakers: Clint Otto, Matthew Smart, Sarah Scott
Zac Browning and Bret Adee provided filming locations

More pollinator research at: https://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/

Small Farms Benefit Significantly From a Few Extra Pollinators

  January 21, 2016

American Association for the Advancement of Science

A white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) pollinating a sunflower (Helianthus sp.).

This material relates to a paper that will appear in the 22 January 2016, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi at Instituto de Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural (IRNAD) in Río Negro, Argentina, and colleagues was titled, "Mutually beneficial pollinator diversity and crop yield outcomes in small and large farms." Credit: Arnstein Staverløkk

Higher numbers of pollinators can significantly increase crop productivity of small-sized farms, while large farms experience a similar yield benefit only if increases in pollinator density are accompanied by diversity, a new study finds. More than two billion people are reliant on small-scale agriculture in developing nations, and while much evidence demonstrates that pollinators can beneficially affect crop yield, how these helpful critters affect small-scale farms compared to larger farms is mostly unknown. To gain more insights, Lucas Garibaldi et al. analyzed 344 fields of small and large holdings in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, recording the number of pollinators (density), their biodiversity, and the yield of each crop over a five-year period. For small holdings less than two hectares, their analysis found that yield gaps -- the difference between crops that yielded the most produce compared to those that yielded the least -- could be closed by 24% through higher pollinator density; the authors note that the remaining 76% of the yield gap may be partially closed by technologies that optimize other agricultural factors, such as nutrients and water. In contrast, for larger holdings, a similar yield benefit from pollinator density only occurred if accompanied by high pollinator diversity. The authors suggest that large crops may benefit less from pollinator density because these are more likely to be pollinated by flower visitors with longer foraging ranges, which are usually generalist species, such as honey bees. Although pollinator dynamics are being increasingly threatened in agroecosystems because of declining floral abundance and diversity, the authors note that there are opportunities to reverse the trend by a number of different means, including planting flower strips, more targeted use of pesticides, and restoring natural areas adjacent to crops.

Herbicides, Not Insecticides, Biggest Threat to Bees

AGFAX   By Bonnie Coblentz    December 17, 2015 

People who care about honeybees know that insecticides and pollinators are usually a bad mix, but it turns out that herbicides used to control weeds can spell even bigger trouble for bees.

Jeff Harris, bee specialist with the MSU Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station researcher, said herbicides destroy bee food sources.

“When farmers burn down weeds before spring planting, or people spray for goldenrod, asters and spring flowers, or when power companies spray their rights-of-way, they’re killing a lot of potential food sources for bees and wild pollinators,” he said.

Harris said the direct effect of these chemicals on bees is so much less of an issue than their loss of food supply.

“Disappearing food is on the mind of beekeepers in the state,” he said. “That is even more important to them than losses of bees to insecticides.”

Johnny Thompson, vice president of the Mississippi Beekeeping Association, is a cattle and poultry farmer in Neshoba County who has been in the bee business for the last 10 years.

“Before we got back into bees, I sprayed pastures by the barrel to kill weeds. As a cattle farmer, weeds are a nuisance,” Thompson said. “I’m trying to grow grass for the cows to eat and not weeds, but as a beekeeper, those weeds are not weeds. That’s forage for the bees.”

Today, Thompson said he uses the bush hog more than he sprays herbicides to keep the food supply for bees intact on his land.

“If you kill everything the bee has for food, you may as well go in and spray the hive directly. The bees are going to die,” he said. “All the emphasis is being put on insecticide, but the greater risk to bees are the herbicides.”

He has made management changes for the sake of his bees’ food supply, but he recognizes the tension between current agricultural management practices and pollinators’ best interests.

“When you travel through the Delta or the prairie part of the state in February, the row crop land is purple with henbit blooming. By the end of March, it’s all gone because farmers burned it down with chemicals to try to kill everything in the field before they plant,” he said.

“They burn it down early because weeds in March or early April are a reservoir for insect pests to the crops that will soon be planted,” Thompson said.

Crops in the field, especially soybeans, are great sources of bee forage, and farmers and beekeepers can coordinate to protect both of their interests. 

“We moved bees to the Delta this summer to make soybean honey,” Thompson said. “We’re working with the growers to try to put the bees in areas that are fairly protected and won’t get directly sprayed.”

But farmland is not the only place bees find food. Yards, roadsides, golf courses and power line rights-of-way are other places bees forage when plants are allowed to bloom naturally.

“We need to stop looking at them as weeds and instead look at these plants as forage,” Thompson said. “I can manage around the insecticides, but if herbicide use means there’s nothing for a bee to eat, there’s no reason to put a hive in an area.”

http://agfax.com/2015/12/17/pollinators-herbicides-not-insecticides-biggest-threat-to-bees/

EPA Calls For Less Ethanol Next Year. Let's Hear It For The EPA!

