Bees

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Bees support the Maoists!

Bees swarm India paramilitary troops in Chhattisgarh
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17980228
By Salman Ravi
BBC Hindi, Raipur

Operations against Maoist rebels have been stepped up recently

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Where the Maoist war is far from won
Life in an Indian Maoist jungle camp
Profile: India's Maoist rebels

At least 19 Indian paramilitary troops were swarmed and badly stung by bees while on a counter-insurgency operation against Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh state.

The troops were clearing landmines in the dense forests of Narayanpur district when they were attacked.

Four of the soldiers were in "a real bad state" with serious swelling on their faces and hands, police said.

The men have been admitted to a local government hospital.

The paramilitary personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were deployed in the Farasgaon area of Bastar region.

The area contains dense forests and has been the scene of a bitter Maoist insurgency, police and local officials told the BBC.

Officials said that on Sunday afternoon a storm in the area is believed to have knocked a tree or a branch onto a bee hive while the paramilitary police were combing the area for landmines.

Insects and reptiles pose a major problem for the security forces deployed against the Maoists in the forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa.

According to rough estimates, malaria and insects kill as many security personnel as die in combat against Maoist rebels.

The Maoists are active in more than a third of India's 600-odd districts. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described them as the biggest internal security challenge facing India.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of indigenous tribes people and the rural poor, who they say have been neglected by governments for decades.

India has deployed tens of thousands of federal paramilitary troops and policemen to fight the rebels.
 
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'Extinct' short-haired bumblebee returns to UK
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18194778
By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

Nikki Gammans explains how the short-haired bumblebee has been brought back to the UK

Related Stories

Scientists, leave our bees alone!
Insects and the city
New attempt to return bumblebee

A species of bee not seen in the UK for a quarter of a century is being reintroduced to the countryside.

The short-haired bumblebee was once widespread across the south of England but it vanished in 1988.

However, after a healthy stock of the bees was found in Sweden, conservationists were able to collect some to seed a new UK colony.

About 50 queen bumblebees are being released at the RSPB's Dungeness reserve in Kent.

Nikki Gammans, from the Short-haired Bumblebee Project, said: "Normally, extinction means a species is gone forever.

"But it is magnificent that we can bring back this bee species and give it a second chance here in the UK."

Plan bee

The loss of the short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) was caused by the dramatic decline of wildflower meadows that occurred after World War II as agriculture intensified to feed the growing population.

It is estimated that 97% of Britain's flower-rich grasslands, which the bees needed to forage and thrive, has vanished over the past 70 years.


The short-haired bumblebee was hit hard by the loss of wildflower meadows in the UK
But in southern Sweden, the species is doing much better as fewer people live there and farming practices are more bee-friendly.

Dr Gammans said: "The bee population in Sweden is expanding and growing whereas for everywhere else in Europe it has been contracting - it is either rare, threatened, or extinct like in the UK.

"So Sweden was really the only place we could go to collect the bees."

A team of conservationists, with the permission of the Swedish authorities, captured nearly 100 spring queens to bring back to the UK.

Before the release, the bees were put in quarantine for two weeks at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Dr Mark Brown, from the university's school of biological sciences, said: "We've screened for four different parasite species, which can all damage bees in different ways.

"The key reason why we are looking for them is we don't want to introduce populations of these parasites from Sweden into the UK. Those with the parasites haven't been released."

Bee-friendly habitat

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

There will be a really good chance that it will establish, it will become self sustainable and spread”

Nikki Gammans
Short-haired Bumblebee Project
The preparations for the bees' arrival in Kent have also been extensive.

At the RSPB's reserve in Dungeness, the site for the bees' release, conservationists have spent the last three years preparing the land.

Martin Randall, the site manager at the reserve, said: "The most important thing we've had to do to get this ready for the bees is to encourage wild flowers, like clovers and vetches.

"So the first thing we did was to collect locally grown clover seed and spread it across the grasslands, and then we followed it up by grazing it sensitively with cattle and sheep."

The work is already helping other endangered bee species in the local area: the shrill carder bee, which was absent from Dungeness for 25 years, was recently found there.


The fields at the RSPB's Dungeness reserve are now packed full of wild flowers
Mr Randall said: "When you come here on a still day, this is just buzzing with bees, and we're hoping that the short-haired bumblebee will join that group."

Local farmers have also been involved in the project, which has been funded by Natural England, the RSPB, Hymettus and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

By leaving margins unfarmed at the edges of their fields, flower-rich, green "corridors" are created, which will help the bees to spread out across the area.

Plight of the bumblebee

This is the second attempt to release the short-haired bumblebee in the UK.

In 2009, Dr Gammans collected bees from New Zealand, which had been introduced there from the UK in 1895 to pollinate red clover.


Habitat improvements can help other endangered bees, such as the shrill carder bee
But DNA tests found the colony lacked genetic diversity and many of the queens did not survive their hibernation once in the UK.

But the ecologist is much more optimistic about the success of the Swedish bees.

Dr Gammans said: "We think there will be a really good chance that it will establish, it will become self sustainable and spread."

She said she expected between 20-30% of the reintroduced queen bees would survive after their release and create nests.

"This is about the usual survival rate for queens. After that, we want to add further reintroductions to increase the genetic diversity and increase their chances," she explained.

The team hopes the return of this species could give a boost to bee conservation.

Continue reading the main story
Fuzzy buzzers


Bumblebees are vital pollinators of wild flowers and crops. They appear to be particularly effective at pollinating tomato plants; the frequency of their buzz releases a cloud of pollen from the flowers, covering the bees' fuzzy bodies and the reproductive parts of other flowers. Some tomato-growers use pollination vibrators or even electric toothbrushes to mimic this effect.
These large, robust members of the bee family visit flowers that are up to 2km from their hive. UK scientists recently found that the bees "optimise their journeys" - taking the shortest possible distance from one flower to another before returning to the hive.
Bee identification: How to spot the stingers
Over the past few decades, bumblebees have been in serious decline. As well as the loss of the short-haired bumblebee, another bee species - the Cullem's bumblebee (Bombus cullumanus) - has also been declared extinct in the UK and others species are at risk of vanishing from the UK.

Conservationists warn that the loss of the bees and other insect pollinators would be disastrous.

With about 80% of Britain's plants reliant on insects for pollination, it has been estimated that these creatures contribute more than £400m a year to the UK economy.

Dr Pete Brotherton, head of biodiversity at Natural England, said: "We depend upon nature in so many ways, yet across England many species and habitats are in decline.

"These losses can be stopped - today is a fantastic example of what conservation organisations, the government and farmers can achieve when we work together.

"Exciting projects like this one are vital in helping to turn the tide on biodiversity loss."
 

