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AHPA Goes to Washington DC
The Executive Board of the American Honey Producers Association took their annual trip to Washington DC May 16-19 to meet with government officials on behalf of the beekeeping industry. AHPA is widely recognized as the leader of our industry in our lobbying efforts for trade issues, research funding, ELAP, and honey bee health issues.
We met with White House staff, EPA officials, Customs and Border Patrol, USDA, NRCS, NASS, Farm Bureau, Agriculture and Appropriations Committee Chair people, and many Senate and Congress representatives, a total of 26 meetings in three days!
We accomplished a great deal and the meetings were very encouraging. We can see that over the years our hard work has been paying off and that our message in Washington DC is being heard. More people are aware of the issues now than ever before.
Our meetings with all parties on the honey circumvention and adulteration, as well as others, were well received and we know that we will get positive results from it.
We are very grateful for Mike Coursey and Eric Silva for their legal expertise and guidance in addressing these challenges our industry is facing.
We would also like to thank the AHPA board members, Darren Cox, Kelvin Adee, Steven Coy, Joe Sanroma, Randy Verhoek, Mark Jensen, Chris Hiatt, and Cassie Cox for their time and hard work in lobbying for the betterment of our industry.
Nation’s Beekeepers Lost 44 Percent of Bees in 2015-16
May 10, 2016
Summer losses rival winter losses for the second year running
Beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2015 to April 2016, according to the latest preliminary results of an annual nationwide survey. Rates of both winter loss and summer loss—and consequently, total annual losses—worsened compared with last year. This marks the second consecutive survey year that summer loss rates rivaled winter loss rates.
The survey, which asks both commercial and small-scale beekeepers to track the health and survival rates of their honey bee colonies, is conducted each year by the Bee Informed Partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Survey results for this year and all previous years are publicly available on the Bee Informed website.
“We’re now in the second year of high rates of summer loss, which is cause for serious concern,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. “Some winter losses are normal and expected. But the fact that beekeepers are losing bees in the summer, when bees should be at their healthiest, is quite alarming.”
Beekeepers who responded to the survey lost a total of 44.1 percent of their colonies over the course of the year. This marks an increase of 3.5 percent over the previous study year (2014-15), when loss rates were found to be 40.6 percent. Winter loss rates increased from 22.3 percent in the previous winter to 28.1 percent this past winter, while summer loss rates increased from 25.3 percent to 28.1 percent.
The researchers note that many factors are contributing to colony losses. A clear culprit is the varroa mite, a lethal parasite that can easily spread between colonies. Pesticides and malnutrition caused by changing land use patterns are also likely taking a toll, especially among commercial beekeepers.
A recent study, published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016, provided the first multi-year assessment of honey bee parasites and disease in both commercial and backyard beekeeping operations. Among other findings (summarized in a recent University of Maryland press release), that study found that the varroa mite is far more abundant than previous estimates indicate and is closely linked to several damaging viruses. Varroa is a particularly challenging problem among backyard beekeepers (defined as those who manage fewer than 50 colonies).
“Many backyard beekeepers don’t have any varroa control strategies in place. We think this results in colonies collapsing and spreading mites to neighboring colonies that are otherwise well-managed for mites,” said Nathalie Steinhauer, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Entomology who leads the data collection efforts for the annual survey. “We are seeing more evidence to suggest that good beekeepers who take the right steps to control mites are losing colonies in this way, through no fault of their own.”
This is the tenth year of the winter loss survey, and the sixth year to include summer and annual losses in addition to winter loss data. More than 5,700 beekeepers from 48 states responded to this year’s survey. All told, these beekeepers are responsible for about 15 percent of the nation’s estimated 2.66 million managed honey bee colonies.
The survey is part of a larger research effort to understand why honey bee colonies are in such poor health, and what can be done to manage the situation. Some crops, such as almonds, depend entirely on honey bees for pollination. Estimates of the total economic value of honey bee pollination services range between $10 billion and $15 billion annually.
“The high rate of loss over the entire year means that beekeepers are working overtime to constantly replace their losses,” said Jeffery Pettis, a senior entomologist at the USDA and a co-coordinator of the survey. “These losses cost the beekeeper time and money. More importantly, the industry needs these bees to meet the growing demand for pollination services. We urgently need solutions to slow the rate of both winter and summer colony losses.”
HSI Chicago seizes nearly 60 tons of honey illegally imported from China
CHICAGO — Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have seized nearly 60 tons of illegally imported Chinese honey valued at more than $200,000 destined for U.S. consumers.
The three shipping container loads (195 barrels) of bulk honey smuggled into the United States were falsely declared as originating from Vietnam to evade anti-dumping duties applicable to Chinese-origin honey.
