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North American Pollinator Protection Campaign Report
I wanted to report on the NAPPC meetings I attended in October at the Department of the Interior in Washington D.C. This was the 15th annual meeting and was hosted by the non-profit group, Pollinator Partnership. They raise money for bee research, conservation and education on honeybees, native bees and butterflies. They recently played a big part in getting legislation through Congress which mandated that all federal right-of-ways be mowed less and more pollinator-friendly plants planted. Presenting at the meeting were directors of USDA, Fish and Game, National Park Service and Department of the Interior who all gave reports on what their departments were doing to help habitat for pollinators in accordance with the White House's Pollinator Memorandum that came out this year. The folllowing are reports from the research they funded (all on honeybees). Rodney Richardson from Ohio State did some fumagillin research showing not much benefit from using it. Saundra Wheeler from Penn St. did trials on caffeine showing increased survivorship by bees. Speculating they might self-medicate by visiting some plants that have more caffeine naturally in the nectar. Her research showed that higher doses decreased lifespan. This might end up as a recommended dose added to syrup to give bees a kick. Dr. Adam Doleza from Iowa State studied how bees with higher virus loads autogroomed more and thus spread viruses more. He was looking at drifting also spreading viruses. The second day we were divided into "task forces." I participated in the "Forage and Nutrition" group which mostly focused on how federal roadside habitat, which covers 17 million acres around the country, has the potential to benefit pollinators. Many who attended the class were involved in designing roadway plans, installing habitat, and preserving open space on the state and local levels and had questions about beekeepers, pollination, CCD, which I answered. I believe it was a good opportunity to educate these influential people in the pollinator world about the needs of commercial beekeepers. Overall, I was impressed with the amount of people concerned about bees and who are doing something about it. It was clear to me the importance of having the interests of beekeepers represented at these meetings so we get results that we are satisfied with.
In November I attended a pollinator workshop meeting at Penn State. They recently received a $300K federal grant to study what seed mixes should be recommended for gardens, buffer zones, etc. to help pollinators. They invited a small diverse group to advise them. Andy Ernst from Ernst Seed, advised in seed mixes, regional limitations and seed price constraints. Ernst is one of the largest conservation seed companies in the country. Neal Williams from UC Davis is studying how many native bees besides honeybees forage on different mixes. He had an interesting algorithm on how many natives you get to visit flowers vs. price of seed and how to maximize it. Vicki Wojcik from Pollinator Partnership reported results from their studies which prove that habitats are improved by having commercial hives in the area. Also endangered flowering plants, such as one in California, the santa susana tar plant, yielded 20% improved seed set by having hives in the area. This study gives more weight to the argument that commercial beeyards are, indeed, improving habitat. Along the same line, Laura Russo of Penn St. said her research shows that honeybees are not outcompeting native bees.
One of the best parts of the meeting was spending a half hour each with Dr. Maryann Frazier and Dr. Chris Mullen. They have been on the front lines in neonic research. On his computer, Chris shared with me some studies of the effect of adjuvants and surfactants on bees used in tank mixes, especially during almond bloom. Some of the ones used in almonds have organosillicone sufacatants that can cause bee loss. A scary study he did was, after exposing some hives to some insect growth regulators, they found eggs in the hives for 44 days! Meaning they would never develop into bees. A beekeeper wouldn't notice it, if he checked them every month like we do, except seeing no increase in bees in the hive.
It is an exciting time for bee researchers. They are on the cutting edge of new discoveries in bee mortality. We have helped them get more research money than they have ever had before, and we have the attention and backing of many other industries and groups in helping curb honeybee decline.
Executive Board Member
American Honey Producers Association
EPA bans sale of pesticide that's toxic to honey bees
By Geoffrey Mohan
It's the end of the line for sulfoxaflor, a pesticide used on a wide array of produce, but that has been found to be toxic to honey bees that are crucial to pollination of crops.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday officially prohibited further sales and distribution of the chemical, produced by Dow AgroSciences. Growers who have a stock of the pesticide can still apply it, according to the EPA cancellation order.
The action came in response to a September decision in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned EPA's previous approval of the chemical for use on crops such as citrus, cotton, canola, strawberries, soybeans and wheat.
Sold under the brand names Closer and Transform, sulfoxaflor is an insecticide aimed at piercing and sucking insects such as aphids and lygus.
California regulators had limited the insecticide’s application to lettuce, which does not attract bees, but moved to block further use after the court decision.
Dow AgroSciences said concerns about harm to bees could easily have been addressed by EPA without rescinding permission to use the chemical.
Cancellation Order Issued for Sulfoxaflor
For Release: November 13, 2015
On November 12, 2015, EPA issued a cancellation order for all previously registered Sulfoxaflor products. This cancellation order is in response to the September 10, 2015, order of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals finding that EPA improperly approved the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act registrations of the pesticide sulfoxaflor; the court’s order became effective on November 12.
Pursuant to EPA’s cancellation order, and beginning November 12, 2015, distribution or sale by the registrant of cancelled sulfoxaflor products is prohibited, unless such distribution or sale is for the purpose of disposal or export. Also, stocks of cancelled products held by persons other than the registrant may not be commercially distributed in the United States, but instead may be distributed only to facilitate return to the manufacturer or for proper disposal or lawful export. Use of existing stocks by end users is permitted provided such use is consistent in all respects with the previously-approved labeling for the product.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act tolerances, also known as maximum pesticide residue levels for sulfoxaflor are not affected by either the court's decision or EPA’s cancellation order, so crops that have been properly treated with sulfoxaflor or that may be treated with existing stocks as described in the final cancellation order can still be sold legally.
View a copy of the cancellation order.