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Bees given new home on Truro Town Hall roof

Twenty-thousand bees have a new home on top of Truro's town hall.
The installation of two hives in the Cornish city is part of an initiative by Truro's new Green Party mayor, Lindsay Southcombe.
Ms Southcombe wants to raise awareness of the insects' decline and has entitled her first term in office as "The Year of the Bee".
Scientists claim bees numbers are being severely threatened by pesticides, disease and environmental changes.

Colin Reece, president of Cornwall's beekeepers' association, said the bee was "responsible for every third mouthful of food that we eat".
"Without the honey bee, we would not have the range of food that we take for granted available to us now," he said.
"The bee is responsible for every third mouthful of food that we eat through their pollination. We think of the honey bee as making honey, but their primary role in life is pollination."

Experts said the initiative was "perfectly safe" and would not pose any threat to the public.
Flowers and shrubs enjoyed by bees will be planted on the roof of the town hall and Ms Southcombe said the honey produced would be harvested and sold for charity.

David Aston, from the British Beekeepers' Association, said bees could often do better in urban areas than in the countryside, because city parks and gardens contained a higher diversity of plant life.

Scientists have previously warned that if bees and other pollinators were to disappear completely, the cost to the UK economy could be up to £440m per year - about 13% of the income from farming.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-18276194
 
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Winter honey bee losses decline
http://phys.org/news/2012-06-winter-hon ... cline.html
June 1st, 2012 in Biology / Plants & Animals

Total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes dropped to 21.9 percent nationwide for the 2011/2012 winter, a decline of some 8 percentage points or 27 percent from the approximately 30 percent average loss beekeepers have experienced in recent winters, according to the latest annual survey conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, the Apiary Inspectors of America and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This is certainly an improvement over recent years, but it is still far too high a loss rate, says University of Marylands Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the leader of the survey and a research scientist in the department of entomology at Maryland. One in five bees lost is still huge and still quite a ways from the 13-14 percent loss that beekeepers say would be sustainable says vanEngelsdorp, who authored the preliminary report on the groups survey findings.

Understanding the health of bees and other native pollinators is important to ecosystems and our economy because of the crucial role pollinators play in plant reproduction. It is estimated that bees pollinate about a third of the food that we eat, at a value of about $15 billion per year.

The groups surveys for the previous five years found total colony losses of 30 percent in 2010/2011, 34 percent in 2009/2010, 29 percent in 2008/2009, 36 percent in 2007/2008 and 32 percent in 2006/2007.

Honey bee landing on a watermelon flower. Honey bee colony losses were substantially down for the winter of 2011-2012. Credit: Stephen Ausmus
vanEngelsdorp and other scientists involved in the survey say they dont know the reason for improved bee survival this winter, but that the unusually warm winter during 2011/2012 is one possible contributing factor. January 2012 ranks as the fourth warmest January in U.S. history. However they say no direct scientific investigation of the weather connection has been done.
A warm winter means less stress on bee colonies and may help them be more resistant to pathogens, parasites and other problems, said Jeff Pettis, co-leader of the survey and research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. ARS is USDAs chief intramural scientific research agency.

Of beekeepers who reported losing any colonies, 37 percent said they lost at least some of their colonies without the presence of dead bees, which is one of the defining symptoms of colony collapse disorder (CCD), a serious problem that beekeepers began facing in 2006. Since this was an interview-based survey, it was not possible to confirm that these colonies had CCD or if the losses were the result of other causes that share the "absence of dead bees" symptom.

Beekeepers who reported colony losses with no dead bees present had average colony losses of 47 percent, compared to beekeepers who lost colonies, but did report dead bees. Those beekeepers lost 19 percent of their colonies.

Last year, beekeepers who reported colony losses with no dead bee bodies present had average colony losses of 61 percent, compared to beekeepers who lost colonies but did report dead bees. They had 34 percent in losses.
Despite intense efforts we still dont fully understand why bees are dying at such high rates, vanEngelsdorp says, It seems likely that several factors, including pesticides, parasitic mites and diseases, and nutrition problems all play a contributing roll.

Almost half of responding beekeepers reported losses greater than 13.6 percent, the level of loss that beekeepers have stated would be acceptable for their operations. Continued losses above that level threaten the economic sustainability of commercial beekeeping.

A total of 5,543 U.S. beekeepers, approximately 20 percent of the beekeepers in the United States, responded to the online survey.

Collectively, the responding beekeepers managed over 14.6 percent of the countrys estimated 2.49 million colonies. A complete analysis of the survey data will be published later this year. The abstract can be found at: http://beeinformed.org/2012/05/winter2012/ .

More information: More information about colony collapse disorder can be found at http://www.ars.usda.gov/ccd .

Provided by University of Maryland
 
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I mite have known this.

Bee-killing virus gets supercharged by mites
http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/bre856 ... ees-virus/
By Ben HirschlerPosted 2012/06/07 at 2:07 pm EDT

LONDON, June 7, 2012 (Reuters) — Parasitic mites have turbo-charged the spread of a virus responsible for a rise in honey bee deaths around the world, scientists said on Thursday.

Bee populations have been falling rapidly in many countries, fuelled by a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. Its cause is unclear but the Varroa mite is a prime suspect, since it spreads viruses while feeding on hemolymph, or bee's "blood".

To clarify the link between mites and viruses, a team led by Stephen Martin of Britain's University of Sheffield studied the impact of Varroa in Hawaii, which the mites have only recently invaded.

They found the arrival of Varroa increased the prevalence of a single type of virus, deformed wing virus (DWV), in honey bees from around 10 percent to 100 percent.

At the same time the amount of DWV virus in the bees' bodies rocketed by a millionfold and there was a huge reduction in virus diversity, with a single strain of DWV crowding out others.

"It is that strain that is now dominant around the world and seems to be killing bees," Martin said in a telephone interview. "My money would be on this virus as being key."

Other factors - including fungi, pesticides and decreased plant diversity - are thought to play a role in colony collapse, but Ian Jones of the University of Reading said the latest findings pointed to the virus and mite combination as being the main culprit.

"This data provides clear evidence that, of all the suggested mechanisms of honey bee loss, virus infection brought in by mite infestation is a major player in the decline," he said.

Jones, who was not involved the research, said the findings published in the journal Science reinforced the need for beekeepers to control Varroa infestation in colonies.

The threat to bee populations extends across much of Europe and the United States to Asia, South America and the Middle East, experts say.

Bees are important pollinators of flowering plants, including many fruit and vegetable crops. A 2011 United Nations report estimated that bees and other pollinators such as butterflies, beetles or birds do work worth 153 billion euros ($191 billion) a year for the human economy.

(Editing by Robert Woodward)
 
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Pesticides hit bumblebee reproduction
June 20th, 2012 in Biology / Plants & Animals

The buff-tail bee.

