Saturday, May 10, 2014

Harvard Study, Honeybees abandoning hives and dying due to insecticide use, research finds

Honeybees abandoning hives and dying due to insecticide use, research finds

Harvard study shows neonicotionoids are devastating colonies by triggerring colony collapse disorder
Impact of pesticide on bees and beehive
Scientists found bees from six of the 12 neonicotinoid-treated colonies had left their hives and died. Photograph: Rex Features
The mysterious vanishing of honeybees from hives can be directly linked to insectcide use, according to new research from Harvard University. The scientists showed that exposure to two neonicotinoids, the world's most widely used class of insecticide, lead to half the colonies studied dying, while none of the untreated colonies saw their bees disappear.
"We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering 'colony collapse disorder' in honeybee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter," said Chensheng Lu, an expert on environmental exposure biology at Harvard School of Public Health and who led the work.
The loss of honeybees in many countries in the last decade has caused widespread concern because about three-quarters of the world's food crops require pollination. The decline has been linked to loss of habitat, disease and pesticide use. In December 2013, the European Union banned the use of three neonicotinoids for two years.
In the new Harvard study, published in the Bulletin of Insectology, the scientists studied the health of 18 bee colonies in three locations in central Massachusetts from October 2012 till April 2013. At each location, two colonies were treated with realistic doses of imidacloprid, two with clothianidin, and two were untreated control hives.
"Bees from six of the 12 neonicotinoid-treated colonies had abandoned their hives and were eventually dead with symptoms resembling CCD," the team wrote. "However, we observed a complete opposite phenomenon in the control colonies." Only one control colony was lost, the result of infection by the parasitic fungus Nosema and in this case the dead bees remained in the hive.
Previously, scientists had suggested that neonicotinoids can lead to CCD by damaging the immune systems of bees, making them more vulnerable to parasites and disease. However, the new research undermines this theory by finding that all the colonies had near-identical levels of pathogen infestation.
"It is striking and perplexing to observe the empty neonicotinoid-treated colonies because honey bees normally do not abandon their hives during the winter," the scientists wrote. "This observation may suggest the impairment of honey bee neurological functions, specifically memory, cognition, or behaviour, as the results from the chronic sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposure." Earlier research showed neonicotinoid exposure can damage the renowned ability of bees to navigate home.
The new research follows similar previous work by the same group and comparison of the two studies shows that cold winters appear to exacerbate the effects of neonicotinoids on the bees. In the cold winter of 2010-11, 94% of the insecticide-exposed colonies suffered CCD compared to 50% in the new study.
"Sudden deaths of entire honey bee colonies is a persistent concern in North America," said Paul de Zylva, Friends of the Earth's senior nature campaigner. "Comprehensive research into the role pesticides play in bee decline is urgently required – including how they may compound other pressures, such as a lack of food and loss of habitat." Lu agreed: "Future research could help elucidate the biological mechanism that is responsible for linking sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposures to CCD. Hopefully we can reverse the continuing trend of honeybee loss."
In April, a landmark European study revealed the UK is suffering one of the worst rates of honeybee colony deaths in Europe. "The UK government [which opposed the EU's neonicotinoid ban] has accepted the need for a national action plan to reverse bee and pollinator decline," said de Zylva. "But its draft plan is dangerously complacent on pesticides, placing far too much trust in chemical firms and flawed procedures."