For Immediate Release: Nov 05, 2015
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
USDA AXES WEBINARS ON NEONIC INSECTICIDE RISKS
Topic Deemed “Not Appropriate” for Official and Outreach Education Programs
Posted on Nov 05, 2015 | Tags: Scientific Integrity, USDA
Washington, DC —Web-based training sessions about powerful new insecticides seeping into some of the continent’s most sensitive wetlands were cancelled by a senior U.S. Department of Agriculture official due to its subject matter, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER is characterizing the cancellation as another example of USDA interfering with the release of new science-based information about adverse effects flowing from neonicotinoid (“neonics”) pesticides. As a result, growing ecological risks posed by the most widely used insecticides in North America will likely not be considered in developing USDA policies, planning or management practices.
On June 2, 2014, a nationally advertised webinar entitled “Pesticides and Potholes: Understanding the Risks of Neonicotinoid Insecticides to Aquatic Ecosystems in Prairie Canada and Beyond” was nixed on orders from Wayne Honeycutt, Deputy Chief for Science and Technology for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). A companion webinar on the efficacy of neonicotinoid seed treatments and practices to minimize adverse impacts on pollinators and other non-target organisms was also scrubbed. The cancelled webinars were part of a series addressing priority training needs identified by NRCS and partner biologists. Without elaborating, Honeycutt declared in an email that “these topics were not appropriate for an NRCS sponsored webinar.”
Extending across the upper Midwest into southern Canada, the prairie potholes are one of the world’s most important wetland regions, home to more than half of North American migratory waterfowl. NRCS devotes considerable resources to wetland restoration in the region. Yet, drainage from surrounding cropland carries increasing amounts of ultra-potent neonics that threaten the health of the region’s aquatic systems.
“Neonics are apparently a taboo topic for USDA scientists to discuss,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to widespread complaints by USDA scientists of reprisal for research at odds with the agribusiness agenda. “This episode suggests political science essentially trumps biology, agronomy and every other discipline inside today’s USDA.”
By contrast with Honeycutt’s curt dismissal, NRCS conservation staff have been expressing the need for such training in internal emails:
“…our field offices have a very poor understanding of some of these environmental impacts, and [I] agree that it has been a hole in our training.” While another said “It is not surprising that these compounds are turning up in prairie wetlands at concerning concentrations.”
“The use of neonicotinoid insecticides has grown rapidly in recent years. These compounds are very toxic (one gram can kill 80,000 bees); the question is how mobile and long-lived they are. The answer to that question has implications for wetland food chains.”
“I question whether NRCS is taking the right approach…the crop will drain into the wetland portion of the easement and the DC [District Conservationist] wasn’t able to envision the cascading ecological effects that may result.”
Honeycutt, an administrator with no expertise in wetlands, fish-wildlife, or pesticide management, did not feel the need to consult with his own or outside experts before forbidding training on the subject. Subsequently, Honeycutt set up a committee to vet all future training requests.
As one staff member remarked in an email “it appears that NRCS has glossed over this subject for some reason,” adding that “The wetlands guide or fact sheets do not mention pesticides.”
Supporting Your Work: An Update on Pollinator Partnership’s Collaborative Efforts in Support of the Beekeeping Industry
By Laurie Davies Adams
Executive Director, Pollinator Partnership
The Pollinator Partnership’s Collaborative Approach to Supporting Beekeepers:
The mission of the Pollinator Partnership (P2) is to reduce harm to, and increase the sustainability and health of ALL pollinators. Its mission includes the wellbeing of beekeepers and their honey bees. The American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) and the American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) are in the lead as effective voices for the beekeeping industry. P2 is pleased to be supporting and working in collaboration with beekeeping leadership on a range of activities. At the direction of beekeeping industry leadership, P2 work’s with the beekeeping industry’s legal counsel and consultants in Washington, DC, on policy-related issues and initiatives where objectives overlap.
P2 resources are focused on a value-added approach that involves constructive engagement of all stakeholders who manage and influence landscapes in ways that can impact the health and wellbeing of all pollinators, including beekeepers and their honey bees. Pollinator Partnership engages in and encourages collaborative actions, policies and initiatives that make things better, while advocating more fundamental changes over the longer term (like a reduction in the use of all chemicals and elimination of their impact on pollinators) - changes that are typically more difficult to achieve.
P2 tries to open doors for the beekeeping industry when opportunities arise. For example, P2, both directly and through group letter efforts to USDA, has consistently stated that USDA must engage and involve beekeepers, benefit from their unparalleled experience and expertise when it comes to management of honey bees and their health, and consult beekeepers regarding issues related to honey bee health, and in particular about forage. We have also worked to give a voice to other stakeholders in urging that beekeepers be at the USDA table through group letters and other efforts. We have always supported beekeeping industry efforts in this area.
P2 also served as a key resource to the White House in the months leading up the President signing the Presidential Memorandum on the Health of Honey Bees and other Pollinators during 2014 Pollinator Week. We strongly urged the White House to meet directly with beekeeping industry representatives in advance of the first White House stakeholder conference on pollinator health, and that meeting did occur.
P2 has also worked to build bridges with the Honey Bee Health Coalition. For example, HBHC and NAPPC co-hosted a reception in Washington, DC on October 22. Beekeeping leader and ABF VP Gene Brandi was on hand to help congratulate fellow Californian, Rep Jeff Denham (R-CA), the co-chair of the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus, who received a special Pollinator Advocate Award from P2.
NAPPC and Benefits for Beekeepers:
A huge thanks goes to representatives of AHPA and ABF who have engaged for a number of years in the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), a tri-national collaboration across all of North America in support of all pollinating species. Beekeeping industry representatives contributed their valuable time and participated in the 2015 NAPPC conference and task force activities. Thank You! Your real world experience and expertise helped shape and advance a number of volunteer-based task force projects and collaborations that we believe will make things better for beekeepers and their honey bees, as well as for other pollinators.