HSI Chicago was notified in March of the suspect honey by a domestic honey packer located in the Midwest after laboratory reports provided to the honey packer appeared fraudulently altered. HSI sent honey samples to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) laboratory in Savannah, Georgia, for analysis. CBP determined that the honey had a greater than 99 percent probability match with Chinese-origin honey.
HSI seized the illicit honey April 28. The domestic honey packer who proactively notified HSI of the suspect honey and the private laboratory whose reports were fraudulently altered are fully cooperating, and are not targets in this investigation. The investigation continues to determine where in the supply chain the private laboratory reports were altered for the honey.
HSI has stepped up its efforts regarding commercial fraud investigations that focus on U.S. economic, and health and safety interests. These anti-dumping criminal schemes create a divergent market that negatively affects legitimate businesses.
With the recent enactment of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA), Congress recognized that industries and companies that circumvent U.S. law and regulation remain a risk to this nation’s economic security. Among its provisions, TFTEA requires ICE and CBP to collaborate to enhance trade enforcement, with specific emphasis on honey illegally imported into the United States in violation of U.S. customs and trade laws.
In December 2001, the U.S. Commerce Department imposed anti-dumping duties after determining that Chinese-origin honey was being sold in the United States at less than fair-market value. The duties first imposed were as high as 221 percent of the declared value. Later these duties were assessed against the entered net weight, currently at $2.63 per net kilogram, in addition to a "honey assessment fee" of 1.5¢ per pound on all honey.
In 2008, federal authorities in Chicago began investigating allegations of organizations circumventing anti-dumping duties through illegal imports, including transshipment and mislabeling, on the “supply side” of the honey industry. The second phase of the investigation involved the illegal buying, processing and trading of honey that illegally entered the U.S. on the “demand side” of the industry. In these multi-year investigations, HSI Chicago and the Department of Justice together convicted nine individuals (not including 10 remaining foreign fugitives) in a series of global schemes which evaded nearly $260 million in anti-dumping duties on honey from China and which also involved honey containing antibiotics prohibited in food.
No junk-food diet: Even in cities, bees find flowers and avoid processed sugars
Date: May 18, 2016
Source: North Carolina State University
Summary: Bees in urban areas stick to a flower-nectar diet, steering clear of processed sugars found in soda and other junk food, new research indicates.
New research from North Carolina State University finds that bees in urban areas stick to a flower-nectar diet, steering clear of processed sugars found in soda and other junk food.
"Urban habitats are growing, as is urban beekeeping, and we wanted to see if bee diets in cities are different from those in rural areas," says Clint Penick, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. "For example, we wanted to know if there are even enough flowers in urban areas to support bee populations, or if bees are turning to human sugar sources, like old soda."
To find out, the researchers collected worker honey bees (Apis mellifera) from 39 colonies across rural and urban areas within 30 miles of Raleigh, North Carolina. Twenty-four of the colonies were managed by beekeepers; the remaining 15 colonies were feral.
The researchers then analyzed the carbon isotopes in the bee samples to determine what proportion of their diet came from processed sugars -- like table sugar and corn syrup -- as opposed to flower nectar.
Animals, including bees, incorporate the carbon from food into their bodies. One type of carbon, carbon-13, is associated with grasses such as corn and sugar cane. Researchers can tell how much processed sugar bees consume by measuring each bee's carbon-13 levels. The researchers took a similar approach in a previous study that evaluated the diet of ants in New York City.
Because beekeepers often supplement their bees' diet with sugar water, researchers anticipated that domesticated bees would show that a significant proportion of their diet came from processed sugar -- especially in urban areas, where the bees would have easy access to soda cans, garbage and other sources of processed sugar. The researchers also predicted that feral bees in rural areas would show virtually no processed sugar in their diet, but that feral bees in urban areas would show evidence of consuming processed sugars.
To their surprise, the researchers found that there was no evidence that urban bees consumed more processed sugar than their rural counterparts. However, domesticated bees did show evidence of consuming significantly more processed sugar than feral bees in both urban and rural environments, which is likely due to beekeepers supplementing their bees' diet with sugar.
"Basically, bees are relying on flowers in cities and are not turning to human foods to supplement their diet," Penick says. "This is good news for urban beekeepers. The honey in their hives is mostly coming from flower nectar and not old soda, which is what we originally guessed."
However, it's not clear if this would hold true for the biggest cities.
"Our findings are based on research in a mid-sized city," Penick says. "Even the most urban areas of Raleigh have more than 50 percent open green space. By comparison, the average site in New York City has only 10 percent green space. So more work needs to be done to evaluate bee diets in our largest cities."
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Beekeepers sought to assist with research on how landscapes affect bee health
April 24, 2016
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State Center for Pollinator Research is recruiting beekeepers from Pennsylvania and surrounding states to assist in research on how landscape features affect the quality of apiaries.
The Landscapes for Bee Project will inform land managers, growers and beekeepers about how to find and create optimum resources for bees.