Scientists already knew that neonicotinoid pesticides, which affect insects' nervous systems, can alter bee behaviour, putting these vital pollinators, already threatened by habitat loss and disease, further at risk.

This new piece of research shows that bumblebees with diets contaminated with levels of neonicotinoid pesticide typically found in the environment produce up to a third fewer offspring.

The scientists looked at other ways that neonicotinoids could have affected reproduction. They found the pesticides do not damage the development of ovaries or delay egg-laying, except at really high doses. But they noticed that the more pesticide a bumblebee ingested, the less pollen and syrup it ate. So exposed bees may not have had the nutrients needed to lay the normal number of eggs in the first place.

"There could be two reasons why they're feeding less," suggests Ian Laycock from the University of Exeter, whose research was published in Ecotoxicology last month. "They could be learning to avoid the food but we don't think this is the case, because the drop in feeding rates becomes more intense over time. We think there's a toxic effect altering their ability to feed. At higher exposures of the pesticide their movement is compromised, and the efficiency of their foraging is reduced."

This adds to a growing body of evidence that neonicotinoids alter bee behaviour and may affect bee populations. Studies published in Science in March this year showed that pesticide exposure below the lethal dose damages bees' normally good sense of direction. Bees were not only getting lost and dying outside the hive more often, but also bringing home less food being, leading to dramatic reductions in the number of queens being produced.

"In these more recent studies, people are starting to take account of the actual doses bees are likely to get," explains Laycock. 'The newer research is a lot more environmentally realistic, so it's attracting a lot more attention. They're coming up with very interesting evidence, such as the effect of pesticide exposure on the production of queens.'

"But we need more information before we can definitely say that pesticides are causing a decline," Laycock adds. "So far, we know that it harms the bees, but there are still so many questions, such as whether the queens can recover."

Neonicotinoid pesticides are not the only problem that bees face. The varroa mite, a bloodsucking parasite that lives on bees, has spread rapidly around the world in the last 50 years. It increases the transmission of a deadly virus to levels capable of wiping out whole colonies.

This threat is amplified by the reduction of habitat. The UK has lost most of its wildflower meadows, dramatically reducing the food sources available to bees, butterflies and moths. Add the threat of behaviour-altering pesticides to both kept and wild bee populations, and it's clear that pollinators are in for a rough time.

These threatened pollinators are essential to agriculture. French and German scientists valued the pollination service provided by insect pollinators at 153 billion euros, amounting to 9.5 per cent of total farm production.

"Bumblebees are increasingly important in agricultural pollination," says Laycock. "There are some crops, particularly fruit crops, where bumblebees are particularly good at pollination. Also, they're pretty much intrinsic to maintaining wildflower populations, so we also have to think about biodiversity."

The scientists now hope to look at whether the bumblebees can recover from the short pulses of the neonicotinoid pesticide released into the environment in the spring.

"In the UK, roughly 85 per cent of [the neonicotinoid] imidacloprid is used growing oilseed rape, so the bees are getting exposed in short bursts during the mass flowering," Laycock explains. "It's hitting them when they're building a workforce big enough to support the production of queens. If they can't build this workforce they could be vulnerable, so we need to answer the question on whether they can recover from that."

More information: Ian Laycock, et al., 2012. Effects of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide, on reproduction in worker bumble bees. Ecotoxicoloy doi: 10.1007/s10646-012-0927-y

Provided by PlanetEarth Online
This story is republished courtesy of Planet Earth online, a free, companion website to the award-winning magazine Planet Earth published and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

"Pesticides hit bumblebee reproduction." June 20th, 2012. http://phys.org/news/2012-06-pesticides ... ction.html
 
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Bee swarm attack lands Thailand monks in hospital
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18568448

Related Stories

Bees attack India paramilitaries

Dozens of novice monks have been taken to hospital after an attack by a swarm of bees in northern Thailand.

The monks were cleaning the Chedi Luang temple in Chiang Mai province on Saturday when the attack took place.

The Bangkok Post said more than 70 monks were admitted to hospital, quoting one doctor as saying he had seen 19 in serious condition.

Bee stings typically cause skin rashes and nausea but multiple attacks are more serious and occasionally deadly.

Temple abbot Phra Ratcha Jetiyajarn told the Post that 76 monks had been taken to three regional hospitals.

The paper quoted Naren Chotirosnimitr, the director of the Maharaj Nakorn hospital in Chiang Mai, as saying 53 had been treated there, with six arriving in a coma suffering with low blood pressure.

Most of the monks were later discharged.

The abbot said the bees were from hives kept at the temple. They had been no problem previously and it was unclear why they had attacked, he said.
 
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Customers make beeline for exit in Creeslough
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ire ... 63116.html
STEPHEN MAGUIRE

Sat, Jul 14, 2012

A swarm of bees gathered outside a supermarket in Co Donegal yesterday, forcing customers away for a number of hours.

An estimated 40,000 of the Black Irish honey bees tried to made their home outside Lafferty’s supermarket in the village of Creeslough.

The shop, which is normally buzzing, was almost empty for more than four hours before help was called to get rid of the bees.

Danny Martin Lafferty, owner of the supermarket, said the bees definitely took the sting out of his afternoon trade. “I looked outside and I could see people waving their arms. It looked like it was snowing for a while.

“Then I looked closer, and I could see this cloud of bees,” he said.

Mr Lafferty called a local beekeeper, who arrived with the necessary equipment to get rid of the swarm.
 
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Swarm of bees tells Hillary Clinton to 'buzz off'
http://www.rt.com/news/hillary-clinton-bees-mawali-962/
Published: 06 August, 2012, 17:58

Hillary Clinton’s six-and-a-half hour trip to Malawi literally went by in a buzz. The US Secretary of State has received not-so-warm welcomes from several countries she’s visited, but in Malawi she was reportedly chased onto her plane.
Chased onto her plane by a swarm of bees, that is.

Clinton ran for cover and boarded her jet to escape the bees, which attacked her at Malawi’s international airport, the local Nyasa Times quotes witnesses as saying. The Secretary was preparing to board a Johannesburg-bound flight when the stinging swarm forced her to make a quicker entry than planned.

Clinton wasn’t the only one spooked by the bees: “There was a slight panic as the bees winged across the airport. People could be seen running away to keep cover as the Secretary of State swiftly boarded her plane to avoid any stings,” a witness told the Nyasa Times.
 
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Once again European interlopers bring disease to the New World.

Plight of the Bumblebee
http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2 ... tml?ref=hp
by Anthony King on 14 September 2012, 6:25 PM | 1 Comment

Bad buzz. A deadly parasite, possibly carried by European bees imported for pollination, is infecting Patagonia's native giant bumblebee, Bombus dahlbomii.
Credit: Carolina Morales

When Europeans arrived in the Americas, they carried measles, flu, and smallpox to the native peoples. Now history is repeating itself—in the world of bees. The introduction of a European bumblebee to South America—and the parasite that the bee carries—may have decimated populations of that continent's indigenous "giant bumblebee," scientists reported last week in Biological Invasions.