Bee Culture - Catch The Buzz   December 15, 2015

The US EPA has changed direction on ethanol production for next year. Its ethanol mandate for 2016 requires less use of biofuel, thus a greater demand for fossil fuel. This is probably a good thing for lots of people, but think about this. It puts the EPA, that stands for Environmental Protection Agency, right in bed with big oil. Less ethanol used, more gasoline used. Does that make sense? For 2016, EPA wants 18.1 billion gallons blended into the nations fuel supply. That’s 4.1 billion fewer gallons than last year. First, let’s look at the numbers here. You get 2.8 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn. The US averaged 168 bushels of corn per acre in 2015. That comes to 471 gallons of ethanol per acre. Taking 4.1 billion gallons of ethanol out of the equation reduces the acres of planted corn next season by 8.7 million acres. That’s just about 10% of the 81.1 million acres of planted corn last year.

Why would EPA want to use more fossil fuel next year? Well, after careful study, The National Academy of Science, the UN and the Environmental Working Group found that corn ethanol may actually have higher emissions than petroleum-based gasoline, which doesn’t even account for the fossil fuels required to raise, harvest and transport all that corn. It’s a better bigger picture.

Plus, there’s all that subsidy money that farmers are getting to raise all that corn. Tens of billions since the 1980s when this all started. About 40 percent of the corn raised in the US goes into ethanol production, causing corn-based grocery foods to cost US taxpayers about $40 billion more than needed a year.

Another plus for this is the reduced use of seed applied pesticides on all those millions of acres. And herbicide, and fungicides. If big ag was smart, they’d use that 8.7 million acres to meet that federal mandate of 9 million acres of increased pollinator forage needed next season. Of course, the land freed up from all that corn would probably be a killing field for all those pollinators because of lingering pesticides left over from years of applications.

From the beekeeping industry’s perspective, that’s a boatload of poison that won’t get into the system, and, perhaps, some of this now-idled land will eventually find its way back to producing something edible, and safe for our bees.

Anyway you look at it, 8.7 million fewer acres of corn next year has got to be a good thing.

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-epa-calls-for-less-ethanol-next-year-lets-hear-it-for-the-epa/

Are Honey Bees In Trouble Or Not?

Mother Nature Network   By Tom Oder   July 31, 2015

The state of these important pollinators is a good news, bad news situation.

You may have read recently that the number of honeybee colonies is at a 20-year high. At first, that sounds like a reason to cheer. After all, most of the news of late about this critically important pollinator has been about its decline. Unfortunately, the increase in honeybee colonies is good news in only a false-positive sort of way.

What appears to be a dramatic increase in the number of hives — 2.4 million in 2006 to 2.7 million in 2014, according to one report that attributed the numbers to the USDA — is largely the result of commercial beekeepers splitting their hives to increase the number of colonies, said Tim Tucker, a beekeeper in Niotaze, Kansas and president of the American Bee Federation (ABF). They're doing that, he said, just to try and stay even in two areas. One focus is to replace the alarmingly large number of bees that are dying each year from a variety of causes, says Tucker. The second push is to meet the demand for the million-plus hives that California almond growers need to pollinate their trees every spring.

The efforts he attributes to the commercial growers, Tucker is quick to point out, is not to discount the yeoman work that backyard beekeepers and the large number of hobbyist beekeeping clubs around the country are doing to sustain honeybees. But, make no mistake, bee enthusiasts, commercial farmers, environmentalists and others concerned about the 50-year decline in the nation's honey bees can thank commercial beekeepers for the increase in the number of honeybee colonies, said Tucker.

"Commercial beekeepers account for 80 percent of the number of honeybee colonies," said Tucker. "Not said in recent news reports," he stressed, "is what difficulty commercial beekeepers are having in sustaining honeybee populations. They are working nearly twice as hard as ever. We're still not caught up in replacing the bees lost during last winter and commercial beekeepers are already splitting hives now to get ahead of the annual winter losses they know are coming.

"It used to be what we talked about were the winter losses of honeybees," Tucker said. "Now we’re having losses in July and August. That used to never happen to a colony when there was a good queen. I just picked up 22 dead hives the other day. This is not normal."

Splitting the hives helps ensure that California almond growers will have the 1.3-1.4 million hives they need to pollinate the trees in their groves, according to Tucker. The trees are not self-pollinating and their light pink and white flowers need help from the bees to produce the nuts. It's an annual ritual that Tucker said is the biggest pollinating event in the world. Sometime between February and March, 75-80 percent of the country's commercially produced honeybees are busy pollinating the almond trees to ensure a late summer harvest that will produce 80 percent of the world's almonds, according to the California Almond Board. It's a six-week event that ends about the middle of April, the exact timing depending on when the trees flower.