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pesticide Residues and Bees – A Risk Assessment

  • Francisco Sanchez-Bayo mail,

  • Koichi Goka
  • Published: April 09, 2014
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094482


Bees are essential pollinators of many plants in natural ecosystems and agricultural crops alike. In recent years the decline and disappearance of bee species in the wild and the collapse of honey bee colonies have concerned ecologists and apiculturalists, who search for causes and solutions to this problem. Whilst biological factors such as viral diseases, mite and parasite infections are undoubtedly involved, it is also evident that pesticides applied to agricultural crops have a negative impact on bees. Most risk assessments have focused on direct acute exposure of bees to agrochemicals from spray drift. However, the large number of pesticide residues found in pollen and honey demand a thorough evaluation of all residual compounds so as to identify those of highest risk to bees. Using data from recent residue surveys and toxicity of pesticides to honey and bumble bees, a comprehensive evaluation of risks under current exposure conditions is presented here. Standard risk assessments are complemented with new approaches that take into account time-cumulative effects over time, especially with dietary exposures. Whilst overall risks appear to be low, our analysis indicates that residues of pyrethroid and neonicotinoid insecticides pose the highest risk by contact exposure of bees with contaminated pollen. However, the synergism of ergosterol inhibiting fungicides with those two classes of insecticides results in much higher risks in spite of the low prevalence of their combined residues. Risks by ingestion of contaminated pollen and honey are of some concern for systemic insecticides, particularly imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, chlorpyrifos and the mixtures of cyhalothrin and ergosterol inhibiting fungicides. More attention should be paid to specific residue mixtures that may result in synergistic toxicity to bees.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Open Feeding Honeybees

Monday, February 3, 2014

Starving hives: Pesticides cause bees to collect 57% less pollen, study says

Starving hives: Pesticides cause bees to collect 57% less pollen, study says

Published time: February 02, 2014 21:15
Edited time: February 03, 2014 05:06
Reuters / Leonhard Foeger
Reuters / Leonhard Foeger
​Bees exposed to "field-realistic" doses of insecticides gather less than a half the pollen that they normally do, dooming their young to starvation, UK researches have said. While some scientists hailed the findings, pesticide makers remained unimpressed
In a spin-off of their earlier study, a team of British scientists have revealed how the neurotoxic chemicals contained in agricultural neonicotinoids affect the very basic function of the honeybees – the gathering of pollen, or flower nectar.
“Pollen is the only source of protein that bees have, and it is vital for rearing their young. Collecting it is fiddly, slow work for the bees and intoxicated bees become much worse at it. Without much pollen, nests will inevitably struggle,” explained University of Sussex professor Dave Goulson, who has led the study. His comments were made in a statement released alongside the research.
Goulson’s latest paper called “Field realistic doses of pesticide imidacloprid reduce bumblebee pollen foraging efficiency” was published at the end of January in peer-reviewed journal Ecotoxicology.
The scientists exposed some of the studied bees to low doses of imidacloprid and tracked their movement with the help of electronic tags. Unexposed bees were also tracked, and each insect flying out and returning to a hive was weighed to find out the amount of pollen it gathered.
It turned out that bees exposed to the neonicotinoid brought back pollen from only 40 percent of their trips asopposed to 63 percent of useful trips which their “healthy” counterparts undertook.
Intoxicated bees cut the amount of pollen gathered by nearly a third - overall, the comparative study showed that the hives exposed to the pesticide received 57 percent less pollen.
“Even near-infinitesimal doses of these neurotoxins seem to be enough to mess up the ability of bees to gather food. Given the vital importance of bumblebees as pollinators, this is surely a cause for concern,” Hannah Feltham of the University of Stirling, another member of the research team, stated.
For bees themselves, the cut appeared to represent a sharp decline in the amount of food that the hive’s population received.
Feltham believed the study adds “another piece to the jigsaw” of why the bees have been in sharp decline lately.
Three types of controversial neonicotinoids have been temporarily banned in the European Union after the European Food Safety Authority carried out peer review of several studies showing that widely-used pesticides could harm the bees’ populations.
“It is unclear what will happen when the [EU ban] expires, as the agrochemical companies that produce them are in a legal dispute with the EU over their decision. Our new study adds to the weight of evidence for making the ban permanent,” Goulson said.
But the dispute over the role of pesticides in the so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), or mass extinction of bees, is far from being over, the reaction to the study has shown.
“This is a very important study, because it provides further detail on how bumblebee foraging is made less efficient by exposure to imidacloprid at these levels,” said Lynn Dicks, an ecologist at the University of Cambridge.
However, she then questioned the “field-realistic” dose of chemical used by the UK scientists in their study.
“The [levels in this study], particularly the pollen level, are at the upper end of what is found in the field, and likely to be higher than what bumblebee colonies are actually exposed to, because they don’t feed exclusively on oilseed rape,” Dicks argued.
Pesticide manufacturers appeared to be even more dismissive of the study’s results, comparing it to a practice of force-feeding in laboratory conditions.
“It would appear the bumble bees are essentially force-fed relatively high levels of the pesticide in sugar solutions, rather than allowing them to forage on plants treated with a seed treatment. Real field studies, such as those being initiated this autumn in the UK will give more realistic data on this subject,” Julian Little, a spokesman for major German imidacloprid producer Bayer AG has said.
Whether such open-field tests could provide a more balanced data is another issue the researchers have been arguing over. Some say that properly controlled field trials are difficult to conduct, as neonicotinoids have been widely used and bees range over wide areas to gather pollen.