"It is very clear that, no matter how well you take care of your honey bees, they survive better in some locations than others," said Christina Grozinger, director of the Center for Pollinator Research. "However, doing research to understand how location affects bee health is incredibly challenging, since we need to be able to evaluate a very large number of sites to get reliable data. Thus, we are hoping to create a partnership with a large network of beekeepers from urban, agricultural and rural areas to address these questions comprehensively."
The location of an apiary, a collection of beehives, has long been known to play a role in colony productivity and survival. However, little research has been done to understand which aspects of "location" are important for bee health. Beekeepers will assist the center in evaluating how land use, forage quality and microclimate impact colony health to determine what makes for good and bad apiary sites.
Interested beekeepers can apply at http://ento.psu.edu/pollinators/beekeeper-registration.
This project is a collaboration between Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences’ Center for Pollinator Research and the College of Earth and Mineral Science’s Center for Environmental Informatics as well as Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster and the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association.
Honey Nut Cheerios Gives Back to Bees, Planting 3,300 Acres of Habitat
by Terry Turner - Apr 29, 2016
The company that’s been using an animated bee to sell its cereal for years is spending some of its profits on protecting actual bees in the field.
Honey Nut Cheerios has cut a deal with farmers in their supply chain to set aside 3,300 acres of land to become natural habitat for bees and other pollinators in the United States.
A statement from parent company General Mills says the land is “the equivalent acreage of about 3,000 football fields” and full of essential food sources and homes for North American bees.
The habitats, to be planted with wildflowers and milkweed, will be a patchwork across 60,000 acres that are used each year to grow the oats for Honey Nut Cheerios. General Mills is working with the Xerces Society and the University of Minnesota to have it all in place by 2020.
“We have a big goal to try and achieve — 3,300 acres that’s a lot of pollinator habitat that has to get planted in the next several years.” Tom Rabaey, Principal Agronomist for General Mills said. “I think everybody can agree that by planting more habitat we’re gonna do a lot of good.”
Bees are necessary pollinators for about 90% of the food produced around the world. A decline in the bee population, which is linked to loss of habitat, pesticides, disease, and other factors, has concerned farmers and environmentalists for years.
In a twist, oats are one of the crops that is not pollinated by bees, but 30% of General Mills’ other products do rely on them, and Honey Nut Cheerios has relied on the happy, busy bee mascot to promote its brand. The company decided it was time to give back.
First multi-year study of honey bee parasites and disease reveals troubling trends
Varroa mite infestations more severe than previously thought, with links to spread of viral diseases
Date: April 26, 2016
Source: University of Maryland
Summary: Researchers in the United States recently completed the first comprehensive, multi-year study of honey bee parasites and disease as part of the National Honey Bee Disease Survey. The findings reveal some alarming patterns, but provide at least a few pieces of good news as well.
Honey bee colonies in the United States are in decline, due in part to the ill effects of voracious mites, fungal gut parasites and a wide variety of debilitating viruses. Researchers from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently completed the first comprehensive, multi-year study of honey bee parasites and disease as part of the National Honey Bee Disease Survey. The findings reveal some alarming patterns, but provide at least a few pieces of good news as well.
The results, published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016, provide an important five-year baseline against which to track future trends. Key findings show that the varroa mite, a major honey bee pest, is far more abundant than previous estimates indicated and is closely linked to several damaging viruses. Also, the results show that the previously rare Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus has skyrocketed in prevalence since it was first detected by the survey in 2010.
The good news, however, is that three potentially damaging exotic species have not yet been introduced into the United States: the parasitic tropilaelaps mite, the Asian honey bee Apis cerana and slow bee paralysis virus.
"Poor honey bee health has gained a lot of attention from scientists and the media alike in recent years. However, our study is the first systematic survey to establish disease baselines, so that we can track changes in disease prevalence over time," said Kirsten Traynor, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at UMD and lead author on the study. "It highlights some troubling trends and indicates that parasites strongly influence viral prevalence."
The results, based on a survey of beekeepers and samples from bee colonies in 41 states and two territories (Puerto Rico and Guam), span five seasons from 2009 through 2014. The study looked at two major parasites that affect honey bees: the varroa mite and nosema, a fungal parasite that disrupts a bee's digestive system. The study found clear annual trends in the prevalence of both parasites, with varroa infestations peaking in late summer or early fall and nosema peaking in late winter.
The study also found notable differences in the prevalence of varroa and nosema between migratory and stationary beehives. Migratory beekeepers--those who truck their hives across the country every summer to pollinate a variety of crops--reported lower levels of varroa compared with stationary beekeepers, whose hives stay put year-round. However, the reverse was true for nosema, with a lower relative incidence of nosema infection reported by stationary beekeepers.
Additionally, more than 50 percent of all beekeeping operations sampled had high levels of varroa infestation at the beginning of winter--a crucial time when colonies are producing long-lived winter bees that must survive on stored pollen and honey.