The NAPPC Honey Bee Health Task Force (HBHTF). Beekeeping industry representatives have participated in the NAPPC Honey Bee Health Task Force in selecting research projects for funding. P2 has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars from a number of sources, from companies to school children, in support of the HBHTF to fund university research on honey bee health. http://www.pollinator.org/honeybee_health.htm
One of the research projects funded at Purdue revealed serious exposure problems associated with fugitive dust when planting from treated seed corn. That finding led to the creation by P2 of the Corn Dust Research Consortium, in which all key stakeholders, including the beekeeping industry, funded and oversaw research focused on the outcome of recommended best practices to reduce exposure to honey bees during planting. This initiative, now in its third year, has yielded recommended changes and best practices to reduce exposure to honey bees during corn planting. And it has explored the exact foraging conditions and contamination levels during this critical period. The final data is due by the end of December with recommendations due by the end of January. For more information, go to http://www.pollinator.org/CDRC.htm.
The NAPPC Forage, Nutrition and Roadsides Task Force self-selected a number of projects that we believe will make things better for beekeepers and their honey bees. One task selected by the group was to support an American Bee Project initiative by assisting in a survey of beekeepers to get better guidance on the ‘carrying capacity’ of landscapes for hives. We understand their objective is to get tax breaks for landowners who welcome beekeepers and their bees, similar to other agricultural activities. Reportedly, there have been a number of successes, with strong support from local beekeepers. Key obstacles to getting tax breaks in local jurisdictions have included reluctance to recognize beekeeping as agriculture, and a lack of guidance on how many hives would constitute an agricultural activity. We owe a special thanks to Chris Hiatt, a beekeeper and representative of AHPA, who is actively involved in this Task Force. Chris took on several tasks, including a commitment to helping make sure that the survey gets to commercial beekeepers. As of this writing, over 550 surveys have been completed, with more coming in. For more information on the American Bee Project, go to http://www.americanbeeproject.com.
Other products produced by P2 and/or NAPPC task forces that are beneficial to honey bees include:
- The Bee MD, a diagnostic tool to help beekeepers identify honey bee health issues. http://pollinator.org/thebeemd.htm
- Bee-Beneficial Brochures developed by NAPPC Task Forces with beekeepers involved, such as: Honey Bees, No Fear of Stings, and Mitigating Impacts of Pesticides when used by Homeowners and Pesticide Applicators.
- Testing of Conservation Program Reserve (CRP) seed mixes and landscapes in terms of their attractiveness and nutritional value for honey bees.
- Bee Friendly Farming initiative http://pollinator.org/bff.htm,
- S.H.A.R.E. http://www.pollinator.org/SHARE.htm and other efforts to plant for bees and make beekeepers welcome.
- Supporting a Buy Local Honey campaign.
- Lead participant in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge http://millionpollinatorgardens.org, encouraging planting for bees and other pollinators.
Advocacy for Bees—“Pollinating” Major Statutes:
P2’s 5-year advocacy effort to “pollinate” the nation’s major transportation legislation through the Highways BEE Act is nearing the finish line as this article is being written! The objective has been to add statutory language that encourages State highway departments to use Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM), including reduced mowing, to improve forage for pollinators when managing roadside rights-of-way. Thanks to AHPA and ABF, as well as state and local beekeeping clubs and individual beekeepers across the nation, who have strongly supported this effort.
For the first time ever, major transportation legislation will include bee-beneficial language. Identical language encouraging pollinator forage along roadsides was included in both the Senate- and House-passed transportation bills, and conferees are working on a final bill to send to the President. With the voices of AHPA, ABF and other groups, a harmful amendment that would have prohibited any use of federal funds for vegetation management was defeated by a bipartisan vote. If adopted, the amendment would have canceled out the provision in the legislation that for the first time specifically makes habitat for pollinators eligible for funding assistance. Again, thank you!
One section of the bill we would like to take this opportunity to clarify includes references to including native plants and forbs, but does not exclude non-native, non-invasive plants that are cost-effective and proven to provide good forage for bees. P2 has consistently advocated that where honey bee forage is important, such non-native but non-invasive plants need to be part of the mix.
The Highways BEE Act (H.R. 2738) does not attempt to address all problems or issues related to pollinator health. We do believe the new language represents an important step forward, and lays the groundwork for engaging and working with State Departments of Transportation on habitat for pollinators, including honey bees. These DOT’s represent the ultimate target audience, as they are the ones who are responsible for managing roadside rights-of-way. It will be challenging to get State Departments of Transportation to change the way they manage vegetation. And not every stretch of highway offers a viable opportunity to serve as habitat, but this legislation will encourage the use of those roadways that work well for forage, and provide multiple benefits. Beekeepers need to be an effective and valuable voice in making the case to State Departments of Transportation. Go to http://www.pollinator.org/BEEAct.htm for more information and a list of supporting organizations and individuals.
It is interesting that P2-led efforts to “pollinate” the 2008 farm bill with research and conservation provisions for managed and native pollinators for the first time ever also took 5 years. The leadership of the beekeeping industry were critical leaders in that successful effort. P2 was pleased to support the beekeeping industry-led efforts to strengthen the conservation provision for honey bees in the 2014 farm bill. P2 supports continuing efforts by the beekeeping industry to realize the intent and potential of farm bill conservation and research language for honey bees. We have also voiced support each year for congressional appropriators for honey bee research.
Honey Bee Forage:
P2’s priority is on getting plant mixes that are good for honey bees on the landscape. For example, in P2’s U.S. Bee Buffer Project [NC, CA and OH] we not only provide free seed mixes to farmers, we also conduct follow up research to determine what works, testing 5 different mixes in CA alone. More information will be forthcoming as this project continues and gains momentum in other states.