The queen bees of the spectacular native "giant bumblebee" of South America, Bombus dahlbomii, are the largest bumblebees in the world. B. dahlbomii once ranged across thousands of kilometers of Patagonia, the cool, southernmost tip of South America, where it was the only bumblebee species. But the species' burly size has not kept it safe: Populations of the native bee have declined sharply in recent years.

The spotlight of suspicion is now on a recent arrival, the European white-tailed bumblebee (B. terrestris), which was introduced into Chile in 1997 to pollinate agricultural crops. The European bee escaped from greenhouses and outdoor pollination sites into the wild; researchers observed it in Patagonia by 2006. At about the same time, the giant bumblebee began to disappear from this area.

The link between those two events, scientists suspect, may be a deadly single-celled parasite that hitchhiked to Patagonia along with the European invader. In the new study, scientists identified the parasite, Apicystis bombi, in three species of bumblebee—the native bumblebee; B. terrestris; and another European bumblebee, B. pascuorum—in Patagonia. The parasites wreak havoc on the bees, starting off as a gut infection and spreading to other parts of the body. They cause behavioral effects, increase worker bee death rates, and impede the founding of new colonies.

"There is evidence that this parasite was introduced with Bombus terrestris and spilled over to other species here in the region," says Marina Arbetman, lead study author and Ph.D. candidate at the National University of Río Negro in Argentina.

The parasite is certainly a relatively recent arrival: In the study, Arbetman and her team looked at preserved specimens of the native bee as well as B. pascuorum, also called the carder bumblebee. The carder bee first arrived in South America in the 1980s, but researchers could not detect the parasite's DNA in the preserved specimens.

A Weekly Chat on the Hottest Topics in Science Thursdays 3 p.m. EDT
The parasite is rare in bees in Europe, found in only 1% to 8% of white-tailed bees. However, it is surprisingly common in the European bumblebees living in Patagonia, the researchers found—almost half of the white-tailed bees in the region were infected, as well as the native giant bumblebees.

"We are not saying that the decline is only due to parasites," says co-author and bee biologist Carolina Morales of Argentina's national research council. For example, competition for food with the European bees could also be responsible for species decline. However, the speed of the native bee decline suggests that the parasite is a major factor, she says—and other native bumblebees north of Patagonia may be at risk from the parasite.

Indeed, "the giant bumblebee appears to have disappeared from 80% of its range," says bee biologist David Goulson of the University of Stirling in the United Kingdom. "I went out there earlier this year and hunted high and low for them, but couldn't find a single one." A clash over food or territory alone wouldn't be likely to decimate the giant bumblebees, he says. "The native bee has a long tongue and tends to feed on deep flowers that Bombus terrestris wouldn't feed on, so they really shouldn't be competing. The only sensible explanation that fits is that terrestris is carrying some kind of disease, and this one seems to be a pretty good candidate."

Goulson predicts the giant bumblebee species could be extinct within a few years—and adds that there could be wider ecological implications, as a lot of wild plants in the Andes will lose their main pollinator. "It is incredibly frustrating for people like me who are trying to conserve things that some idiot can do so much damage by bringing in an alien bee."

Still, it's not certain that European bees are primarily responsible for bringing this particular parasite to South America—or even that A. bombi is the only parasite involved. "There is correlational evidence to suggest that this parasite may have either been brought in or hugely increased in its abundance by the invasive bumblebee, but there is no causal evidence. It's not a smoking gun," says evolutionary biologist Mark Brown of Royal Holloway, University of London. "I don't think they can conclude that the parasite wasn't in native bumblebees in Patagonia prior to Bombus terrestris arriving, because the sample size was not large enough to do that." (That small sample size was due to the difficulty in locating surviving native bees, according to the researchers in Argentina.) Furthermore, Brown says, "if this parasite was introduced to native bees by commercial bees then it is highly likely that other parasites would have crossed over at the same time."

Morales, however, says that the study highlights a fearsome cautionary tale. Many companies export bumblebee species, sending them around the world to pollinate crops such as the tomato. The research, she says, paints a picture of what could happen if infected European species entered bumblebee-rich places such as China and Nepal—that is, assuming this parasite is just as detrimental to their bees.
 
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Still seeking the killer. Time to call in CSI?

Honeybee homicide case against Syngenta pesticide unproven
http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/bre88j ... pesticide/
By Chris WickhamPosted 2012/09/21 at 6:55 am EDT

LONDON, Sep. 21, 2012 (Reuters) — British scientists have shot down a study on declining honeybee populations that triggered a French ban on a pesticide made by Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta.


A bee is seen sitting on a Marigold flower in a field of a private plantation near the village of Pishchalovo, about 220 km (138 miles) east of Minsk in this July 18, 2011 file photogaph. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/Files

France's farm minister Stephane Le Foll withdrew Syngenta's marketing permit for the pesticide Cruiser OSR in June, citing evidence of a threat to the country's bees.

But a study by Britain's Food and Environment Research Agency with the University of Exeter says the results of the original research were flawed.

The study, published in the journal Science, does not deny that pesticides could be harmful to individual bees but argues there is no evidence they cause the collapse of whole colonies.

"We do not yet have definitive evidence of the impact of these insecticides on honeybees and we should not be making any decisions on changes to policy on their use," said James Cresswell, the ecotoxicologist who led the latest study.

The previous research, led by French scientist Mikaël Henry and published in Science in April, showed the death rate of bees increased when they drank nectar laced with the neonicotinoid pesticide, thiamethoxam, the active ingredient in Cruiser OSR.

Neonicotinoids are among the most widely-used agricultural insecticides.

Henry's work calculated this would cause a bee colony to collapse completely but Cresswell said the French study seemed to have used an inappropriately low birth rate, underestimating the rate at which colonies can recover from the loss of bees.

"They modeled a colony that isn't increasing in size and what we know is that in springtime when oilseed rape is blossoming they increase rapidly," Cresswell told Reuters.

The French study has been cited by scientists, environmentalists and policy-makers as evidence of the impact of these pesticides on bees, which are declining around the world.

"We know that neonicotinoids affect honeybees, but there is no evidence that they could cause colony collapse," said Cresswell. "When we repeated the previous calculation with a realistic birth rate, the risk of colony collapse under pesticide exposure disappeared."

DOSAGE DOUBTS

Cresswell said Henry's research also used a dosage of pesticide equivalent to a whole day's intake by the bees, akin to testing the effect of coffee on people by making them drink eight cups in one go, rather than spread out over the day.