"It's not the bees that are in jeopardy," said Tucker. "I believe we'll always have bees." The issue, as he sees it, is whether we will have enough bees to pollinate critical food crops and for honey production. "Unless things change, what's in jeopardy is the commercial beekeeping industry," Tucker said.

How important is commercial beekeeping? Pollinators are responsible in some part for a third of global food production volume, and the tiny honeybee pollinates more than 90 crops, according to the California Almond Board's website. Without honeybees to pollinate crops such as apples, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, pumpkins, carrots and avocados that, like almonds, simply won't grow without them, U.S. farmers could lose $15 billion worth of America's favorite fruits and vegetables, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council website.

"Even now there's not enough money to be made in making honey even if you could sell it a semi-truck load at a time," Tucker said. In the last 20 years, commercial honey production has been down about 80 million pounds annually, he said. About 20 years ago commercial beekeepers produced 220 million pounds of honey a year. Two years ago, it was around 150 million pounds. Last year, he noted, honey production rose to 170 pounds, and while that's good news, the output was still about 50 million pounds below production in the 1990s.

The loss of bees, Tucker contends, is not totally due to the much-publicized colony collapse disorder (CCD), which beekeepers first noted in 2006 and resulted in mass losses of 30-50 percent of the nation's honeybees. Tucker calls CCD a short-term phenomenon. "We haven't seen that since 2009," He said. "What we’re seeing today is a failure of bees to thrive as well as they did 20 years ago." He blames the honeybee's struggle for survival on habit loss, pesticide use, climate change (which he said is affecting their ability to collect nectar and pollen) and the drought in the Western states (which is affecting the blooming cycle of oranges and sage).

Environmental indicators show it's more than the honeybees that are in what Tucker calls serious trouble. He cites populations of frogs and night-flying insects as both being on the decline and said there is a significant decrease in biodiversity.

The result from CCD and environmental factors is that even with the increase in hives we are nowhere close to the honeybee population of the 1960s-1980s, Tucker said, pointing out that other bees are struggling, too. "I haven't seen a bumble bee all year."

Still, all is not gloom and doom for the little honeybee. Lots and lots of new beekeepers are starting in business to supply bees to what Tucker calls sideline beekeepers, which he describes as people who make a bit of money from beekeeping but still working a daytime, usually full-time job, and to hobbyist beepers, those who keep bees to enjoy the honey the little creatures produce. Both of these types of beekeepers, Tucker points out, are increasing the demand for bees.

Tucker also has some good news for hobbyist beekeepers and those who would like to learn how to start backyard hives. The American Bee Federation is planning a free and open-to-the-public fall webinar series on the basics of beekeeping. Called "Prime Time With Honeybees," the webinar will cover such topics as honeybee biology, the basics of how to get started in beekeeping and honeybee pollination. The ABF will post information about the webinar on its website when the details are finalized. ABF's archived information about beekeeping, including a series on beginning beekeeping, is available on the website to ABF members. For information about how to join ABF, visit the website.

Read more: http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/are-honeybees-trouble-or-not#ixzz3hzEBnDCr

Pollinator Partnership: The Bee Smart School Garden Kit

The Bee Smart™ School Garden Kit supports educators in guiding students in grades 3 - 6 through a discovery process that will increase students’ understanding in science, math, and language arts by connecting them to plants, pollinators, food, and gardens by creating habitat for pollinators. Each Kit has components that can be used at school, at home, and online to maximize the learning experience. Although a diverse groups of schools are using this Kit, included is the California School Standards at the end of each Lesson Plan as a point of reference. There are also recommendations that help connect community resources to the outdoor classroom. Each Kit includes teacher incentives from our partner, Burt’s Bees, to reward teachers for helping students become more bee-conscious. Get yours at www.pollinator.org/beesmart.htm for a $150 donation!

Read more...http://www.pollinator.org/PDFs/NovNewsletter2011FINAL.pdf 
 http://www.pollinator.org/

California's Wildflowers and Grasslands and Drought Extends Up Food Chain to Affect Insects, Wildlife, and Cattle

CATCH THE BUZZ/Bee Culture   By Dianne Tepra, Tech Times   June 26, 2015

The drought in California has greatly reduced the population of wildflowers native to the state’s grassland, potentially giving a glimpse of how climate change can affect plant life in the coming years, scientists at UC Davis say.

At the moment, impact appears minimal, what with mostly drought-intolerant species succumbing to the dryer seasons over the past 15 years in plots monitored at the school’s McLaughlin Reserve, but the researchers are saying that the effect of wildflowers dying off can extend up the food chain as the grassland species are a key source of nourishment for insects, deer, birds, seed-eating rodents and cattle.

