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Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees

Abstract: Bumble bees (Bombus) are vitally important pollinators of wild plants and agricultural crops worldwide. Fragmentary observations, however, have suggested population declines in several North American species. Despite rising concern over these observations in the United States, highlighted in a recent National Academy of Sciences report, a national assessment of the geographic scope and possible causal factors of bumble bee decline is lacking. Here, we report results of a 3-y interdisciplinary study of changing distributions, population genetic structure, and levels of pathogen infection in bumble bee populations across the United States. We compare current and historical distributions of eight species, compiling a database of >73,000 museum records for comparison with data from intensive nationwide surveys of >16,000 specimens. We show that the relative abundances of four species have declined by up to 96% and that their surveyed geographic ranges have contracted by 23–87%, some within the last 20 y. We also show that declining populations have significantly higher infection levels of the microsporidian pathogen Nosema bombi and lower genetic diversity compared with co-occurring populations of the stable (nondeclining) species. Higher pathogen prevalence and reduced genetic diversity are, thus, realistic predictors of these alarming patterns of decline in North America, although cause and effect remain uncertain.

EU beekeeping associations are calling for an urgent revision of pesticide regulations

The European Beekeeping Coordination (EBC), a task force of professional beekeeping associations from across the EU, is calling for an urgent revision of the way pesticides and their active substances are authorised in the EU. In a leaked memo EPA scientists state that “information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects” and they criticise existing approvals research as deficient and request additional tests “for additional chronic testing on bee hive activity (e.g., effects to queen, larvae, etc.).”

Buglife: US leak reignites pesticide fears for UK bees

In a leaked memo US government scientists warn that bees and other non-target invertebrates are at risk from a new neonicotinoid pesticide licence and that tests in the approval process are unable to detect environmental damage. This has reignited concerns raised in a 2009 scientific report by UK charity Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists flagged up the risks to honey-bees and aquatic insects that would result if the US Government approved the request from Bayer to expand the use of the neonicotinoid clothianidin to include cotton and mustard. Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees and other non-target insects, the biggest concerns are that, being systemic they end up in the pollen and nectar in the flowers of treated crops, and hence could poison pollinators, and that being persistent and mobile they could wash into streams, ponds and rivers and destroy aquatic life.

Soil-Applied Imidacloprid Is Translocated to Nectar and Kills Nectar-Feeding Parasitoids

Behavior was altered and survivorship was reduced when parasitoids, Anagyrus pseudococci (Girault) (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae), were fed flowers from buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum L. (Polygonaceae), treated with soil applications of imidacloprid (Marathon 1% G). Parasitoids at 1 d had significantly reduced survivorship of 38 ± 6.7% on label rate and 17 ± 4.2% on twice label rate compared with 98 ± 1.2% on untreated flowers. Parasitoids trembled 88% on label rate and 94% on twice label rate compared with 0% on untreated flowers.

Why the U.S. EPA is Still Allowing a Hive-Killing Pesticide

In April 2003, the EPA decided to give Bayer conditional registration for the use of clothianidin on corn. Bayer could sell the product and seed processors could freely use it, with the proviso that Bayer complete a life cycle study of clothianidin on corn by December 2004. The U.S. bee population didn't start dying off until 2005, says David Hackenberg, the beekeeper who first discovered Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). "We started seeing problems where bees were disappearing in the fall. We blamed it on mites, viruses and a lot of other stuff because we didn't know what to blame it on." But soon Hackenberg made the connection: bee die-off seemed to follow corn crop plantings so much that "you can follow the trail of this stuff to where bees are collapsing," says Hackenberg. EPA is continuing to allow the sale of clothiandin, even though the study that the agency based its decision on proved to be invalid. An EPA official recently told Hackenberg that clothiandin is still on the market in part because of fears that Bayer would sue the agency if it is removed.