Henry said he was "perfectly comfortable" with the new findings, adding in an emailed response to Reuters: "The model we used predicts a major deviation from the expected colony dynamics, rather than a collapse per se."

The April paper in Science said exposure to thiamethoxam "causes high mortality due to homing failure at levels that could put a colony at risk of collapse".

Syngenta lost a court bid in July to overturn the French ban on Cruiser OSR, which meant the pesticide was not used for rapeseed sowing in August and September.

"It's important for us that what we had argued is now supported by a scientific study," Syngenta France spokesman Laurent Peron told Reuters. "We are going to use the findings of this study but it's too early to say in what way."

The French farm ministry declined to comment.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth argued that sales of the pesticide should be halted while any doubt about their impact on bees remained.

"Neonicotinoid pesticides cannot be given a clean bill of health until they have been properly tested for their effect on all bees, not just honeybees," said campaigner Paul de Zylva.

Cresswell said: "I am definitely not saying that pesticides are harmless to honeybees, but I think everyone wants to make decisions based on sound evidence, and our research shows that the effects of thiamethoxam are not as severe as first thought."

(Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith and Pravin Char)
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
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Blue and green honey makes French beekeepers see red

By Patrick Genthon | Reuters

MULHOUSE, France (Reuters) - Bees at a cluster of apiaries in northeastern France have been producing honey in mysterious shades of blue and green, alarming their keepers who now believe residue from containers of M&M's candy processed at a nearby biogas plant is the cause.

Since August, beekeepers around the town of Ribeauville in the region of Alsace have seen bees returning to their hives carrying unidentified colorful substances that have turned their honey unnatural shades.

Mystified, the beekeepers embarked on an investigation and discovered that a biogas plant 4 km (2.5 miles) away has been processing waste from a Mars plant producing M&M's, bite-sized candies in bright red, blue, green, yellow and brown shells.

Asked about the issue, Mars had no immediate comment.

The unsellable honey is a new headache for around a dozen affected beekeepers already dealing with high bee mortality rates and dwindling honey supplies following a harsh winter, said Alain Frieh, president of the apiculturists' union.

Agrivalor, the company operating the biogas plant, said it had tried to address the problem after being notified of it by the beekeepers.

"We discovered the problem at the same time they did. We quickly put in place a procedure to stop it," Philippe Meinrad, co-manager of Agrivalor, told Reuters.

He said the company had cleaned its containers and incoming waste would now be stored in a covered hall.

Mars operates a chocolate factory near Strasbourg, around 100 km (62 miles) away from the affected apiaries.

Bee numbers have been rapidly declining around the world in the last few years and the French government has banned a widely used pesticide, Cruiser OSR, that one study has linked to high mortality rates.

France is one of the largest producers of honey within the European Union, producing some 18,330 tonnes annually, according to a recent audit conducted for national farm agency FranceAgriMer.

Ribeauville, situated on a scenic wine route southwest of Strasbourg, is best known for its vineyards. But living aside winemakers are about 2,400 beekeepers in Alsace who tend some 35,000 colonies and produce about 1,000 tonnes of honey per year, according to the region's chamber of agriculture.

As for the M&M's-infused honey, union head Frieh said it might taste like honey, but there the comparison stopped.

"For me, it's not honey. It's not sellable."

SOURCE: http://news.yahoo.com/blue-green-honey- ... 03015.html
 
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Extra support for Welsh speaking bees.

Talks in Aberystwyth over Welsh bee decline action plan
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20390778

The action plan hopes to halt the decline of bees

The progress of an action plan to protect endangered insect pollinators like honey bees and hoverflies in Wales is being discussed in Aberystwyth.

The value of pollinators to the UK government is estimated to be £430m a year, but populations have been on the decline for 30 years.

The Welsh government launched the action plan at the Royal Welsh Show in Powys in July.

Since then a review has looked at the reasons for the insects' decline.

The action plan will be developed in partnership with key agencies and might include changes to the planning system to help make development "pollinator friendly".

Other plans include planting more bee-friendly plants in areas such as railway embankments and road verges.

The Welsh government will hold a workshop at Aberystwyth University on Monday to share the results of its review with Friends of the Earth Cymru, the Welsh Bee Keepers' Association and wildlife trusts.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

There are issues about the use of pesticides which many beekeepers believe are having a disastrous effect”

Peter Barrar
National Bee Keeping Centre Wales
Peter Barrar, a director of National Bee Keeping Centre Wales, said: "A number of policies and programmes will be put forward for discussion and hopefully we're going to have a situation where we have an action plan that (can be implemented) throughout Wales, and addresses some of the really key issues that are facing pollinators, not just in Wales, but throughout the UK as a whole and elsewhere."

Mr Barrar said there was probably four of five issues affecting pollinators.

"Firstly, I think we've got problems with the loss of natural habitats which have resulted from ways in which we now manage the land," he added.

"For example, 97% of the UK's wild flower meadows have disappeared since the 1930s. That's an incredible impact due to farming practices and so on.

"There are issues about the use of pesticides which many beekeepers believe are having a disastrous effect, on not just bees, but on other pollinators as well."

'Population decline'

Environment Minister John Griffiths said 20% of the UK's cropped area was made up of pollinator-dependent crops.

"In July I announced that Wales would produce an action plan for pollinators," he added.

"Since then a review has been undertaken in Wales to look at the reasons for the population decline and the impacts that such a decline will have upon our society.

"We now want to share this report with our relevant partners and take their views on how we can protect this vitally important eco-system service.

"Their views and expertise will be crucial is helping to shape this action plan which is the first of its kind in the UK."
 
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Hive minds: Honeybee intelligence creates a buzz
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg2 ... ?full=true
28 November 2012 by David Robson
Magazine issue 2892.

Bees can do remarkable things with a brain the size of a pinhead, raising some intriguing questions about the nature of intelligence

I CERTAINLY wouldn't want to meet this bunch in a dark alley. Some are sitting and glowering at me from the shadows, and others are brawling in an unruly scrum, their wings and limbs flailing against the sides of their Perspex prison. Every last one of them is armed, and I can't help wondering if they are planning some kind of coup. Fortunately, I am assured that they can be easily placated with a quick fix of the sweet stuff. "Mostly, our bees collaborate quite happily," says Lars Chittka, whose lab I am visiting at Queen Mary, University of London.

That's just as well, because these miniature brawlers show an extraordinary intelligence when they are given the chance to shine. Chittka and others have found that bees can count, read symbols and solve problems that would perplex some of the smartest mammals. Some have an eye for art appreciation, having been trained to pick either Monet or Picasso's paintings from a choice of the two artists' work. They may even have a form of self-awareness, and all of this with a brain the size of a pinhead. Studying how they are capable of such great ingenuity promises to reveal much about the evolution of intelligence. It might even provide a new perspective on the workings of our own brains.

