Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yet Another Study ! LOW RATES OF INSECTICIDE ARE ENOUGH TO DISORIENT BEES

As beekeepers we must see the whole insect world as our own. We can no longer blindly keep our precious honeybee as a separate part of this whole.

 

LOW RATES OF INSECTICIDE ARE ENOUGH TO DISORIENT BEES

Two new studies published simultaneously in the highly respected American journal Science, March 29, 2012, highlight the role of two neonicotinoid insecticides most commonly used to explain the decline of bees.
Assessment procedures and authorization of pesticides are to be reviewed urgently.
The effect of some pesticides on pollinators is accurate.
Two studies published March 29, 2012 in the journal Science shows how two insecticides of the neonicotinoid family – introduced in the early 1990s and now has become the most commonly used pesticides on crops worldwide – affect the development and the behavior of honey bees and wild species of bumblebee pollinators. All – and this is a great first – in field conditions and not in the laboratory, as was the case until now.
The first study, led by Penelope Whitehorn and Dave Goulson of the University of Stirling in the UK could explain, at least in part, the decline of some of the 20,000 species of wild pollinators.
« Some bumblebee species have declined dramatically in number. In North America, for example, some species that were widespread have more or less disappeared from the continent. In the UK, three species are now extinct », says Dave Goulson. The researchers exposed colonies of Bombus terrestris bumblebees to low levels of a neonicotinoid called Imidacloprid, used to make the famous Gaucho. The doses used were comparable to those, which are exposed to insects foraging crops treated with these pesticides.
The researchers placed the colonies in an enclosed area where the bees were feeding for six weeks under natural conditions. At the beginning and the end of the experiment, the researchers weighed each bumblebee nests that included animals, wax, honey, larvae and pollen to determine how much the colony had increased. It turns out that the colonies exposed to imidacloprid took less weight compared to the control colonies, suggesting that they were fed less. At the end of the experiment, they were 8 to 12% smaller on average than the control colonies. They had also produced 85% less queens!
This is particularly important because the queen production is directly linked to the establishment of new nests after the winter dieback. Hence a significant reduction in their ability to regenerate, which could explain the observed decline found for a number of years.
« Bumblebees pollinate many crops and wildflowers. The use of neonicotinoids in crops is clearly a threat to their health and needs to be urgently reviewed », says Dave Goulson.
In the second article in Science, a French team found that the exposure to another neonicotinoid disrupted the ability of bees to find their hive, which caused the death of many of them. Mickaël Henry from the INRA of Avignon and his colleagues equipped 653 honeybees (Apis mellifera) with RFID microchips. This device allowed the researchers to track the bees in their back and forth between the hive and the environment. Then they gave half of them a small, non-lethal dose of Thiamethoxam, a substance of the neonicotinoid family with which the famous Cruiser is especially manufactured.
Compared to control bees that had not been exposed to the product, the treated bees were two to three times more likely to die outside the hive. The researchers argue that these deaths were likely to be produced because the pesticide interfered with the positioning system of the beehive.
In the second part of their study, the researchers used data from the tagging experiment with the bees to develop a mathematical model that simulates the dynamics of bee population. When mortality due to their lack of localization has been incorporated into these simulations, the model predicted that the bee populations exposed to pesticide were to decline to a level that did not allow their recovery.
Read more

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pathogen-associated self-medication behavior in the honeybee Apis mellifera


, Volume 68, Issue 11, pp 1777-1784
Date: 09 Aug 2014

Pathogen-associated self-medication behavior in the honeybee Apis mellifera

Abstract
Honeybees, Apis mellifera, have several prophylactic disease defense strategies, including the foraging of antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral compounds of plant products. Hence, honey and pollen contain many compounds that prevent fungal and bacterial growth and inhibit viral replication. Since these compounds are also fed to the larvae by nurse bees, they play a central role for colony health inside the hive. Here, we show that honeybee nurse bees, infected with the microsporidian gut parasite Nosema ceranae, show different preferences for various types of honeys in a simultaneous choice test. Infected workers preferred honeys with a higher antibiotic activity that reduced the microsporidian infection after the consumption of the honey. Since nurse bees feed not only the larvae but also other colony members, this behavior might be a highly adaptive form of therapeutic medication at both the individual and the colony level.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