P2 initiated and facilitated a collaborative effort with the beekeeping industry urging USDA Secretary Vilsack to convene a summit on honey bee nutrition and forage, which was held in the fall of 2014. P2 has supported the beekeeping industry as a strong and consistent advocate in both policy and in our own on-the-ground projects for including more affordable non-native, non-invasive plant species that are locally appropriate in the menu of planting mixes for honey bees. We have stated publicly and in reports to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) that this is necessary to successful actions being taken on landscapes. P2 believes that in most cases natives-only mixes would be cost-prohibitive for farmers and for roadside managers, especially when talking about the larger scale plantings needed for honey bees. The flexibility to include a variety of options for individual landscapes seems like an appropriate alternative.
We encourage you to check us out for yourself and find out more about our efforts that support AHPA (and ABF) at www.pollinator.org. Most if not all of these efforts have evolved with beekeeping industry representatives at the table and involved in the collaborative efforts. Let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org!
P2 appreciates this special opportunity to share our efforts with you in the hard-working beekeeping industry, and to thank so many of you who have participated in collaborative efforts and added your voices in support of farm bill and transportation bill language that benefits you, your honey bees, and other pollinators. We look forward to continuing collaborative efforts with AHPA, ABF, and the beekeeping industry; and we stand ready to be supportive of beekeeping industry efforts.
The American Bee Project
Bee Heavens are Property Tax Havens
Bee Forage Survey
The Forage, Nutrition and Roadside Task Force of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign is reaching out to beekeepers to help us determine appropriate standards for granting tax incentives to beekeeping.
The data gathered from this 1-minute survey will allow us to propose evidence-based guidelines on how many acres per hive should be granted tax benefits, which will help beekeepers and our most important pollinators.
As an added incentive, the first 100 respondents will be entered into a raffle to win a fantastic prize – Bees: An Up-close Look at Pollinators Around the World by Sam Droege and Laurence Packer.
The survey takes less than 1 minute. Click here: http://www.americanbeeproject.com/#!beekeeper-forage-survey/c5if
The American Bee Project is getting tax breaks for landowners to have hives on their property. Especially in areas where property taxes are high and adds added pressure for
owners to develop their land vs. leaving open areas. Please help in the survey it will benefit many beekeepers.
Suspended USDA researcher alleges agency tried to block his research into harmful effects of pesticides on bees, butterflies
By Steve Volk October 28
A prominent Agriculture Department scientist is alleging that he was suspended after complaining that the agency was blocking his research into the harmful effects of pesticides on pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.
In a whistleblower complaint filed Wednesday, Jonathan Lundgren, an entomologist and 11-year veteran of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, says his supervisors retaliated against him by suspending him initially for 30 days before reducing it to 14 days.
The complaint, filed with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, says his superiors began to “impede or deter his research and resultant publications” more than a year ago. Lundgren has also previously alleged that the agency tried to prevent him from speaking about his findings for political reasons and interfered with his ability to review the research of other scientists.
The trouble began after he published research and gave interviews about the effect that certain common pesticides were having on pollinators, according to a statement by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which filed the complaint on his behalf. The whistleblower complaint says that Lundgren’s “work showed the adverse effects of certain widely used pesticides, findings which have drawn national attention as well as the ire of the agricultural industry.”
Over the past decade, there have been dramatic declines in the population of honeybees, which play an essential role in pollinating about one-third of the food Americans eat.
Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for the Agricultural Research Service, declined to discuss the specifics of Lundgren’s case but said the agency is committed to maintaining scientific integrity.
“We take the integrity of our scientists seriously, and we recognize how critical that is to maintaining widespread confidence in our research among the scientific community, policymakers and the general public,” Bentley said in a statement.
In suspending Lundgren, PEER says USDA cited two infractions: He provided some of his research to a scientific journal without proper approval, and he violated official travel policies in connection with lectures he delivered in Philadelphia and Washington.
In his complaint and related documents released by PEER, Lundgren says the submission of the journal article — which concerned the non-target effects of clothianidin, a widely used nicotine-based pesticide, on monarch butterflies — was not inappropriate. He calls the travel violations an inadvertent paperwork error.
Lundgren has published work suggesting that soybean seeds pretreated with neonicotinoid pesticide produce no yield benefit to farmers, who pay extra for the seeds. He wrote a paper on the potential hazards of “gene silencing” pesticides, which he said require further study to determine whether they could harm other organisms. He also peer-reviewed a report published by the Center for Food Safety called “Heavy Costs,” which was critical of neonicotinoid pesticides for providing little to no benefit to farmers and adversely affecting bees.
Lundgren, a 2011 recipient of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, has given interviews on aspects of his research, including a widely distributed interview with Minnesota Public Radio, and spoke before the National Academy of Sciences. According to the complaint, his suspension was based in part on the paperwork associated with that trip.
“Having research published in prestigious journals and being invited to present before the National Academy of Sciences should be sources of official pride, not punishment,” PEER staff counsel Laura Dumais said. “Politics inside USDA have made entomology into a most dangerous discipline.”
The whistleblower filing culminates months of speculation about Lundgren in the small community of commercial beekeepers and researchers studying their decline. Earlier this year, Lundgren’s dispute with his superiors became evident in a scientific journal.
A paper published in Environmental Science & Policy, with the sole listed author Scott W. Fausti, includes the following footnote: “I would like to acknowledge Dr. Jonathan G. Lundgren’s contribution to this manuscript. Dr. Lundgren is an entomologist employed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS). However, the ARS has required Dr. Lundgren to remove his name as joint first author from this article. I believe this action raises a serious question concerning policy neutrality toward scientific inquiry.”
That paper suggests that the combination of federal mandates for corn ethanol production and the advent of genetically modified corn crops have produced a host of unintended adverse consequences, including rising environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, stronger pest resistance and inflated corn prices.
Increasing pest resistance is of particular concern for beekeepers, whose bee populations have been declining at rates deemed “unsustainable” by Darren Cox, president of the American Honey Producers Association. Increased resistance creates a need for stronger pesticides, bringing potential harm to bees. “Beekeepers have been heavily involved in ensuring that all scientists are free to conduct unfettered research,” Cox says.