Monsanto blamed for disappearance of monarch butterflies

Monsanto blamed for disappearance of monarch butterflies

Published time: January 31, 2014 18:12
Edited time: February 02, 2014 15:49
AFP Photo / Gabriel Bouys
AFP Photo / Gabriel Bouys
As scientists continue to track the shrinking population of the North American monarch butterfly, one researcher thinks she has found a big reason it’s in danger: Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.
On Wednesday, the World Wildlife Fund announced that last year’s migration – from Canada and the United States down to Mexico – was the lowest it’s been since scientists began tracking it in 1993. In November, the butterflies could be found on a mere 1.6 acres of forest near Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a decline of more than 43 percent over the previous year.
Back in 1996, the insects could be found covering a span of 45 acres. Part of the decline can be attributed to illegal logging in Mexico that has decimated the butterfly’s natural habitat, as well as rising temperatures, which threaten to dry out monarch eggs and prevent them from hatching.
Now, though, biologist Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota has also pinpointed the increased use of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides in the United States and Canada as a culprit.
According to Oberhauser, the use of Roundup has destroyed the monarch butterfly’s primary food source, a weed called milkweed that used to be commonly found across North America. As the agriculture industry boomed and farmers effectively eliminated the weed from the land in order to maximize crop growth, she was able to catalog a parallel decline in the butterfly’s population.
Speaking with Slate, Oberhauser said that when the milkweed population across the Midwest shrank by 80 percent, the monarch butterfly population decreased by the same amount. With some states such as Iowa losing more than 98 percent of their milkweed population – the weed doesn’t even grow on the edges of farmland anymore – the disappearance of the plant poses a huge risk to the insect’s survival.
“We have this smoking gun,” she told Slate. “This is the only thing that we’ve actually been able to correlate with decreasing monarch numbers.”
For its part, Monsanto noted that herbicides aren't the only reason the monarch is dying. The company cited studies that showed the butterfly’s population in Michigan and New Jersey were not shrinking, though scientists have dismissed those studies since they focused on areas where milkweed was still prevalent.
Monsanto has come under fire before for the effects of its agriculture-oriented chemicals. As RT reported last year, studies linked Roundup’s main ingredient to diseases such as cancer, autism and Alzheimer’s. In spite of these findings, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled to raise the permissible level of the ingredient that can be found on crops.
Meanwhile, another report in October found a clear link between the pesticides sold by Monsanto in Argentina and a range of maladies, including higher risk of cancer and thyroid problems, as well as birth defects.
As for the plight of the monarch butterfly, the insect is still thriving in Hawaii and countries like Australia and New Zealand. In North America, Oberhauser believes the great migration can still rebound due to the monarch’s high fertility rates (a single female can lay up to 1,000 eggs throughout her life). For that to happen, however, scientists believe the US, Canada and Mexico will have to work together and draft a strategy that will help the insect safely make its way through the three countries.
“I think it’s past time for Canada and the United States to enact measures to protect the breeding range of the monarchs,” monarch expert Phil Schappert of Nova Scotia told the Washington Post, “or I fear the spiral of decline will continue.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Plant-Pathogenic Virus in European Honeybees, Apis mellifera