US beekeepers want government to pull clothianidin

Beekeepers and environmentalists Wednesday called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove a pesticide that could be linked to colony collapse disorder from the market and to issue an order to stop its use.
The request to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson from the American Beekeeping Federation, headed by Florida beekeeper Dave Mendes, and five other groups follows the leak of a Nov. 2 EPA memo about the product. The insecticide sold under the brand name Poncho has an active ingredient called clothianidin. Bayer CropScience AG obtained conditional EPA registration for the product in 2003. The leaked memo identified a study that is the basis for the registration as unsound, said Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg, who was checking hives Wednesday in Fort Meade.


On Dec 6 2010 The European Commission issued it's communication on Honeybee Health to the European Parliament and the council. It outlines need for more action in the EU.

Wik-Bee Leaks: EPA Document Shows It Knowingly Allowed Pesticide That Kills Honey Bees

The world honey bee population has plunged in recent years, worrying beekeepers and farmers who know how critical bee pollination is for many crops. A number of theories have popped up as to why the North American honey bee population has declined--electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate change have all been pinpointed. Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists.

Read full story at:

For beekeeping, growth is inside the city limits

Mike Barrett does not have much of a yard at his two-story row house in Astoria, Queens. But that fact has not kept him from his new hobby of beekeeping -- he put the hive on his roof.
Read full story in Herald Tribune 10 Dec 2010:

Phil Chandlers interview with Henk Tennekes on systemic insecticides

Phil Chandler is author of The Barefoot Beekeeper and has a busy discussion forum for natural beekeeping on his web site at http://www.biobees.com. The subject of Phil Chandlers latest podcast is Dr Henk Tennekes, who was born in The Netherlands, and after graduating from the Agricultural University of Wageningen in 1974, he performed his Ph.D. work at Shell Research Ltd in the UK. He later worked for 5 years at the Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, Germany. The culmination of Dr Tennekes' research was his recent discovery that the way the neonicotinoid insecticides work has much in common with that of chemical carcinogens - cancer-causing agents. When he realized the dire consequences of environmental pollution with these insecticides, he decided to write a book to warn the general public about an impending catastrophe. You can listen to the interview with Henk Tennekes at http://biobees.libsyn.com or search for 'Barefoot Beekeeper' on iTunes.

An assessment of honeybee colony matrices, Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Apidae) to monitor pesticide presence in continental France

Marie-Pierre Chauzat, Anne-Claire Martel, Nicolas Cougoule, Philippe Porta, Julie Lachaize, Sarah Zeggane, Michel Aubert, Patrice Carpentier And Jean-Paul Faucon, Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 30, pre-published online.

Abstract — The frequency of occurrence and relative concentration of 44 pesticides in apicultural (Apis mellifera) matrices collected from five French locations (24 apiaries) were assessed from 2002 to 2005. The number and nature of the pesticides investigated varied with the matrices examined—living honeybees, pollen loads, honey, and beeswax. Pollen loads and beeswax had the highest frequency of pesticide occurrence among the apiary matrices examined in the present study, whereas honey samples had the lowest. The imidacloprid group and the fipronil group were detected in sufficient amounts in all matrices to allow statistical comparisons. Some seasonal variation was shown when residues were identified in pollen loads.Given the results (highest frequency of presence) and practical aspects (easy to collect; matrix with no turnover, unlike with bees that are naturally renewed), pollen loads were the best matrix for assessing the presence of pesticide residues in the environment in our given conditions.

Beekeepers Ask EPA to Remove Pesticide Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder, Citing Leaked Agency Memo

[NGO Viewpoint / press release]
Pesticide Already Illegal in Germany, Italy & France Based on Scientific Findings

SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Beekeepers and environmentalists today called on EPA to remove a pesticide linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), citing a leaked EPA memo that discloses a critically flawed scientific support study. The November 2nd memo identifies a core study underpinning the registration of the insecticide clothianidin as unsound after EPA quietly re-evaluated the pesticide just as it was getting ready to allow a further expansion of its use. Clothianidin (product name "Poncho") has been widely used as a seed treatment on many of the country's major crops for eight growing seasons under a "conditional registration" granted while EPA waited for Bayer Crop Science, the pesticide's maker, to conduct a field study assessing the insecticide's threat to bee colony health.