In the statement, ARS spokesman Bentley said: “As one of the world’s leading promoters of agriculture and natural resources science and research, USDA has implemented a strong scientific integrity policy to promote a culture of excellence and transparency. That includes procedures for staff to report any perceived interference with their work, seek resolution and receive protection from recourse for doing so.”
But Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director, said Lundgren’s whistleblower complaint adds to the debate about scientific freedom. He said USDA is essentially saying: “ ‘You can do whatever science you want, as long as it has no real-world applications.’ The rules allow for scientists to be silenced based on the content of their science.”
Pollinator Roadsides Provision Included in House Transportation Bill
The Pollinator Partnership (P2) applauds Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) for taking the lead in getting a key provision encouraging pollinator habitat along roadsides included in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015 (H.R. 3763), a comprehensive bill to reauthorize and reform federal highway programs. H.R. 3763, including Denham’s pollinator roadsides provision, was unanimously approved on October 22 by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Denham’s pollinator roadsides provision is based on H.R. 2738, the Highways BEE Act, which was introduced prior to 2015 National Pollinator Week by Denham and Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), co-chairs of the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus (CP2C). Over 250 national, regional, and local organizations and 2,800 American scientists and individuals from all walks of life across the nation signed a petition in support of such legislation. For more information, go to http://www.pollinator.org/BEEAct.htm.
“We applaud Rep. Denham for his effective leadership and are very excited about the prospect of increasing habitat for pollinators,” said Laurie Davies Adams, P2 Executive Director. “This will be a major win for the states and pollinators.” P2 had expressed strong support to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership for the Denham provision.
“The bill gives states the ability to reduce roadside maintenance costs while providing better habitat for pollinators, including honey bees—similar to the efforts farmers already make to be good conservationists while they produce our food. Our pollinators are crucial to the strength of our communities and success of our agricultural industry,” noted Denham. “The Pollinator Partnership has been an excellent partner in growing understanding and support for our provision.”
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s action for pollinators is a major benchmark in the five-year effort by the Pollinator Partnership to “pollinate” federal transportation law. Highway right-of-ways managed by State Departments of Transportation (DOT’s) represent 17 million acres of opportunity for cash-strapped States to both save money and improve pollinator habitat through Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM), including reduced mowing and strategic plantings of native forbs and grasses. The Denham provision directs the Secretary of Transportation to use existing authorities, programs and funding to assist IVM and pollinator habitat efforts by willing State DOT’s. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) secured a pollinator roadsides provision included in the transportation reauthorization bill passed earlier this year by the full Senate.
Earlier this week, Rep. Denham received a special 2015 Pollinator Advocate Award for his leadership on pollinator issues in the Congress from the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) at a VIP reception in Washington, DC. “Rep. Denham richly deserves this special award for his leadership on pollinator issues,” said Davies Adams. NAPPC convened for the 15th year at the U.S. Department of Interior on October 20-22, and task forces committed to a number of consensus-based, collaborative projects over the coming year to benefit pollinators.
ABOUT THE POLLINATOR PARTNERSHIP
Established in 1997, the Pollinator Partnership is the largest 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the health, protection, and conservation of all pollinating animals. Pollinators, like bees, butterflies, birds and other animals, bring us one in every three bites of food, protect our environment. They form the underpinnings of a healthy and sustainable future. P2 manages NAPPC, a collaborative effort of over 120 organizations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico whose common goal is to promote awareness of the essential role that pollinators play in food systems and ecosystems, and to provide the public with simple, effective ways to engage in environmental stewardship. P2’s science-based actions for pollinators include education, conservation, restoration, policy, and research. For more information, visit www.pollinator.org.
Diesel Fumes Make It Difficult For Bees To Recognize Scents
October 21, 2015 | by Alfredo Carpineti
Bees really can't catch a break at the moment. New research, published in Scientific Reports, from the University of Southampton, England, shows that diesel exhaust significantly affects the scent of flowers in the air, which could hinder honeybees from recognizing those floral odors. As important pollinators, ultimately this could spell bad news for food production and security.
The team, led by Dr Tracey Newman and Professor Guy Poppy, created a synthetic blend of the eight chemical scents found in oil rapeseed flowers and then they mixed it with clean air and air containing diesel exhaust. The chemicals in the blend were combined in the same proportion that they are naturally emitted by the flowers.
When the scents were mixed with the diesel fumes, within one minute of exposure, two out of the eight chemicals could no longer be picked up by detectors, and the abundance of two others was significantly reduced. But when the scents were mixed with clean air, such changes were not observed.
The experiment was then repeated by using only NOx, an extremely toxic mixture of nitric acid and nitrogen oxide emitted by diesel cars. The team found a reduction in the abundance of the same four chemicals, suggesting that exposure to NOx is the main cause of the changes in the chemical composition of the scent blend.
To find out whether this could potentially affect foraging ability, the team started off by training honeybees to recognize the full blend of scent. Afterward, the honeybees were presented with different blends of scent prepared to mimic the effects of diesel fumes. The ability of insects to recognize the modified scents was significantly impaired: less than 30% of bees could still identify the blends as a flower scent.
“Honeybee pollination can significantly increase the yield of crops and they are vital to the world’s economy – £430 million [$660 million] a year to the UK alone,” Professor Poppy, one of the lead authors, said in a statement. “However to forage effectively they need to be able to learn and recognize the plants. The results indicate that NOx gases – particularly nitrogen dioxide – may be capable of disrupting the odour recognition process that honeybees rely on for locating floral food resources.”
Wimps Or Warriors? Honey Bee Larvae Absorb the Social Culture of the Hive, Study Finds
Published: October 30, 2015. CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Even as larvae, honey bees are tuned in to the social culture of the hive, becoming more or less aggressive depending on who raises them, researchers report in the journal Scientific Reports.