Systemic Spread and Propagation of a Plant-Pathogenic Virus in European Honeybees, Apis mellifera

  1. Yan Ping Chenb
  1. aKey Laboratory of Pollinating Insect Biology of the Ministry of Agriculture, Institute of Apicultural Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, Beijing, China
  2. bDepartment of Agriculture, ARS, Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, USA
  3. cDepartment of Agriculture, ARS Molecular Plant Pathology Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, USA
  4. dDepartment of Agriculture, ARS, Soybean Genomic & Improvement Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, USA
  5. eDepartment of Biology, University North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
  6. fDepartment of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  7. gDepartment of Agriculture, ARS, Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit, Beltsville, Maryland, USA
  1. Address correspondence to Yan Ping Chen, Judy.Chen{at}
  1. Editor Anne Vidaver, University of Nebraska


Emerging and reemerging diseases that result from pathogen host shifts are a threat to the health of humans and their domesticates. RNA viruses have extremely high mutation rates and thus represent a significant source of these infectious diseases. In the present study, we showed that a plant-pathogenic RNA virus, tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV), could replicate and produce virions in honeybees, Apis mellifera, resulting in infections that were found throughout the entire body. Additionally, we showed that TRSV-infected individuals were continually present in some monitored colonies. While intracellular life cycle, species-level genetic variation, and pathogenesis of the virus in honeybee hosts remain to be determined, the increasing prevalence of TRSV in conjunction with other bee viruses from spring toward winter in infected colonies was associated with gradual decline of host populations and winter colony collapse, suggesting the negative impact of the virus on colony survival. Furthermore, we showed that TRSV was also found in ectoparasitic Varroa mites that feed on bee hemolymph, but in those instances the virus was restricted to the gastric cecum of Varroa mites, suggesting that Varroa mites may facilitate the spread of TRSV in bees but do not experience systemic invasion. Finally, our phylogenetic analysis revealed that TRSV isolates from bees, bee pollen, and Varroa mites clustered together, forming a monophyletic clade. The tree topology indicated that the TRSVs from arthropod hosts shared a common ancestor with those from plant hosts and subsequently evolved as a distinct lineage after transkingdom host alteration. This study represents a unique example of viruses with host ranges spanning both the plant and animal kingdoms.
IMPORTANCE Pathogen host shifts represent a major source of new infectious diseases. Here we provide evidence that a pollen-borne plant virus, tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV), also replicates in honeybees and that the virus systemically invades and replicates in different body parts. In addition, the virus was detected inside the body of parasitic Varroa mites, which consume bee hemolymph, suggesting that Varroa mites may play a role in facilitating the spread of the virus in bee colonies. This study represents the first evidence that honeybees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen could also be infected and raises awareness of potential risks of new viral disease emergence due to host shift events. About 5% of known plant viruses are pollen transmitted, and these are potential sources of future host-jumping viruses. The findings from this study showcase the need for increased surveillance for potential host-jumping events as an integrated part of insect pollinator management programs.


  • Citation Lian JL, Cornman RS, Evans JD, Pettis JS, Zhao Y, Murphy C, Peng WJ, Wu J, Hamilton M, Boncristiani HF, Jr., Zhou L, Hammond J, Chen YP. 2014. Systemic spread and propagation of a plant-pathogenic virus in European honeybees, Apis mellifera. mBio 5(1):e00898-13. doi:10.1128/mBio.00898-13.
  • Received 20 October 2013
  • Accepted 13 December 2013
  • Published 21 January 2014
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license, which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Does more propolis equal superior hygienic behavior and increased stores?