A meta-analysis of experiments testing the effects of a neonicotinoid insecticide (imidacloprid) on honey bees

James E. Cresswell, Ecotoxicology, article in press, pre-published online 16 November 2010

Abstract: Honey bees provide important pollination services to crops and wild plants. The agricultural use of systemic insecticides, such as neonicotinoids, may harm bees through their presence in pollen and nectar, which bees consume. Many studies have tested the effects on honey bees of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, but a clear picture of the risk it poses to bees has not previously emerged, because investigations are methodologically varied and inconsistent in outcome. In a meta-analysis of fourteen published studies of the effects of imidacloprid on honey bees under laboratory and semi-field conditions that comprised measurements on 7073 adult individuals and 36 colonies, fitted dose–response relationships estimate that trace dietary imidacloprid at field-realistic levels in nectar will have no lethal effects, but will reduce expected performance in honey bees by between 6 and 20%. Statistical power analysis showed that published field trials that have reported no effects on honey bees from neonicotinoids were incapable of detecting these predicted sublethal effects with conventionally accepted levels of certainty.

These findings raise renewed concern about the impact on honey bees of dietary imidacloprid, but because questions remain over the environmental relevance of predominantly laboratory-based results, I identify targets for research and provide procedural recommendations for future studies.

Pesticide industry involvement in eu risk assessment puts survival of bees at stake

NGO viewpoint: Press release by European Beekeeping Coordination and Corporate Europe Observatory
Brussels, 16 November 2010

Industry “experts” are undermining an EU review of the regulations of pesticides and putting Europe’s bee population further at risk, according to new research from the European Beekeeping Coordination and Corporate Europe Observatory published today (Tuesday) [1].

British Beekeepers' Association to stop endorsing bee-killing pesticides

The Guardian, 16 Nov 2010
Beekepers' group ends commercial relationship with pesticide manufacturer whose product killed bees

The British Beekeepers' Association has today announced plans to end its controversial practice of endorsing pesticides in return for cash from leading chemical manufacturers such as Bayer Crop Science.

Fatal Imidacloprid Poisoning in Humans

Neonicotinoids, agonists at the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), induce neuromuscular paralysis. The high selectivity for nAChRs (particularly the a4b2 subtype) in insects compared with mammals results in their favorable toxicological profile. We describe fatal toxicity with one such insecticide, imidacloprid, considered relatively safe. This patient manifested neurological dysfunction and rhabdomyolysis. The initial neurological dysfunction, probably due to central nicotinic stimulation, was compounded by ischemic and metabolic encephalopathy. This report of imidacloprid toxicity sensitizes clinicians to an emerging cause of poisoning and highlights the need for a careful review of its toxicity profile.

Physiological and behavioural effects of imidacloprid on two ecologically relevant earthworm species

Earthworms play key roles in soils and sublethal effects of environmental toxicants on these organisms should be taken seriously, since they might have detrimental effects on higher ecological levels. Earthworms make important contributions to the breakdown of organic matter, soil fertility, and to the formation of soils. In laboratory experiments we have assessed sub-lethal effects of imidacloprid on two earthworm species commonly found in different agricultural soils (Lumbricus terrestris and Aporrectodea caliginosa). After 7 days of exposure in contaminated soil, a significant loss of body mass was found in both species exposed to imidacloprid concentrations as low as 0.66 mg kg-1 dry soil. These losses ranged from 18.3 to 39% for A. caliginosa and from 7.4 to 32.4% for L. terrestris, respectively. The detected sub-lethal effects were found close to the predicted environmental concentration (PEC) of imidacloprid, which is in the range of 0.33–0.66 mg kg-1 dry soil.