Released by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
"We are interested in the general issue of how social information gets under the skin, and we decided to take a chance and ask about very young bees that are weeks away from adulthood," said University of Illinois entomology professor and Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene Robinson, who led the research with postdoctoral researcher Clare Rittschof and Pennsylvania State University professor Christina Grozinger.
"In a previous study, we cross-fostered adult bees from gentle colonies into more aggressive colonies and vice versa, and then we measured their brain gene expression," Robinson said. "We found that the bees had a complex pattern of gene expression, partly influenced by their own personal genetic identity and partly influenced by the environment of the colony they were living in. This led us to wonder when they become so sensitive to their social environment.
In the new study, the researchers again cross-fostered bees, but this time as larvae in order to manipulate the bees' early life experiences. The larvae were from a variety of queens, with sister larvae divided between high- and low-aggression colonies.
The larvae were removed from their foster hives and put into a neutral laboratory environment one day before they emerged as adults. The researchers tested their aggressiveness by exposing them to an intruder bee. (Watch a video of honey bees responding to an intruder.)
They were surprised to see that the bees retained the social information they had acquired as larvae. Those raised in aggressive colonies were 10 to 15 percent more aggressive than those raised in the gentler colonies.
"Even sisters born of the same queen but reared in different colonies differed in aggression, demonstrating the potency of this environmental effect," Robinson said.
The finding was surprising in part because bee larvae undergo metamorphosis, which radically changes the structure of their bodies and brains.
"It's hard to imagine what elements of the brain are influenced during the larval period that then survive the massive reorganization of the brain to bias behavior in this way," Robinson said.
The aggressive honey bees also had more robust immune responses than their gentler counterparts, the team found.
"We challenged them with pesticides and found that the aggressive bees were more resistant to pesticide," Grozinger said. "That's surprising considering what we know from vertebrates, where stress in early life leads to a diminishment of resilience. With the bees, we saw an increase in resilience."
This finding also suggests that the effects of the social environment on young bees could extend beyond brain function and behavior, Robinson said.
The researchers don't yet know how the social information is being transmitted to the larvae. They tested whether the bees differed in size, which would suggest that they had been fed differently, but found no size differences between aggressive and gentle bees.
"Adult honey bees are well known for their sociality, their communication skills and their ability to adjust their behavior in response to the needs of the hive," Rittschof said.
"In mammals, including humans, the effects of early life social interactions often persist throughout adulthood despite additional social experiences," she said. "A similar pattern in honey bees has broad implications for our understanding of social behavior within the hive and in comparison with other species."
$4 million available for honey bees
David Murray, email@example.com 6:10 p.m. MDT October 8, 2015
BOZEMAN — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Tuesday the availability of $4 million in assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners working to improve food sources for honey bees on private lands in Montana and five other states. The targeted conservation effort by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) aims to improve the health of this critical pollinator in a region where more than two-thirds of the nation’s honey bee population spends the summer months pollinating crops and building strength to survive winter.
“The future of our food supply depends on honey bees,” said Lisa Coverdale, NRCS state conservationist in Montana. “This effort partners with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to ensure honey bees have safe and diverse food sources during a time when they need it most.”
Honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of crops annually, including more than 130 different fruits and vegetables crops. But honey bee populations have suffered significant declines in recent years.
NRCS is working with landowners in Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin to make bee-friendly conservation improvements to their land, such as planting cover crops, wildflowers or native grasses and improving management of grazing lands. NRCS also works with landowners to ensure pasturelands and rangelands include a good variety of legumes, forbs and shrubs that also provide pollen and nectar.
These conservation improvements not only benefit the bees, they also strengthen agricultural operations, support other beneficial insects and wildlife, and improve other natural resources. Appropriate cover crops and better rangeland and pasture management reduce erosion, increase soil health, inhibit the expansion of invasive species and provide food and habitat for insects and wildlife.
The 2014 Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) program provides funding for this work. NRCS accepts EQIP applications on a continuous basis. Landowners interested in participating should contact their local USDA service center to learn more.
Learn more about the work to help honey bees and other pollinators and NRCS’s key role in the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. For more on technical assistance and financial resources available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or a local USDA service center.
Bees Love Caffeine And This Is How It Affects Their Foraging Behavior
By Katrina Pascual, Tech Times | October 19, 8:21 AM
Bees also love a pick-me-up in the form of caffeinated nectar, leading them to forage more and recruit their friends to try a caffeinated treat themselves. Researchers, however, has found that this doesn't always work in the bee's favor.
According to a new study, published Oct. 15, in the journal Current Biology, while caffeine makes bees more efficient pollinators, they kept returning to lower-quality forage every time - and plants, aware of caffeine's pull, may be luring them back in.
Dr. Margaret Couvillon from the University of Sussex and her team described a new way in which some plants, through secondary compounds in nectar like caffeine, "may be tricking the honey bee by securing loyal and faithful foraging and recruitment behaviors" without necessarily offering top-quality forage.
Earlier research found that caffeine makes honey bees learn and remember their routes to the correct flower better, and this is considered good news in fighting colony collapse disorder or the worldwide decline in honey bee population.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported that colony collapse disorder affects 42 percent of bee colonies in the United States this year alone, pointing to pesticides as a major cause.
The new study has established [pdf] that caffeine and prompted bees to forage more and recruit others to the caffeinated plants through their "waggle dance." The caffeine quadrupled the recruitment dances compared to when uncaffeinated sources are involved.
"The effects of caffeine in nectar are akin to drugging," said co-author Roger Schürch of the University of Sussex and the University of Bern, citing that the bees are tricked into valuing the nectar as higher-quality than it actually is.
The findings suggested that caffeinated nectar could reduce the bee colonies' honey production if plants indeed reduced their nectar's sweetness - a show of competing interests.
To Dr. Couvillon, this makes the bees "exploited pollinators," with the plants tricking them into foraging in ways beneficial to the plant and not to them.