Bees have long enjoyed our admiration. Ever since the ancient Egyptians began to cultivate their taste for honey, the hive has been revered for its apparent altruism and tireless work ethic. Whether bees themselves are intelligent has been a matter of dispute, however, with many considering each individual to be relatively stupid - a mindless cog in the greater honey-making machine. As the Latin proverb had it: "una apis, nulla apis" - "one bee is no bee".

Hints of apian intellect began to emerge with the research of Austrian zoologist Karl von Frisch. Working in the years around the second world war, he observed that foraging bees often perform a strange jive across the honeycomb - the famous "waggle dance", the steps of which signal the direction and distance to nearby flowers.

We have now uncovered a rich repertoire of behaviours under the hive lid. Studies of the choreography of the waggle dance, for instance, have revealed that a worker will interrupt another's jive with a butt to the head if it has found danger - a spider, say - at the location (Current Biology, vol 20, p 310). Bees also display an extraordinary range of housekeeping chores, including spring cleaning, mutual grooming and a form of surveillance in which "bouncers" guard entrances against intruders. The hive has even evolved its own air conditioning; when temperatures soar, the workers sprinkle water over the honeycomb and beat their wings to produce a cooling draft.

In total, Chittka estimates that we have now recorded around 60 separate behaviours for worker honeybees, including six different kinds of dance (Current Biology, vol 19, p R995). These achievements seem to overshadow the abilities of many mammals. Rabbits are thought to show about 30 distinct behaviours, and the beaver has about 50 in its busy life felling trees, building damns and storing food. Even the bottlenose dolphin's 120 or so routines are only about twice the number a worker honeybee manages.

Despite this bulging portfolio of behaviours, many zoologists have remained sceptical about apian intelligence, believing they were seeing hard-wired instinct rather than flexible thought. "The brain of a bee is the size of a grass seed and is not made for thinking," said von Frisch in 1962. However, that view is now changing, as Chittka and others discover a surprising mental agility behind the bee's bumbling exterior.

Chittka's first revelation came while he was investigating the way honeybees navigate to a flower patch. Varying the number of 3.5-metre-tall tents between a hive and a feeder - "It looked more like an art installation than an experiment" - he found that foragers seemed to count landmarks rather than using the overall distance when working out where to land. Subsequent research has confirmed this numeracy, showing that bees can match the quantity shown in simple pictures of shapes to find a reward. In one trial they were shown three leaves and then had to choose between two and three lemons, for instance - a test they passed with ease (see diagram). The ability to match signs using different symbols is crucial, showing that the bees did not just rely on a memory of a specific image but understood the underlying number. But this ability is limited: bees can only count to four.

Might bees be able to grapple with other abstract rules? This is a question that Martin Giurfa at the University of Toulouse, France, has explored over the past 10 years by testing bees' powers of categorisation. "Many people told us we were crazy - but we liked the challenge," he says. Giurfa started out by training his bees on the concept of symmetry and they quickly learned to sup on a sweet reward under symmetrical signs while avoiding asymmetrical pictures (Nature, vol 382, p 458). They have since learned spatial relationships such as above/below and left/right and have also mastered the concept of same/different. What is more, the bees easily transfer their learning to new situations - if they are trained to search for smells that are the same, they are subsequently able to pick visual signs that match, for instance (Nature, vol 410, p 930).

Giurfa's latest results are more impressive still. With colleague Aurore Avargués-Weber, he found that bees can combine concepts they have learned. When trained to search through pairs of shapes, for instance, they based their choice on the colour (whether the two shapes were the same shade, or different) and spatial arrangement (whether they were stacked vertically, rather than aligned side by side). "It presupposes a greater level of abstraction," says Giurfa. His bees mastered the task after just 30 trials, compared with the thousands of attempts required by some primates (PNAS, vol 109, p 7481). That's not all. Putting these skills to the test in a labyrinth, honeybees can learn to use abstract signs to find the way to a reward. Importantly, they can then grasp that the same signs mean different things in different mazes - suggesting an understanding of context (Journal of Comparative Physiology A, vol 181, p 343).

Many cognitive scientists believe that such deliberation reaches its apex in a trait known as metacognition. This ability to introspect and judge the quality of your own thoughts - whether you are certain about something or simply going on a hunch - is often considered to be the keystone of a conscious mind. Identifying metacognition in animals that lack language is a tough challenge but, through a series of canny tests, it has been demonstrated in just a small group of primates and dolphins. Now there is preliminary evidence that the honeybee may be a member of this select club.

Clint Perry at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, first trained his bees to discriminate between different images using tests of varying difficulty. In some later trials, he then gave them the option of an escape port if they didn't want to risk getting it wrong. Not only were the bees more likely to avoid the more difficult trials than the easier ones, they also took longer to decide on the harder tests. As a result of the escape port, they were also more likely to answer correctly on the trials they did decide to take, suggesting that the bees had accurately judged which trials they could and couldn't pass. Perry presented his preliminary results this year at the Tenth International Congress of Neuroethology at the University of Maryland in College Park, and although he hasn't yet published the full details of his experiments, Chittka thinks his conclusions are plausible. "This performance would certainly be taken as evidence for metacognition if the study was done with vertebrate subjects," he says.

As the bee's CV continues to grow, researchers have begun to ask how and why they evolved such a rich cognitive palette. Some clues might come from their nearest family. Although honeybees are among the most studied insects, there is plenty of evidence that many of their cousins - including bumblebees and ants - also show advanced learning. All these insects have particularly large and intricate "mushroom bodies" - the dense orbs of neural networks involved in learning and memory in the insect brain. Because bees and ants are mostly social creatures, this capacity was thought to have evolved to deal with the demands of living in a big group. A recent comparison, however, suggests that the expansion kicked off 90 million years ago in a solitary wasp that ultimately gave rise to all these social insects. If so, apian intelligence may have originated for hunting and overwhelming prey, before later being co-opted for a more cooperative and peaceful lifestyle.

Despite the expansion of its mushroom body, a bee's neural machinery is still minuscule compared with other intelligent creatures such as primates and cetaceans. Human skulls house about 85 billion brain cells, whereas a bee has fewer than a million in a brain measuring less than a millimetre cubed. How bees achieve so much with so little is a mystery, although their size might have some advantages. It takes less time to pass signals between neurons if they are closer together, which should mean that insect brains can process information more efficiently. These messages may also be less susceptible to electrical noise - something akin to the static sound on a bad phone line. Noise is a particular problem when communicating over long distances, so bigger brains use digital "on/off" firing that can persist through the crackle. Within the tiny insect brains, however, a graduated, "analogue" signal can hold up, with nuances in the amplitude conveying the information. "That can transmit huge amounts of information over a short amount of time," says Jeremy Niven, a neuroscientist at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK.