EPA: Bee-killing pesticides used on soy crops don’t even do what they’re supposed to

EPA: Bee-killing pesticides used on soy crops don’t even do what they’re supposed to

Monday, September 1, 2014

After 90 Percent Decline, Federal Protection Sought for Monarch Butterfly ; Genetically Engineered Crops Are Major Driver in Population Crash

Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 26, 2014
Contact:  Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, (443) 854-4368
Lincoln Brower, Sweet Briar College, (434) 277-5065
Sarina Jepsen, Xerces Society, (971) 244-3727
After 90 Percent Decline, Federal Protection Sought for Monarch Butterfly
Genetically Engineered Crops Are Major Driver in Population Crash
WASHINGTON The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety as co-lead petitioners joined by the Xerces Society and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower filed a legal petition today to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies, which have declined by more than 90 percent in under 20 years. During the same period it is estimated that these once-common iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds.
Monarch butterfly
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Tiago J. G. Fernandes. Photos are available for media use.
“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” said Lincoln Brower, preeminent monarch researcher and conservationist, who has been studying the species since 1954.
“We’re at risk of losing a symbolic backyard beauty that has been part of the childhood of every generation of Americans,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The 90 percent drop in the monarch’s population is a loss so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio.”
The butterfly’s dramatic decline is being driven by the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born. The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a uniquely potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food. The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in midwestern corn and soybean fields.

“The widespread decline of monarchs is driven by the massive spraying of herbicides on genetically engineered crops, which has virtually eliminated monarch habitat in cropland that dominates the Midwest landscape,” said Bill Freese, a Center for Food Safety science policy analyst. “Doing what is needed to protect monarchs will also benefit pollinators and other valuable insects, and thus safeguard our food supply.”
Monarch butterflies are known for their spectacular multigenerational migration each year from Mexico to Canada and back. Found throughout the United States during summer months, in winter most monarchs from east of the Rockies converge in the mountains of central Mexico, where they form tight clusters on just a few acres of trees. Most monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to trees along the California coast to overwinter.
The population has declined from a recorded high of approximately 1 billion butterflies in the mid-1990s to only 35 million butterflies last winter, the lowest number ever recorded. The overall population shows a steep and statistically significant decline of 90 percent over 20 years. In addition to herbicide use with genetically engineered crops, monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl, and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists have predicted that the monarch’s entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of its summer range in the states could become unsuitable due to changing temperatures and increased risk of drought, heat waves and severe storms.
Monarchs need a very large population size to be resilient to threats from severe weather events and predation. Nearly half of the overwintering population in Mexico can be eaten by bird and mammal predators in any single winter; a single winter storm in 2002 killed an estimated 500 million monarchs — 14 times the size of the entire current population.
“We need to take immediate action to protect the monarch so that it doesn’t become another tragic example of a widespread species being erased because we falsely assumed it was too common to become extinct,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species director at the Xerces Society. “2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, which was once so numerous no one would ever have believed it was at risk of extinction. History demonstrates that we cannot afford to be complacent about saving the monarch.”
“The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species like the monarch, and protect them, now, before it’s too late,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “We’ve provided FWS a legal and scientific blueprint of the urgently needed action here.”
“The monarch is the canary in the cornfield, a harbinger of environmental change that we’ve brought about on such a broad scale that many species of pollinators are now at risk if we don’t take action to protect them,” said Brower, who has published hundreds of scientific studies on monarchs.
The Fish and Wildlife Service must now issue a “90-day finding” on whether the petition warrants further review.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Center for Food Safety is a nonprofit, public interest organization with half a million members nationwide. CFS and its members are dedicated to protecting public health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and instead promoting sustainable alternatives.
The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs.

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

Abstract

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.

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.”
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