“Such diversity losses may foreshadow larger-scale extinctions, especially in regions that are becoming increasingly dry...

Read more...

Want to Help the Bee Populations? Grow a Variety of Flowers

Los Angeles Times  By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD  June 15, 2015

Native bees, which don't swarm and are profilic pollinators, would thrive in the right habitat

The European honey bee was brought to this continent in the early 1600s, but not to pollinate crops. Rather, early settlers sought beeswax to make candles. Native bees, which are mostly solitary ground-dwellers, were effective pollinators but did not provide significant quantities of wax or honey.

It wasn't until the 1980s, when large-scale industrial farming began to replace family farming, that the honey bee became important to agriculture. Instead...

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-bees-20150615-story.html

LA City Council Approves Curbside Planting of Fruits & Vegetables

89.3 KPCC    By Adrian Florido    March 4, 2015

John Parker of Los Angeles waters his parkway garden, where he grows several different kinds of herbs. On Wednesday the Los Angeles City Council voted to let people grow other types of edible plants, like fruits and vegetables, on their parkways. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The L.A. City Council has voted to allow Angelenos to plant fruits and vegetables in their parkways - that strip of city-owned land between the sidewalk and the street - without a permit. Fruit trees, however, will still require a permit.

Until now, planting anything other than grass or certain shrubs on that strip required a $400 permit, and homeowners were often fined for not complying. But the ordinance approved Wednesday says people can replace shrubs or grass with edible plants like fruits and vegetables, as long as they follow the city’s guidelines for landscaping parkways.

The problem is, updated guidelines aren’t ready yet. City staff still has to revise them to include rules for edible plants, like how far they must be from the curb and how tall they can grow. Those guidelines must then be approved by the city council.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Bernard Parks asked staff to pay special attention to how planting fruit and vegetables in parkways might affect sidewalk access for drivers, pedestrians and people with disabilities.

Stalks of corn or passion fruit vines planted too close to the curb, for example, might make it impossible for people to get out of their cars.

The rule change is the culmination of years of advocacy by community groups. They have been pushing the city to make it easier for residents -- especially in poorer, crowded neighborhoods -- to grow their own food. The city council began working on Wednesday's rule change nearly two years ago.

Mayor Eric Garcetti now has 10 days to approve the ordinance. Assuming he does, it will take effect roughly 30 days later. Councilman Parks said he hopes that the revised landscaping guidelines will be ready before then.

Read at: http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/03/04/50192/la-city-council-approves-curbside-planting-of-frui/

Bite to the Death: Sugarbag Bees Launch All-conquering Raids

Science Daily   Source: Queensland University of Technology  October 21, 2014

An Australian native stingless bee species declares war on its neighbors by launching swarms of bees that lock hive-defenders in a death grip with their jaws so that both combatants die.

They may be tiny and stingless but there's nothing sweet and innocent about a species of native sugarbag bee when it goes to war over a coveted honey-filled hive. 

A study by behavioural ecologist Dr Paul Cunningham, from QUT, and molecular biologist Dr James Hereward, from the University of Queensland, published inAmerican Naturalist, found the bees' used their jaws as lethal weapons when they zoomed in on a neighbouring Brisbane hive to boot out the inhabitants and install their own queen to rule.

Dr Cunningham said the attacking bees arrived in a swarm and clashed jaws, locking the defenders in a "death grip" with their strong mandibles.

"Neither the attacker nor defender survives in these one-on-one death battles, during which a carpet of dead and dying bees can be seen on the ground. It is a sheer numbers game as to who wins," Dr Cunningham said.

"It took three consecutive attacks over several weeks before the hockingsi bees won out.

"When they eventually broke through the defences, they smothered the hive in a huge swarm, mercilessly ejecting the resident workers, drones and young queens. It was carnage!"

Dr Hereward said they had expected to find two colonies of the same species at war.

"The defending colony was, as we expected, Tetragonula carbonaria, but the attacking colony turned out to be a related species originating from further north, called Tetragonula hockingsi."

Dr Cunningham said the hive then settled down and there was no further fighting for several months, so they opened it up and looked at the genetics of the new brood.

"There was a new queen in residence, and she was a daughter of the attacking colony's queen."

The researchers studied more than 250 hives around Brisbane and found evidence of 46 of these all-or-nothing take-overs over five years.

"And the hockingsi bees are not always the winners," Dr Cunningham said.

"We still have many questions to answer, such as what instigates the attacks, and whether the young in the usurped hive are spared and reared as slaves, or killed outright."

Dr Cunningham said stingless bees were important pollinators and with honeybees threatened, the race was on to better understand these bees' habits of mid-air warfare and territoriality.

Read at