Cognitive shortcuts

Even so, it is likely that bees take cognitive shortcuts. "Insects force us to think about whether behaviours are as sophisticated as we think they are, or whether they are based on heuristics using simple assumptions," says Niven. Indeed, computer programs simulating the activity of neural networks suggest that apparently complex abilities such as counting and categorisation can be conjured from just a few hundred brain cells. Such results should be considered with some scepticism, because these models scrub away the messiness of the real world that undoubtedly needs more machinery to process. Nevertheless, alongside the achievements of bees, they do seem to confirm that relatively few neurons can go a long way when used efficiently. This could tell us as much about our own brains as those of the bee. "It could be that even we humans use rather simple techniques," says Mandyam Srinivasan at the Queensland Brain Institute in Brisbane, Australia.

We shouldn't get carried away, though. Bees may have wide-ranging abilities, but Chittka suspects their talents do not run very deep. Consider perception. Bee vision is generally pretty poor - they tend to rely on the outlines of objects, while missing the fine details. That is partly a question of eyesight, but it may also be down to the amount of grey matter devoted to vision. Our visual world is much richer, and we are very good at processing many parts of a scene at once - which is why a familiar face in a crowd will jump out at us. Honeybees apparently lack this capacity for "parallel processing" - if they are looking for a certain colour in a sea of objects, they check each one in turn, as if they can't take in the whole scene with a single glance.

There is also a huge gulf in memory capacity. The limit of human recall has yet to be found; think of all the words you know, the people you recognise. Even smaller-brained animals such as pigeons can learn to recognise thousands of images. Although bees are quick to pick up new rules, they are soon overwhelmed by large quantities of new information. Honeybees can be trained to associate certain smells with the location of different feeding sites, for instance, but they become less accurate once the number of sites exceeds two. Their inability to form connections between different events will be one of their biggest limitations, says Niven. "It gives them less opportunity to make predictions about what's going to happen in the world around them."

Still, as a simple model of intelligence, bees have huge potential. "They give us a much better handle on the neural underpinnings," says Niven. As we learn more about how bees think, the hope is that eventually we will pin down the anatomy of intelligence - working out how different networks of neurons give rise to different skills.

If nothing else, the bright sparks I met in the lab might draw attention to the myriad other intelligent life forms hiding in our gardens and cupboards and crawling under our floorboards. Not just the honeybee's closest relatives, but also its mortal enemy, the spider, and even such maligned creatures as the cockroach. If bees have taught us anything, it is that we should be prepared to be surprised by what a tiny brain can do. "After so many years, I've lost my prejudice," says Giurfa. "I've learned to respect these animals."

Agent bee
Given bees' extraordinary sense of smell and quick wits, some researchers are wondering whether they could be used to sniff out trouble in war zones. Bees trained to associate a sugar solution with the smell of a commonly used explosive would hover around landmines, for example. A laser radar system could then be tuned to detect the light scattered from their beating wings, allowing the operators to view their movements over a large area, at a safe distance.

Bees' detective abilities might also be used in hospitals. Some illnesses, including certain kinds of cancer and tuberculosis, leave patients with telltale odours that a bee could be trained to associate with food. Then, if the distinctive smell is present on a sample of breath or urine, the bee would extend its tongue, a small movement that could be picked up by a camera to give a diagnosis.
 
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Bumblebees sense electric fields in flowers
Electroreception may help pollinators to guess where others have already fed on nectar.
http://www.nature.com/news/bumblebees-s ... rs-1.12480
Matt Kaplan
21 February 2013

A flower's electric field (right, with associated electric potential on the left) helps bumblebees predict where to find the most nectar.
DOMINIC CLARKE / REF. 1

As they zero in on their sugary reward, foraging bumblebees follow an invisible clue: electric fields. Although some animals, including sharks, are known to have an electric sense, this is the first time the ability has been documented in insects.

Pollinating insects take in a large number of sensory cues, from colours and fragrances to petal textures and air humidity. Being able to judge which flowers will provide the most nectar, and which have already been plundered by other pollinators, helps them to use their energy more efficiently.

It has long been known that bumblebees build up a positive electrical charge as they rapidly flap their wings; when they land on flowers, this charge helps pollen to stick to their hairs. Daniel Robert, a biologist at the University of Bristol, UK, knew that such electrical interactions would temporarily change the electrical status of the flowers — but he did not know whether bumblebees were picking up on this.

Keen to find out, he and a team of colleagues measured the net charges of individuals of Bombus terrestris, a common species of bumblebee, by using sucrose to lure them into a Faraday pail — an electrically shielded bucket that reacts to the charge of anything inside it. As expected, most bumblebees were carrying a positive charge.

Next, the team placed the insects into an arena with petunias (Petunia integrifolia) and measured the flowers' electrical potentials. Sure enough, when the bees landed, the flowers became a little more positively charged.

Finally, the team released bumblebees into an arena with artificial flowers, half of which were positively charged and carried a sucrose reward, and the other half of which were grounded and carried a bitter solution. Over time, the bees increasingly visited the rewarding charged flowers.

But when the researchers turned off the electrical charge on the flowers and re-released the trained bees, the insects visited rewarding flowers only about half of the time, as they would have by random chance. That suggested that the bees were detecting the electric fields and using them to guide their activities, rather than relying on other clues such as fragrance. The team reports its results in this week's Science1.

“We think bumblebees are using this ability to perceive electrical fields to determine if flowers were recently visited by other bumblebees and are therefore worth visiting,” says Robert.

“We had no idea that this sense even existed," says Thomas Seeley, a behavioural biologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. "Assuming we can replicate the findings, this is going to open up a whole new window on insect sensory systems for us to study.”

Some experts suggest that the study has implications for insects other than bees. “If you think about it, these discoveries could also apply to hoverflies and moths," says Robert Raguso, a chemical ecologist also at Cornell. "We don’t know if they can perceive charge differentials, but they burn a lot of energy while hovering around looking for pollen or nectar. So it would make sense for them to attend to such cues."

Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2013.12480

References

Clarke, D., Whitney, H., Sutton, G. & Robert, D. Science http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1230883 (2013).
ISI
Show context

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The buzz about pesticides
21 October 2012
Pigeons may ‘hear’ magnetic fields
26 April 2012
The pollinator crisis: What's best for bees
09 November 2011
The pollinator crisis: What's best for bees
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Sharks' snout gel senses cold
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Fishing with your face — sawfish bill skills

From elsewhere

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Thomas Seeley
Robert Raguso
 

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Owen Paterson set to scupper EU plans to ban pesticides linked to bee harm
Environment secretary not expected to support proposal despite poll showing almost three-quarters of the UK public wants ban

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/13/owen-paterson-ban-pesticides-bees

The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, appears set to defy public and political pressure by scuppering a proposed Europe-wide suspension of three pesticides linked to serious harm in bees.