The team also sparked interest in knowing if plants lacing their nectar with another secondary compound also produce less sweet nectar - a way to "get the upper hand" on the pollinators.
Amazing shot of pollen-covered honeybee eye wins Nikon competition
The Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition lets us see the world up close. This year's winner turned his lens on the eye of a honeybee.
by Michael Franco October 17, 20159:37 AM PDT
If you've ever been bothered by pollen in your eye during allergy season, just think about how the honeybees must feel. The image to the right shows just what dandelion pollen looks like on the little pollinators' eyes, and while it looks uncomfortable for the bee, the photographer who took it is probably anything but. He's just been awarded first place in the Small World Photomicrography Competition hosted by Nikon.
Captured by Australian Ralph Grimm, the shot was one of more than 2,000 entries from more than 83 countries submitted to Nikon for the competition, which is now in its 41st year. The competition focuses, logically, on photomicrography, which is basically capturing images at a very small scale using a microscope.
In creating his winning shot, Grimm zoomed in on the bee's eye using 120x magnification.
"Grimm employed impressive technique to capture this image stack, including over four hours of careful work to mount the eye, set the focus increments, properly illuminate the eye and avoid peripheral smudging during the stacking process," Nikon said. Grimm is a high-school teacher who taught himself the art of photomicrography. He's also a former beekeeper, and one of his aims in taking this photo was to call attention to the growing honeybee crisis.
"In a way I feel as though this gives us a glimpse of the world through the eye of a bee," said Grimm. "It's a subject of great sculptural beauty, but also a warning -- that we should stay connected to our planet, listen to the little creatures like bees, and find a way to protect the Earth that we all call home."
You can see other amazing shots from the competition in the gallery below. Nikon will be announcing the winners of the video version of the Small World competition on December 2.
Exposure to two neonicotinoids may reduce egg laying by queen honey bees
Aline Troxler & Dave Shutler & Geoffrey R. Williams & Gina Retschnig & Kaspar Roth & Laurent Gauthier & Orlando Yañez & Peter Neumann | October 15, 2015 | Scientific Reports
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis.
Overwhelming evidence now suggests that numerous wild and managed bee populations are in decline, likely because of multiple simultaneous pressures including invasive parasites, changes to climate, and changing land use.
Queen health is crucial to colony survival of social bees. Recently, queen failure has been proposed to be a major driver of managed honey bee colony losses, yet few data exist concerning effects of environmental stressors on queens.
Here we demonstrate for the first time that exposure to field-realistic concentrations of the neonicotinoid pesticides, thiamethoxam and clothiandin, during development can severely affect queens of western honey bees (Apis mellifera).
Increased rates of honey bee queen failure have been reported in recent years. Even within our abbreviated observation interval, we observed significant effects of neonicotinoids on honey bee queen anatomy and physiology, but not behaviour that resulted in reduced success (i.e. dead queens or living ones not producing worker offspring). Additionally, we found no significant effect on queen rearing success (proportion of emerged queens) between the treatments, suggesting that there were no lethal effects of pesticide during this stage of queen development.
This study highlights the detriments of neonicotinoids to queens of environmentally and economically important social bees, and further strengthens the need for stringent risk assessments to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services that are vulnerable to these substances.
Read full, original open access article: Neonicotinoid pesticides severely affect honey bee queens
Could a mushroom save the honeybee?
September 21, 2015 at 10:52 AM EDT
Commercial honeybees have teetered on the brink of collapse for nearly a decade. Scientists are now looking to forest mushrooms as a possible remedy. Photo by Ken Christensen/EarthFix/KCTS 9
Honeybees need a healthy diet of pollen, nectar and water. But at a bee laboratory in eastern Washington, Steve Sheppard fills their feeding tubes with murky brown liquid from the forest.
His bees are getting a healthy dose of mushroom juice.
“If this does what we hope, it will be truly revolutionary,” said Sheppard, who heads the Department of Entomology at Washington State University. “Beekeepers are running out of options.”
Commercial honeybees, which pollinate $15 billion worth of crops in the United States annually, have teetered on the brink of collapse for nearly a decade. Nearly a third of colonies died each winter from 2006 to 2011. Since 2012, winter losses have averaged a quarter, according to an annual nationwide survey of beekeepers.
Scientists say the mysterious phenomenon, known as colony collapse disorder, may be the result of at least 60 environmental factors that combine to cripple honeybees — including pesticides, disease, malnutrition, loss of habitat and climate change.
Like a pancake ‘feeding on you’
According to Sheppard, beekeepers say the greatest obstacle to staying in business each year is a virus-carrying parasite called the varroa mite.
Sheppard has spent decades breeding western honeybees to better tolerate the mite and its viruses. But he hasn’t had much success, he said.
Varroa mites have devastated U.S. beehives since the late 1980s, when they arrived here from Asia. In 1996, half of colonies east of the Mississippi River died due to mite infestations.
The reddish-brown pests, which are no bigger than the head of a pin, invade colonies and multiply rapidly. They hide among bee larvae developing in the honeycomb, feed on infant bee blood and lay several eggs each.
“It would be like having something the size of a pancake feeding on you,” Sheppard said.
Honeybees that emerge from the infected hives typically carry illnesses, like a virus that results in deformed wings that prevent bees from flying.
If beekeepers don’t intervene, the varroa mite can destroy a colony in less than two years. Meanwhile, the pest reproduces so rapidly it builds resistance to chemical pesticides more quickly than solutions can be invented, Sheppard said.
That’s why he decided to try an unconventional approach last year, after local mushroom expert Paul Stamets called him with an idea to help arm the honeybee in its fight against the mite.
Learning the way of the bee
“We’ve gone to the moon, we’ve gone to Mars, but we don’t know the way of the bee?” asked Stamets, who owns the medicinal mushroom company Fungi Perfecti near Olympia, Washington.