"Our biggest surprise was the high level of varroa, especially in fall, and in well-managed colonies cared for by beekeepers who have taken steps to control the mites," said study co-author Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD. "We knew that varroa was a problem, but it seems to be an even bigger problem than we first thought. Moreover, varroa's ability to spread viruses presents a more dire situation than we suspected."
For years, evidence has pointed to varroa mites as a culprit in the spread of viruses, vanEngelsdorp noted. Until now, however, much of this evidence came from lab-based studies. The current study provides crucial field-based validation of the link between varroa and viruses.
"We know that varroa acts as a vector for viruses. The mites are basically dirty hypodermic needles," Traynor said. "The main diet for the mites is blood from the developing bee larva. When the bee emerges, the mites move on to the nearest larval cell, bringing viruses with them. Varroa can also spread viruses between colonies. When a bee feeds on a flower, mites can jump from one bee to another and infect a whole new colony."
Nosema, the fungal gut parasite, appears to have a more nuanced relationship with honey bee viruses. Nosema infection strongly correlates to the prevalence of Lake Sinai Virus 2, first identified in 2013, and also raises the risk for Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. However, the researchers found an inverse relationship between nosema and Deformed Wing Virus.
Some viruses do not appear to be associated with varroa or nosema at all. One example is Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus, which causes loss of motor control and can kill individual bees within days. This virus was first detected by the survey in the U.S. in 2010. At that time, less than 1 percent of all samples submitted for study tested positive for the virus. Since then, the virus' prevalence roughly doubled every year, reaching 16 percent in 2014.
"Prior to this national survey, we lacked the epidemiological baselines of disease prevalence in honey bees. Similar information has been available for years for the cattle, pork and chicken industries," Traynor said. "I think people who get into beekeeping need to know that it requires maintenance. You wouldn't get a dog and not take it to the vet, for example. People need to know what is going on with the livestock they're managing."
While parasites and disease are huge factors in declining honey bee health, there are other contributors as well. Pesticides, for example, have been implicated in the decline of bee colonies across the country.
"Our next step is to provide a similar baseline assessment for the effects of pesticides," vanEngelsdorp said. "We have multiple years of data and as soon as we've finished the analyses, we'll be ready to tell that part of the story as well."
This work was supported by the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of this organization.
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Maryland. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Journal Reference: Kirsten S. Traynor, Karen Rennich, Eva Forsgren, Robyn Rose, Jeffery Pettis, Grace Kunkel, Shayne Madella, Jay Evans, Dawn Lopez, Dennis vanEngelsdorp. Multiyear survey targeting disease incidence in US honey bees. Apidologie, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s13592-016-0431-0
Diet Secrets of the Honey Bee – Important for their Existence
April 22, 2016 Melanie Ward
Hebrew University researchers have discovered how honey bee prefers a balanced diet and supplemental nutritional deficiencies that threaten their existence.
SRAEL – It is known that, for humans, balanced diet and proper nutrition are essential to living a healthy lifestyle and prevention of disease. It turns out that balanced diet is also vital for honey bees.
The bee is attracted to plants and flowers to find food – nectar and pollen (pollen) feed. While bee uses food and collects the powder to bring it to the hive, pollen grains stick to the hairy body and carrying flower pollen. Flying food diversity is essential for the development of small and resilience sparse areas functioning food or drought-stricken areas.
Honey bee colonies growing in agricultural areas for the purposes of pollination of crops to cope with nutritional deficiencies, when foraging pollen rests on one source, such as an orchard one species. Poor nutrition may affect the immune system of bees, their health and their life expectancy.
In a new study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Professor Ronnie benign and Dr. Hermann Hndriksmh found out that honey bees choose natural plants and flowers with pollen containing the nutritional elements missing in the colonies.
“Our study reveals an uncanny ability of bees to locate and favor from sources of pollination accessible to them those that complement the nutritional deficiencies. Honeybee performs the selection poised freely and naturally, and this ability preserves the sustainability steadfast in situations of impaired nutrition,” said Professor Ronnie.
In their experiment, researchers placed eight bee colonies in closed compounds and supplied them with pollen substitutes having shortage of essential amino acids. Next, the researchers tested the free choice made by the bee between the pollen substitutes of various alternatives with identical nutritional balance that they can only find in the closed compound.
Video below shows the experimental phase where honey bees are choosing replacement powder after substitute fed with a shortage of amino acids.
“Honeybees preferred diet complements over other options. Not only do they tended to choose flowers more diverse in composition nutrition, are also preferred the plants specific completed the shortfall particular were diet intended for the colonies before. That reminds us of the bees that diet, as things many others, balance is the key word, “explained Dr. Hndriksmh. Honeybees are the main pollinators in agriculture – one third of the world’s fresh agricultural food is produced with its flight of honey bee from flower to flower, and is also responsible for about three-quarters of a variety of crops available.