Genet Mol Res. 2013 Dec 19;12(4):6931-8. doi: 10.4238/2013.December.19.12.

Honey bee lines selected for high propolis production also have superior hygienic behavior and increased honey and pollen stores.


  Honey bees use propolis to defend against invaders and disease organisms. As some colonies produce much more propolis than others, we investigated whether propolis collecting is associated with disease resistance traits, including hygienic behavior and resistance to the parasitic bee mite, Varroa destructor. The three highest (HP) and three lowest propolis-producing (LP) colonies among 36 Africanized honey bee colonies were initially selected. Queens and drones from these colonies were crossed through artificial insemination to produce five colonies of each of the following crosses: HP♀ X HP♂, LP♀ X HP♂, HP♀ X LP♂, and LP♀ X LP♂. Colonies headed by HP♀ X HP♂ queens produced significantly more propolis than those with HP♀ X LP♂ and LP♀ X HP♂ queens and these in turn produced significantly more propolis than those headed by LP♀ X LP♂ queens. The brood cell uncapping rate of the high-propolis-producing colonies in the hygienic behavior test was significantly superior to that of the other groups. The LP X LP group was significantly less hygienic than the two HP X LP crosses, based on the evaluation of the rate of removal of pin-killed pupae. The HP X HP colonies were significantly more hygienic than the other crosses. No significant differences were found in mite infestation rates among the groups of colonies; although overall, colony infestation rates were quite low (1.0 to 3.2 mites per 100 brood cells), which could have masked such effects. Honey and pollen stores were significantly and positively correlated with propolis production.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

​US govt’s wanton approval of harmful pesticides fueling ‘bee holocaust’ - lawsuit

From RT
In response to rapidly dwindling global honey bee populations - vital in pollinating a third of the world’s crops - environmental and food safety groups have sued the EPA for approving bee-ravaging pesticides despite damning evidence of their effects.
The Center for Food Safety filed in mid-December a legal brief in support of a lawsuit backed by many organizations that seeks a reversal of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) May decision to approve sulfoxaflor - a type of insecticide chemical known as a neonicotinoid that is associated with mass death among bee populations worldwide.
In fact, the European Union has banned neonicotinoids for two years based on scientific studies that have linked their use to sudden eradication of entire beehives - a phenomenon dubbed ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ (CCD).

 From The Center for Food Safety

On the heels of their neonicotinoid lawsuit, CFS files brief in new lawsuit to protect bees
Late Friday, Center for Food Safety filed a legal brief on behalf of numerous environmental, consumer and sustainable agriculture organizations in support of a lawsuit by the nation’s major beekeeping associations against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The beekeepers, including the Pollinator Stewardship Council, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Bee Advisory Board, and the American Beekeeping Federation, are requesting that a Federal Court vacate EPA’s decision to register sulfoxaflor, a new chemical in the category of the controversial insecticides known as neonicotinoids, several of which are now under a two year ban in the European Union because of their impacts.
As CFS explained in its brief, “Scientists have linked the drastic declines in honey bee and other pollinator populations to systemic pesticides, and more specifically, to a category of systemic pesticides known as neonicotinoids.  Sulfoxaflor is a systemic pesticide with the same mode of action as neonicotinoids, that EPA determined is ‘very highly toxic’ to bees.  EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor will introduce yet another systemic and highly toxic insecticide into the environment, intensifying the ecological crises of [Colony Collapse Disorder] and other pollinator losses.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bee-killing pesticides may also harm human brain development