Almost three-quarters of the UK public backs the ban, according to a poll released on Wednesday, but the UK is not currently expected to support the measure when the European commission (EC) votes on it on Friday, leaving it little chance of being passed.

"Owen Paterson is about to put the short-term interests of farmers and the pesticide industry ahead of Britain's food supply," said Ian Bassin, of the campaign group Avaaz, which has amassed 2.5m signatures supporting a ban on neonicotinoids, the world's most widely used insecticides. The YouGov poll, conducted for Avaaz, found that 71% of Britons said the UK should vote in favour of the EU moratorium.

The proposed suspension has prompted fierce lobbying on both sides. The Guardian understands that at present the opposition of the UK, Germany and Spain outweighs the support of France, the Netherlands and Poland, although campaigners hope to change the minds of ministers in the final days before the vote. The chemical manufacturers claim that a suspension would reduce food production, while conservationists say these claims are unsubstantiated and even greater harm results from the loss of bees and the vital pollination service they provide.

About three-quarters of global food crops rely on bees and other insects to fertilise their flowers, with the result that the decline of honeybee colonies due to disease, habitat loss and pesticide harm has prompted serious concern. A series of high-profile scientific studies in the last year has increasingly linked neonicotinoids to harmful effects in bees, including huge losses in the number of queens produced, and big increases in "disappeared" bees – those that fail to return from food foraging trips.

As well as public campaigns, Paterson also faces political pressure, including from one of his Conservative predecessors. Lord Deben, who as John Gummer was environment secretary, said: "If ever there were an issue where the precautionary principle ought to guide our actions, it is in the use of neonicotinoids. Bees are too important to our crops to continue to take this risk."

Joan Walley, chair of the Commons environmental audit select committee, which is investigating the issue of pesticides and pollinators, said: "Ministers have repeatedly told us that the precautionary principle and evidence-based policymaking inform its position on pesticides. If their policy in this area is as transparent and open as they claim, I believe that they would back up those words by voting for the European moratorium."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: "We have carried out extensive research into the impact of neonicotinoids on bees and are waiting for the results of work including field studies. If it is concluded that restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids are necessary, they will be brought in."

Paterson said in February: "I have asked the EC to wait for the results of our field trials, rather than rushing to a decision." However, the results will not be available before Friday's vote because the field trials have been seriously compromised by contamination from neonicotinoids, which are very widely used. Prof Ian Boyd, Defra's chief scientist, told Walley's committee: "At the control site, there were residues of neonicotinoids in pollen and nectar."

Green MEPs across Europe have written to every nation's environment minister, including Paterson. "By spreading uncertainty via apparently 'science-based' arguments, the agro-chemical companies are acting as 'merchants of doubt' and are therefore blocking effective action by European policy makers," said the letter.

But Julian Little, a spokesman for Bayer, which manufactures one of the neonicotinioids, told the Guardian: "We believe that the proposals remain ill thought-out, disproportionate and ignore all the good work carried out in the member states, in terms of stewardship and risk migration, to ensure that farmers continue to have access to these products to help them produce safe, high quality, affordable food." He said the EC, at the very least, should carrying out a full impact assessment of any restrictions and said the "real issue" surrounding honeybee health was the main bee parasite, the varroa mite.

The EC proposal is to ban the use of three neonicotinoids from use on corn, oil seed rape, sunflowers and other flowering crops across the continent for two years. Tonio Borg, commissioner for health and consumer policy, said it was time for "swift and decisive action" and that the proposals were "ambitious but proportionate". The proposals came within weeks of scientists at the European Food Safety Authority, together with experts from across Europe, concluding that the use of these pesticides on flowering crops posed an unacceptable risk to bees.

The chemical companies that manufacture the neonicotinoids affected by the proposed EU suspension are Bayer, headquartered in Germany, and Syngenta, based in the UK. Syngenta declined to comment ahead of the vote.
So, let me get this straight. Studies have already been done which seem to implicate neonicotinoids in the decline of bee populations, but DEFRA wants to wait for the results of its own studies which have been compromised because of... erm... contamination by neonicotinoids!
:wtf:
 
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I have a vision of cowboys stampeding bees.

Bee rustlers add to misery of struggling hive owners
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-22660132

Elaine Spence said the bee rustlers must have expert knowledge of hives

Bees have been battling bad weather, loss of habitat and possible pesticide effects but now keepers are facing a new threat - bee-rustling.

Cardiff beekeeper Elaine Spence found one her hives stripped of its honey bee colony in March.

She said she knows of 10 other hives being stolen in the past year by people who need expert knowledge to do it.

BBC Wales' Eye on Wales programme has found a number of hive theft cases although no officials figures are kept.

Ms Spence estimates a colony of bees could sell for more than £200.

She tells the the current affairs programme of her devastation to discover the theft of one of her colonies.

She said: "I looked at my hive and there was no roof on it. I was lost for words.


Honeybees are vital for pollinating crops - a job that would be very costly without them
"I lifted what remained of the hive to have a look and it was just empty inside.

"All bee-keepers strive to ensure that their bees last through the winter: you care for them, they're a bit like part of your family, really.

"And to come and find that they have just been taken from you - it was really distressing."

Ms Spence, who keeps her hives on industrial land at a secret location in Cardiff, had already lost one of her three colonies to the poor weather.

'Poetic justice'
She says she knows of around 10 other hives being stolen this year alone and said she believes the perpetrators knew what they were doing.

"We have small carrying boxes for bees which will take about six frames - I can only presume that they came equipped with one of those boxes.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

The bees that were taken were a fairly angry lot”

Elaine Spence
Bee rustlers' victim
"They lifted the six frames out of the hive complete with the colony on it, put them in the box, shut the box up, Bob's your uncle, away they go, and probably as quickly as that.

"To steal a colony of bees, you need to know what you're doing. A person walking the street would not know how to come in and effectively remove a colony of bees.

"The bees that were taken were a fairly angry lot - they even managed to put me in accident and emergency last year through stinging me, so maybe there might be some poetic justice."

The programme also explores the two-year ban just imposed by the European Commission on a group of pesticides known as neonicitoinoids.


James Byrne of the Wildlife Trust says he fears the pesticides could be eroding bees' navigation system.

Invasive mite
But Pembrokeshire arable farmer Perkin Evans, who is also the National Farmers' Union representative for Wales' arable farmers, tells the programme he fears the ban could see crop yields reduced by up to 20% per cent.

Eye on Wales also follows regional bee inspector Francis Gellatly as he inspects for the invasive varroa mite and meets Newport bee-keeper Dave Crewe, who lost two of his finest colonies to the poor weather.

Eye on Wales is broadcast on BBC Radio Wales at 13:30 BST on Sunday and on the BBC iPlayer shortly afterwards.
 
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