Since the ecosystem is made possible by the bees and their pollination activities, the problem of the disappearance of bees in many organizations urged to work to preserve their food sources pastureland, orchards and green areas, planting trees and shrubs and increasing food sources for bees.
Even at the individual level, to expand and diversify the sources of bee food through the planting of flowers of all species everywhere.
Do Honey Bees Need Their Own Lobbyists?
Beekeepers hope that by getting involved in state politics they can help save these important pollinators.
By Taryn Phaneuf on April 14, 2016
Beekeepers in Maryland have had a devastating few years. Last year, they lost nearly 61 percent of their bees; the year before it was nearly 50 percent.
Pointing to a growing consensus in the scientific community about pesticides’ impacts on honey bees and other pollinators, beekeepers in the state have worked with environmental groups to effect local policy. Last week, the Maryland state legislature passed the Pollinator Protection Act, which would ban consumers from buying pesticides that contain “neonics” beginning in 2018.
While the bill won’t affect the agriculture industry directly, it was opposed by the state’s Farm Bureau and the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Farmers will still be able to use seeds treated with neonics and the language in the bill that would have required labeling of such seeds was removed. But the beekeepers—who made appearances at the state house in Annapolis wearing their beekeeping gear—are celebrating. And the governor is expected to sign the bill.
From pesticide use to permits, groups are taking their case to state lawmakers, because they’ve realized the best way to ensure pollinators get the attention they need is to sit at the table with the people making policy. And while a federal bill to address Colony Collapse Disorder called the Saving America’s Pollinators Act was introduced in 2015, it hasn’t made headway since.
In Washington state, where the fruit trees are blooming, beekeeper Tim Hiatt works late into the night, moving hives from orchard to orchard so that the bees wake up to fresh pollen and nectar and do their job.
Hiatt, 50, is a commercial beekeeper from the middle of the state who took over the business from his father. “It’s been more challenging every year, and that’s been part of the fun,” he says. Every year, Hiatt provides pollination services to more farmers, and has to work harder to keep his bees healthy. But he likes knowing he’s helping farmers who “depend on us for pollination.”
In Washington, where growers produced 6.3 billion pounds of apples last year, there’s plenty of work for honey bees and other pollinators. That’s reason enough to give attention to the issues impacting their health, Hiatt says. He estimates he loses 35 percent of his bees every year, which is about the national average, he says. On top of the environmental concerns that raises, Hiatt spends a lot of time explaining the consequences of the loss to growers.
But, he’s reached a point where he believes trying to sway individual farmers isn’t enough. Leading the legislative committee of the Washington State Beekeeper’s Association, Hiatt and others have set their sights on the statehouse in Olympia.
For one thing, despite the massive number of pollinators needed in the state, there isn’t enough forage to go around. WASBA lobbied for, and the legislature passed, a new pilot program that will change the way the state’s Noxious Weed Control Board handles invasive species. While they may be noxious, many of the plants the board uproots provide good forage for pollinators and getting rid of them takes away from honey bees. Under the program, the state will promote replacing the weeds with more bee-friendly plants instead.
“It’s kind of a last resort—having to go to the state to ask for things to change,” Hiatt says. “Beekeepers prefer to be left alone to tend their bees. However … we’ve seen the legislature can do some things to help bees and beekeepers. So we plan to stay engaged.”
Beekeepers Getting Organized in Other States
Ongoing conversations about the effects of pesticides speak to the universal concern beekeepers share for how pollinators are impacted by chemical use in agriculture.
With beekeepers losing 40 to 50 percent of their bees each year, pesticides are a “huge, huge issue,” says Chris Moore of Moore’s Honey Farm near Houston who is also the president of the Texas Beekeeper’s Association.
If signed, Maryland’s pesticide law would be the first state to ban consumer use of the type of pesticide that’s believed to harm bees. And a California bill introduced in March would make certain neonicotinoids available only to trained professionals and require seeds and plants sold in nurseries to carry labels if treated.
But on a state-by-state basis, apiarists are also tackling issues that go beyond pesticides.
In Texas, they’re working on changes to permitting and protocols for disease outbreaks in addition to pushing for state-wide standards to combat what they say is food fraud.
Moore says state license and permitting is complicated and requires him to get a new permit each time he ships his bees in and out of the state. A policy change could cut down the paperwork to one permit each year instead of nearly 10. And updates to old laws would give state inspectors the power to quarantine hives if ever a disease breaks out.
He’s particularly enthusiastic about an effort to regulate claims on labels. Honey producers can’t take advantage of the higher prices that fit the demand for their product because they’re competing with low prices set by producers who he believes are misrepresenting themselves.
