Save Bees, Save Ourselves

An article entitled the selfish case for saving bees by Alison Benjamin at the Guardian Society explains how these essential pollinators that keep our world alive are under threat…but all is not lost. In rural settings where nature is allowed to do it's work, then the bees thrive. Alison also explains why cities are also crucial for the future of bees. It is a strong message which outlines the consequences of not acting, not understanding the bigger picture and most of all not working to save our bees.

Mobile-phone microscope detects the 'silent killer' of honey bees

Currently, the only approach to diagnose the disease in bees caused by parasites is accurately is through the detection of parasite spores using a light microscope. However, this traditional testing is performed in laboratory settings and requires expert operation. Therefore, a beekeeper must send local samples to a remote laboratory for accurate diagnosis, which is time-consuming and expensive. Researchers at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, USA, in collaboration with the Department of Biology at Barnard College USA, have developed a mobile-phone microscope that enables rapid and automated detection of Nosema spores in honey bees in field settings. This mobile and cost-effective platform, weighing only 0.8 pounds, is composed of a smartphone based fluorescence microscope, a custom-developed smartphone application and an easy to perform sample preparation protocol that enables fluorescence tagging of bee parasite spores even in the field.

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EU Plans to ban Neonicotinoids

The European Union plans to ban the world’s most widely used insecticides in an effort to protect bees and other valuable pollinator insects. The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on Friday, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

Not only have these insecticides been linked to dramatic declines in bees and other pollinators, they’re also suspected in declines in many other insect species, along with insect-eating birds and bats. Even important creatures like earthworms are being damaged by neonics, a four-year investigation by the task force found.

The EU had previously banned use of neonics on flowering crops that are known to specifically attract bees, noting that an estimated three quarters of important food crops may be pollinated by bees.

Bad News for the Bees and for Us

Three-quarters of all honey on Earth has pesticides in it! In 2013, the European Union banned the use of three neonics on crops that are visited by bees. But because these pesticides are used to coat the seeds of crops, much of it leaches onto the soil, contaminating nearby wildflowers and other crops. Even in tiny doses, these chemicals can harm bees. “These neonicotinoids are extremely, extremely toxic, according to Edward Mitchell, the leader of the Laboratory of Soil Biology at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, they are 4 to 5,000 times more toxic than DDT.

And the problem could be even worse, according to Christopher Connolly, a neurobiologist at the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine, recent studies only tested the honey for five neonics, but crop fields are sometimes sprayed with more than 20 chemicals and bees hop from field to field, Connolly says. So the honey could contain many more pesticides.

These findings are concerning not only for bees. Even though most studies have focused on how neonics harm honeybees, these pesticides are likely to harm many more insects, including butterflies, moths, and earthworms that live in contaminated soil, Connolly says. But our ecosystems need a variety of bugs to be strong and resilient, just as our crops need a variety of pollinators to survive. If we keep using pesticides indiscriminately, “we don’t know when we can expect a tipping point,” Connolly says. “This is a very dangerous strategy for human-kind to go down.”

Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees

Field results confirm that neonicotinoids negatively affect pollinator health under realistic agricultural conditions. Read the full publication here.

Bee Experts Dismantle Touted 'Harvard' Neonics-Colony Collapse Disorder Study As 'Activist Science'.

Chensheng Lu was in his element last month at a speech before a green group at Harvard Law School. The School of Public Health professor was lecturing on his favorite topic--his only subject these days, as it has become his obsession: why he believes bees around the world are in crisis.

Lu is convinced, unequivocally, that a popular pesticide hailed by many scientists as a less toxic replacement for farm chemicals proven to be far more dangerous to humans and the environment is actually a killer in its own right. "We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering Colony Collapse Disorder in bee hives," claimed Lu. The future of our food system and public health, he said, hangs in the balance. Read more

Colony Collapse Disorder exacerbated by stressed-out bees

Though no one cause has been identified for CCD, poor diets, exposure to pesticides and parasites are all on the list of potential causes. Now, the University of London says, pressure on young bees could also be a factor. Read more

The first comprehensive survey of CCD-affected bee populations

The first comprehensive survey of CCD-affected bee populations that suggests CCD involves an interaction between pathogens and other stress factors. We present evidence that this condition is contagious or the result of exposure to a common risk factor. Potentially important areas for future hypothesis-driven research, including the possible legacy effect of mite parasitism and the role of honey bee resistance to pesticides, are highlighted.

EU bans three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family for a period of two years

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years.

The Commission's action was in response to the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) scientific report, which identified "high acute risks" for bees as regards exposure to dust in several crops such as corn, cereals and sunflowers, to residues in pollen and nectar in crops like oilseed rape and sunflower and to guttation in corn.

In the US, the EPA is not currently banning or severely restricting the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides. The neonicotinoid pesticides are currently being re-evaluated through registration review.

Health Canada pushed to force pesticide makers to release bee-death studies

Four major environmental groups are demanding that Ottawa force pesticide makers to provide scientific studies looking at whether their products are killing off bees.

Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency has been asking registered pesticide manufacturers for the studies since 2004.

But despite several notices, the studies haven't been produced, while the pesticides in question continue to be manufactured and sold.

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