EU worried about declining bee population

Food production in the Europe community is in danger because bee mortality is up while the number of beekeepers is in decline, the European parliament warned.

The Public Editor of the New York Times - Carrying the Facts Too Far

Complaints about overstatement by reporters and headline writers come to me frequently from people who are extremely close readers of the paper. Many of these, like Times readers in general, are highly educated and bring very high expectations. Their complaints often seem to carry the thought: New York Times, you are the last bastion of reliable daily journalism; do not fail me now. Jason Hodin, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford, faulted a fascinating Page 1 story for the sin of stretching. The article, by Kirk Johnson, appeared in print on Oct. 7 under the headline “With Scientists, Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery.” It dealt with a new study of the mystifying phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, in which 20 to 40 percent of U.S. bee colonies are believed to have died off. Mr. Hodin contended that the study identified new factors that appear to be “linked” to and “implicated” in the die-off, while the Times story and headline stretched the facts to conclude more. The article described two new suspect factors — a virus and a fungus, acting in combination: “together, the research suggests, they are 100 percent fatal.” Mr. Johnson, who was not responsible for the headline, said: “That Colony Collapse had been finally and permanently solved seemed neither evident to me, nor — in rereading the story as it appeared in the paper — the message of what we published. It certainly was not the intent.”

$15 Billion Bee Murder Mystery Deepens

Lead researcher had connections to Bayer Cropscience

Dina Spector | Oct. 12, 2010

It was the buzz heard round the world. On Thursday, the front-page New York Times article titled, “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery” was supposed to close the book on a four-year long case involving the unexplained death of millions of honey bees nationwide. Instead, it has only brought more confusion, unanswered questions, and anger in the science and beekeeping communities.

What a scientist didn't tell the New York Times about his study on bee deaths

By Katherine Eban, contributorOctober 8, 2010: 1:42 PM ET

FORTUNE -- Few ecological disasters have been as confounding as the massive and devastating die-off of the world's honeybees. The phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) -- in which disoriented honeybees die far from their hives -- has kept scientists, beekeepers, and regulators desperately seeking the cause. After all, the honeybee, nature's ultimate utility player, pollinates a third of all the food we eat and contributes an estimated $15 billion in annual agriculture revenue to the U.S. economy.

Franklin’s bumblebee goes missing

Robbin Thorp is on a lonely search for a single bee. He’s looked low and high, hoping to spot Franklin’s bumblebee. The last time he saw one was August 2006 on Mt. Ashland in Oregon. The bee might be extinct. Thorp, a bumblebee authority and emeritus entomology professor at the University of California at Davis, remains hopeful that it isn’t. That’s why he keeps looking. Franklin’s bumblebee once buzzed around Siskiyou and Trinity counties. Its range stretches about 190 miles north to south and 70 miles east to west, from Southern Oregon into Northern California. Thorp has been monitoring the bee since 1998. The first year’s count was 100. That dropped to three in 2003, one in 2006 and none since.

'Pollination crisis' hitting India's vegetable farmers

A decline in pollinating insects in India is resulting in reduced vegetable yields and could limit people's access to a nutritional diet, a study warns. Each year, India produces about 7.5 million tonnes of vegetables. This accounts for about 14% of the global total, making the nation second only to China in the world's vegetable production league table.

Translating science for conservation: bees benefit first

A project to make conservation science accessible and relevant to conservationists and policymakers launches its first major synopsis of evidence, on bee conservation. For the first time, scientific knowledge and experience about how to conserve wild bees around the world has been brought together by conservation scientists led by Professor William J. Sutherland and Dr Lynn Dicks at the University of Cambridge. The synopsis of evidence on bee conservation is meant to inform people taking action or spending money to help wild bees - anyone from farmers to international NGOs - about what works and what doesn't. It is part of a project called Conservation Evidence, which aims to make conservation practice more science-based.

Bee decline already have dramatic effect on pollination of plants

Researchers have found that pollination levels of some plants have dropped by up to 50 per cent in the last two decades.

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