“When you sell honey as local but it comes from Mexico, that’s just fraud, ” says Moore
In Pennsylvania, beekeepers make up an advisory board to the Department of Agriculture—a group that was resurrected about four years ago. Best management practices outlined by the committee have been used in zoning decisions in cities and towns across the state. In two meetings a year, beekeepers get a chance to discuss issues and stay informed of business from around state government.
“And it keeps us on their radar. They know we’re paying attention,” says Charlie Vorisek, president of that state’s beekeepers association.
Key to making the case for pollinators in Washington is connecting the dots to the impacts on agriculture, advocates say.
Tim Johnson, a professional business lobbyist, started working with WASBA after one of his clients, a beekeeper, asked him to look at a couple of proposed bills. He soon realized WASBA really needed his help. He now lobbies for them officially.
“This system really isn’t kind to people who aren’t there in person,” Johnson says. Additionally, the first attempt to pass the bee forage preservation bill was blocked by lawmakers who thought it was anti-agriculture.
Hiatt, who primarily talks to legislators over email, acknowledges that the bill probably failed because apiarists didn’t do enough to make their case to the agriculture lobby.
While they had the support of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, they were opposed by dozens of Republicans who thought there was some sort of “evil next step” to the bill, Johnson says. With his help, they made some tweaks and reintroduced the bill, which cleared both houses in March and will take effect in June.
Johnson says he guided WASBA down a more “politically viable” path.
“The agriculture community is very powerful. When they see a prospective legislation … they can take a defensive posture,” Johnson says. “I didn’t see us having much of a chance of running headlong into the legislature with demands and mandates.”
With conventional agriculture on their side, beekeepers can focus more on confronting ignorance. As Johnson lobbied for the Washington to renew funding for more research to help uncover what’s hurting bees and how to address it, he kept finding legislators who didn’t have a clue how much the state relies on pollinators. When Johnson starts to talk to them about honey bees, he says they often look relieved at first, as if they believe it will be a lighter conversation than they often have. But once he makes the stakes clear, they usually realize their error.
“I can’t imagine a farmer losing 30 percent of his crop mysteriously and it not being a crisis,” Johnson says. “Bees tend to get trivialized … I’m trying to impress upon them that this is very serious.”
Ortho to stop using chemicals considered to be harmful to bees
Roger Yu, USA TODAY 7:53 p.m. EDT April 12, 2016
Ortho, the insect control product maker, said Tuesday it would begin “to transition away” from using chemicals that are harmful to honeybees and other pollinators, responding to growing pressure from environmental advocates.
The Marysville, Ohio-based company, which is a subsidiary of ScottsMiracle-Gro, will discontinue neonicotinoid-based pesticides for outdoor use. The move follows Lowe's and Home Depot's announcements last year that they will stop selling neonicotinoid-based products in their garden care sections.
Ortho also plans to work with the Pollinator Stewardship Council, an advocacy group that supports beekeepers, to start a customer education program and lobby for the use of label language that clarifies the purchase of non-neonic pesticides.
"This decision comes after careful consideration regarding the range of possible threats to honeybees and other pollinators,” said Tim Martin, general manager of the Ortho brand. “While agencies in the United States are still evaluating the overall impact of neonics on pollinator populations, it’s time for Ortho to move on.”
"We encourage other companies and brands in the consumer pest control category to follow our lead,” he said.
Ortho has previously worked with the Pollinator Stewardship Council to support pollinator habitat, and its new multiyear program will use online channels and social media to "develop homeowner education related to the responsible use of pesticides where pollinators can be found," Ortho said
“Bees and butterflies are essential to our ecosystem and are increasingly facing a struggle to survive," Michele Colopy, program director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, said in a statement. "We join Ortho in asking other consumer pest-control brands to also transition away from the use of neonics.”
In January, ScottsMiracle-Gro announced a program that will result in the creation of 75 pollinator gardens in the U.S. this year.
San Francisco hotels become unlikely home to millions of bees
SAN FRANCISCO -- Stung hard by disease, sometimes deadly pesticides and colony collapse disorder, the country's bee population is only half of what it was 70 years ago. The epidemic reached its peak in recent years, and hotel chains around the world took note, creating an unlikely home for nature's pollinators.
The roofs of at least seven of the city's luxury hotels are home to millions of bees, reports CBS News' Danielle Nottingham.
Spencer Marshall is beekeeper at the Fairmont San Francisco, the first hotel in the city to install a bee sanctuary.
"When they came to you with this idea to put these hives on the rooftop, what did you think?" Nottingham asked him.
"Good PR, that was all. Might get a little honey, and then, 'Whoa! What's going on here?!'" Marshall said.
He said the hives on top of the Fairmont produce 1,000 pounds of honey every year.
"When they're really cooking, there can be over a couple hundred thousand bees," Marshall described.
It's a welcome change for Marshall, who's seen the now widely publicized decline of bees, first hand.
"When I started almost 50 years ago, if I lost two or three percent of my bees a year, that was like, 'What's going on?' Now you lose 50, 60 percent. And it's not sustainable," Marshall said.