Once again a study proves that neonicotinoids are harmful but this time it isn't just the honeybee, it's yours truly that is in danger.
Still unsure just what these chemicals are? Think you don't have them at your house? Read this from Wiki:
Imidacloprid is currently the most widely used insecticide in the world.[3] Although it is now off patent, the primary manufacturer of this chemical is Bayer CropScience (part of Bayer AG). It is sold under many names for many uses; it can be applied by soil injection, tree injection, application to the skin of the plant, broadcast foliar, ground application as a granular or liquid formulation, or as a pesticide-coated seed treatment.[4][5] Imidacloprid is widely used for pest control in agriculture. Other uses include application to foundations to prevent termite damage, pest control for gardens and turf, treatment of domestic pets to control fleas,[2] protection of trees from boring insects,[6] and in preservative treatment of some types of lumber products (e.g., Ecolife brand).[7]
 Now take a look at some brand names that it is sold under.Again thanks to Wiki:

Name Company Products Turnover in million US$ (2009)
Imidacloprid Bayer CropScience Confidor, Admire, Gaucho 1,091
Thiamethoxam Syngenta Actara, Platinum, Cruiser 627
Clothianidin Sumitomo Chemical/Bayer CropScience Poncho, Dantosu, Dantop 439
Acetamiprid Nippon Soda Mospilan, Assail, ChipcoTristar 276
Thiacloprid Bayer CropScience Calypso 112
Dinotefuran Mitsui Chemicals Starkle, Safari, Venom 79
Sulfoxaflor Dow Agrosciences Transform, Closer N/A
Nitenpyram Sumitomo Chemical Capstar, Bestguard 8
And selected brand names include: Admire, Advantage (Advocate) (flea killer for pets), Confidor, Conguard, Gaucho, Hachikusan, Intercept, Kohinor, Mallet, Merit, Nuprid, Optrol, Premise, Prothor, Provado, Turfthor, Winner, and Xytect.
Do you have a pet in the house? Then you probably use this biocide on a monthly basis! Are YOU killing the bees???

From the Internet news:
Earlier this year, the European Union put a two-year moratorium on a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, believed to be a cause of the massive die-off  threatening the world’s honey bee populations.
It turns out, the pesticides aren’t just dangerous for bees. New research suggests they “may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory,” the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced Tuesday. In response, the EFSA is recommending that maximum exposure levels be lowered until further research can be done.
The research highlights the health risks of two chemicals: acetamiprid and imidacloprid, the latter of which is produced by Bayer. The Guardian describes the findings:
The move stems from research on rats which concluded “neonicotinoids may adversely affect human health, especially the developing brain”. The newborn rats studied in the experiments found those exposed to one of the pesticides, called imidacloprid, suffered brain shrinkage, reduced activity of the nerve signals controlling movement, and weight loss. Another rat study found that exposure to the other pesticide, acetamiprid, led to reduced weight, survival and response to startling sounds.
EFSA said that for acetamiprid, the acceptable daily intake – the amount in food or drinks that can be ingested daily over a lifetime without an appreciable health risk – and the acceptable operator exposure level – the maximum exposure for workers – should be cut by two-thirds. The acute reference dose – the amount of a substance that can be ingested over a day without an appreciable health risk – should be cut by three-quarters, EFSA said.
For imidacloprid, the current acceptable daily intake was judged adequate, but the other two limits should be cut by a quarter, EFSA said.

All three chemicals currently banned in the E.U. are available in the U.S. — as the New York Times reports, they can be purchased at Home Depot. The Environmental Protection Agency, according to the Times, has expressed concerned that neonicotinoids could be having a negative effect on bee populations, but has ”not yet seen enough evidence to take action.”
“EFSA’s concern over the neurotoxicity of neonics is a reminder that there’s a great deal we don’t know about these systemic chemicals,” said Lex Horan, the Midwest Organizer of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), in a statement. “They were hurried through EPA’s regulatory process with ‘conditional registrations,’ and scientific research continues to reveal more about their harmful effects — on pollinators and beyond. These important, common-sense moves in Europe should prompt EPA to do more to protect bees and kids from pesticides.”

Environmental campaigner George Monbiot has called Neonicotinoids "the new DDT" because, he states, "they were licensed for widespread use before they had been properly tested" and "are now ripping the natural world apart"

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