The self-taught mycologist said he noticed a relationship between honeybees and mushrooms when he observed bees sipping on sugar-rich fungal roots growing in his backyard.
“I looked down, and they were sucking on my mycelium,” he said.
Now he thinks he knows why.
In recent years, his research has shown that rare fungi found in the old-growth forests of western Washington can help fight other viruses, including tuberculosis, smallpox and bird flu. He wondered if the honeybee would see similar health benefits from wood-rotting mushrooms.
“Bees have immune systems just like we do,” he said. “These mushrooms are like miniature pharmaceutical factories.”
Stamets and Sheppard are feeding liquid extracts of those forest mushrooms to mite-infected honeybees. Initial findings suggest that five species of the wood-rotting fungi can reduce the honeybees’ viruses and increase their lifespans.
In addition, the scientists are trying to fight honeybee viruses by taking aim at the varroa mite itself. Insect-killing fungi have been used as an alternative to synthetic chemical pesticides for years, and previous studies show that one type of entomopathogenic fungus can weaken varroa mites in beehives.
Killing parasites without harming bees
Paul Stamets thinks his version of the fungus will be more effective. So far, the results of the experiments in Sheppard’s lab look promising.
“The product seems to be killing mites without harming bees,” Sheppard said.
This fall, the scientists plan to expand both experiments by partnering with commercial beekeepers like Eric Olson, who runs the largest commercial beekeeping operation in Washington.
Olson said two-thirds of his beehives died five years ago because of a varroa mite infestation. After several years successfully controlling the pest, he arrived this year in California for almond pollination season, and nearly half of his bees had died during the winter.
He spent $770,000 to buy replacement hives, he said.
“I was lucky that I had the cash and the connections to recover from that,” he said.
Olson recently donated about $50,000 to Sheppard’s department to help find a solution to the mite. Looking at the bees in one of his hives, he said, “I’m really concerned about whether these little girls will survive.”
A Message From Our Vice President
AHPA...Going It Alone!
Here we are nearing the end of the summer and the harvest season, and moving into the next phase of operations. Many have sold or are working to sell their crops and finding there has been a large decrease in the price of honey.There are different explanations being put forth. The AHPA trade attorney Mike Coursey, of Kelley Drye and Warren LLP, notified the AHPA of a massive increase honey imports, dumping below the US production cost and includes what we believe is a significant amount of circumvented honey. We have been advised by Mr. Coursey that in order to develop a strategy, we need to further investigate the scheme. The whole industry is at risk of being irreparably damaged by this market change.
As we work to address this grave concern, we have reached out to Sue Honey, who has been a great partner in the past. We have also reached out to the American Beekeeping Federation to create solidarity between both of the national organizations. We were asking they help share part of the estimated $125,000 cost with the AHPA. It saddens the AHPA to report that the Sue Honey Association and the ABF have both declined to support the investigation into price decline and massive amount of believed circumvented imports. By declining, they forced us to stand alone in protecting the US honey industry. We believe that the problem is cheap imports and those imports may be adulterated, contaminated and/or circumvented. We need the investigation and we need it to now!
Imports are now at least 2/3 of the honey consumed in the US and it is rapidly increasing. Ron Phipps reported in the American Bee Journal, 100% of the honey from two countries is adulterated in some form. We have a collapsing honey market here due to this honey being dumped in our market. The commercial beekeeper is faced growing costs of production and hardships including maintaining beehives not just to produce honey but pollinate our food and fiber crops. Without stable and fair prices for honey production in the US, we simply cannot meet the growing pollination requirement our countries needs. Pollination alone cannot support the industry. We rely on profitable honey prices and the honey industry should be able to stand on its own without being propped up by pollination. If we do not address this honey import problem now, the industry will continue to collapse and it will be a short time before it is inevitable that beehive imports are needed for pollination.
The AHPA continues to lead the way, fighting for a better future for the industry. The AHPA is seeking to protect you and the financial well being of the industry. We are asking for your donation to the only national organization that is working for the industry on this matter. Make plans to join us at the national convention in Albuquerque, NM, January 5th - 9th.
American Honey Producers Association
Scientists use tiny technology to help explain bee die-off
By Jonathan Vigliotti CBS News October 3, 2015, 7:55 PM
LONDON -- Honey bees help produce about a third of America's food supply. But last year, nearly half the bees in the U.S. disappeared -- a problem being felt across the Atlantic as well.
Now, some detective bees are trying to figure out why.
At London's Botanic Gardens, beneath the flowers where wild bumblebees roam, deep in a secure basement laboratory, British ecologist Sara Barlow suits up her bees for flight.
It's called the "bumblebee backpack" and it's one of the smallest tracking devices ever placed on a living organism.
"We'd be able to build up a map of the bee movements and see a network of where they've been, how long they've been out feeding, how far they've traveled," Barlow told CBS News.
Every time a bee passes a receiver, information will be sent to a computer and Barlow will know the bee's every move.
"Her tag emits a unique signal and picked up by a reader if she flew within a meter of it," she explained.
It's a bumblebee radar. But outfitting the bees with her prototype backpack is no small feat. Barlow stores the bees in a refrigerator. The cold makes them more docile -- usually.
She restrains the bee by carefully pinning it in place, then applies regular old super glue to the back and finally the microchip.
After drying for a few minutes, the bee can buzz off. A wobbly start at first. The tracker is half the bee's weight, after all.
For now, the pilot program is limited to a green house with plans to place receivers around the bees feeding paths out in the wild.
Barlow developed the backpack with engineer friend Dr. Mark O'Neill, who before bees, tracked missiles for the British military. Why is he putting so much effort and energy into this?
"If I'm honest, because it's interesting," O'Neill said. "Simply because it's interesting and I'm curious about the world, and you need these sorts of tools to understand the complexity of living systems properly."
It's one tiny tool that Barlow and O'Neill hope will unlock the secret world of bees and the mystery behind their disappearance.