When the Fairmont asked Marshall to install rooftop hives in 2010, its goal was to help rebuild the bee population. More than $15 billion a year in U.S. crops are pollinated by bees.
"Obviously the issues with the bees is a huge problem. This is definitely supporting the cause and we really feel like Fairmont is doing its part, and innovating," Fairmont marketing director Melissa Farrar said.
In 2008, the chain kicked off the trend in Toronto, developing the first onsite, hotel honeybee program in the world. Since then, at least 22 Fairmont properties have followed suit, installing hives for honey bees and bee hotels for pollinators to rest their wings.
In San Francisco, the Fairmont isn't the only hotel rooftop hosting hives.
Michael Pace is the general manager at the Clift where 10 hives, set up to mimic the skyline behind them, were installed last year.
"We're on the roof in the middle of San Francisco. It's windy; it's foggy. How do honey bees thrive up here?" Nottingham asked him.
"Actually they're doing really well. One thing bees thrive on is warmth, to get them warmed up in the mornings. So we chose this location with our beekeeper. He specifically wanted to be fully exposed the sun and the setting sun on the west," Pace said.
As the chair of the city's hotel sustainability committee, Pace wants to get every hotel in the city buzzing.
"If you have 800,000 bees on one hotel, we'll have 10 hotels by the end of this year, that's 8 million -- you've got the multiplier effect. I think we could have a very big impact," Pace said.
And where there are bees, there's honey.
Hotels are packaging their product. Chefs have found different ways to bring the honey from roof to table. Bartenders are making specialty cocktails, infused with the syrupy sweetener.
"Now to see it actually coming to life in a cocktail for me, it's just awesome," Pace said.
At the Fairmont, beekeeper Marshall welcomes the skyline hives. He thinks it's "absolutely" a good model to carry out throughout the world.
"Just exposing people to bees ... and the more places they can exist, the more chances are we can evolve," Marshall said.
And Marshall hopes this new urban habitat is just the "bee-gining."
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Rising CO2 levels reduce protein in crucial pollen source for bees
April 13, 2016
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have reduced protein in goldenrod pollen, a key late-season food source for North American bees, a Purdue University study shows.
Researchers found that the overall protein concentration of goldenrod pollen fell about one-third from the onset of the Industrial Revolution to the beginning of the 21st century.
Previous studies have shown that increases in carbon dioxide can lower the nutritional value of plants such as wheat and rice - staple crops for much of the global human population - but this study is the first to examine the effects of rising CO2 on the diet of bees.
"Bee food is less nutritious than it used to be," said Jeffrey Dukes, study co-author and professor of forestry and natural resources and biological sciences. "Our findings also suggest that the quality of pollen will continue to decline into the future. That's not great news for bees."
Native bee species and honeybees rely on flowering plants for energy and nutrition. While nectar is the primary energy source for bee colonies, pollen is the sole source of protein for bees. Pollen is essential for the development of bee larvae and helps maintain bees' immunity to pathogens and parasites.
Goldenrod, a common North American perennial that blooms from late July through October, offers bees some of the last available pollen before winter. Bees that overwinter must store substantial amounts of pollen to rear their winter young. Declines in pollen protein could potentially threaten bee health and survival and weaken bees' ability to overwinter on a continental scale, said Jeffery Pettis, study co-author and research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.
"A poor diet sets bees up for failure," he said. "Previous research shows bees have shorter lifespans when fed lower quality pollen."
The researchers noted, however, that this study only assessed pollen protein levels and did not look at the impact of protein reductions on bee health and populations.
"Our work suggests there is a strong possibility that decreases in pollen protein could contribute to declines in bee health, but we haven't yet made that final link," said Dukes, who is also director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center housed in Discovery Park.
Dukes collaborated with a team led by USDA-ARS researchers to examine protein levels in historical and experimental samples of goldenrod pollen. They found that pollen protein levels dropped about a third in samples collected from 1842-2014, a period during which the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere rose from about 280 parts per million to 398 ppm. The greatest drop in protein occurred during 1960-2014, a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose dramatically.
A 2-year controlled field experiment that exposed goldenrod to a gradient of carbon dioxide levels from 280 to 500 ppm showed strikingly similar decreases in pollen protein, Dukes said.
"These data provide an urgent and compelling case for establishing CO2 sensitivity of pollen protein for other floral species," the researchers concluded in their study.
Bees provide a valuable service to U.S. agriculture through pollination, contributing more than $15 billion in added crop value each year.
But a number of new and mounting pressures are crippling colonies and endangering bee populations. These threats include emerging diseases and parasites such as deformed wing virus, Varroa mites and Nosema fungi; a lack of diversity and availability of pollen and nectar sources; and exposure to a wide variety of pesticides. From 2006 to 2011, annual losses of managed honeybee colonies averaged about 33 percent per year, according to the USDA-ARS.
"Bees already face a lot of factors that are making their lives hard," Dukes said. "A decline in the nutritional quality of their food source going into a critical season is another reason to be concerned."
Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide - a building block for plant sugars -have allowed many plants to grow faster and bigger. But this growth spurt can dilute plants' total protein, rather than concentrating it in the grain, resulting in a less nutritious food source.
Slowing the degrading effects of rising carbon dioxide levels on plant nutrition hinges on reducing carbon emission rates from deforestation and burning fossil fuels, Dukes said.
"The impact of carbon emissions on the nutritional value of our food supply is something people need to be aware of. This issue isn't just relevant to honeybees and people - it will probably affect thousands or even millions of other plant-eating species around the world. We don't yet know how they'll deal with it."
The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Wednesday (April 13) and is available to journal subscribers and on-campus readers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.0414.
Researchers from Williams College, the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Maryland also co-authored the study.
The work was funded by the USDA-ARS.
Writer: Natalie van Hoose, 765-496-2050, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Jeffrey Dukes, 765-494-1446, email@example.com
Jeffery Pettis, 301-504-7299, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawmakers Call For Probe Of ChemChina, Syngenta Deal
Posted By: Christina Herrick |
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, has led a bipartisan letter co-signed by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Joni Ernst (R-IA) — members of the Senate Agriculture Committee — calling on the U.S. Department of the Treasury to review China National Chemical Corporation’s (ChemChina) proposed acquisition of Syngenta for any potential effects on U.S. national security and the American food system.
“While this Committee has not reached any conclusions regarding the proposed purchase of Syngenta by ChemChina, we believe that any foreign acquisition of an important U.S. agricultural asset should be reviewed closely for potential risks to our food system,” the Senators said. “It is not unreasonable to suggest that shifts in company governance; operational strategy; or financial health — particularly in light of the magnitude of this leveraged transaction — could have consequences for food security, food safety, biosecurity, and the highly competitive U.S. farm sector as a whole.”
The Senators also urged Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to include both the USDA and the FDA on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) when reviewing foreign acquisitions of major U.S. agricultural assets.
April 1, 2016
Data Needed: Report Your Bee Kill
Almond pollination has concluded, but effects of pesticide exposure upon honey bees is beginning to appear. If your honey bees pollinated almonds this season, and brood is emerging and dying, if your hives are showing losses or effects that are not normal at this time of year please report your issues. You can file a report with EPA, your state apiarist, the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation, or the Pollinator Stewardship Council. The information of how your hives faired during and at the end of almonds is important data for the health of all bee colonies, and the over-all health of the almond orchards as well. Please help us collect the data on your hives.
Print a Copy of the Quick Guide To Reporting a Bee Kill
Report a Bee Kill to Pollinator Stewardship Council
Report a Bee Kill to EPA email@example.com
Report a Bee Kill to the National Pesticide Information Center
Report a Bee Kill to CDPR-- Karen Francone (Karen.Francone@cdpr.ca.gov ) or Karen Rennich at Bee Informed Partnership (KarenRennich@beeinformed.org )
Starvation Of Baby Bees Helps Them Become Stronger Adults
By Deepthi B, Tech Times | April 2
Honeybee populations across the world are declining at a rapid rate largely because of colony collapse disorder (CCD), a condition that causes entire colonies of bees to perish. The syndrome has been attributed to the lack of proper nourishment the bees receive, among other stressors such as pesticides and parasites.
However, a recent study carried out by the Arizona State University is implying that if baby bees or the larvae are starved briefly, these little ones grow up to be more resilient. They adapt more strongly to the environment even if there is a lack of adequate nutrition.
"Surprisingly, we found that short-term starvation in the larval stage makes adult honeybees more adaptive to adult starvation. This suggests that they have an anticipatory mechanism like solitary organisms do," said Ying Wang, an assistant research professor at the Arizona State University.
In a related study, the researchers also discovered that the bees that were starved as larvae have the ability to lower their metabolic rate, maintain blood sugar levels and sustain other bodily functions. By doing so, the bees' potential for survival is exponentially increased, even when faced with a dire sequence of nutritional deficiency.
The two studies, which were published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, could help in throwing more light on the CCD phenomena, as well as in understanding the bees' health and sustenance.
The global human population is rising at an alarming rate, and ensuring that food supply reaches far and wide is of prime significance. Honeybees play a pivotal role in balancing the ecosystem and ensuring food security. They help pollinate the crops and invariably have a vital influence on the global food supply.
Honeybee colonies are managed across the world for the purpose of continued pollination. In the 1940s, the number of colonies that existed was a whopping 5 million, and this figure has drastically plummeted to an estimated 2.5 million today. With CCD being one of the prime causes for this decline, the new research might hold some hope in resolving this issue.