Friday, October 25, 2013

Neonicotinoids let virus thrive in bees – Another nail in the Neonic Coffin?

And the other side of the story from the beekeepers...
I highly recommend subscribing to this ezine as well.

Neonicotinoids let virus thrive in bees – Another nail in the Neonic Coffin?
From Chemistry World
Scientists in Italy believe they have found a molecular trigger by which neonicotinoid pesticides may harm colonies of honey bees. The team’s experiments suggest that exposure to neonicotinoids results in increased levels of a particular protein in bees that inhibits a key molecule involved in the immune response, making the insects more susceptible to attack by harmful viruses.
Francesco Pennacchio, of the University of Naples Federico II, and colleagues identified a gene in insects that codes for a protein family similar to that found in other animals that is known to regulate the immune response. This leucine-rich repeat protein family, or LRR, has been shown to suppress the activity of a key protein involved in immune signaling, called NF-κB. When the researchers exposed bees to sub-lethal doses of the neonicotinoid clothianidin they saw a significant increase in the expression of the gene encoding the LRR protein, and a concomitant suppression of the NF-κB signalling pathway. These effects were not seen when bees were exposed to the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyriphos.
When the team infected bees with a common pathogen – deformed wing virus – and exposed them to clothianidin and another neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, at concentrations similar to those that would be found in the field, there was significantly increased replication of the virus, which was not seen either in untreated bees, or those exposed to chlorpyriphos. The virus is common in bees and usually remains inactive – kept in check by the bees’ immune system. The results suggest that insecticide-induced suppression of bees’ immune systems lets the virus replicate unchecked.
‘The reported effect on immunity exerted by neonicotinoids will allow additional toxicological tests to be defined to assess if chronic exposure of bees to sub-lethal doses of agrochemicals can adversely affect their immune system and health conditions,’ says team member Francesco Nazzi of the University of Udine. ‘Moreover, our data indicate the possible occurrence in insects, as in vertebrates, of a neural modulation of the immune response. This sets the stage for future studies in this research area, and poses the question on how neurotoxic substances may affect the immune response.’

Susan Kegley runs the Pesticide Research Institute, an independent consultancy in the US. She tells Chemistry World: ‘The EU has already implemented a minimum two-year suspension of the use of the most toxic neonicotinoid insecticides – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – on bee-attractive crops, to take effect December 1, 2013. The US EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] remains unconvinced that neonicotinoids could be a primary factor in recent pollinator population declines. This new study, in conjunction with other observational studies showing enhanced susceptibility to pathogens caused by exposure to neonicotinoids, should prompt US EPA to re-evaluate the science.’

Pollinator health, Why bee health matters, by Anne Nagro

Pollinator health, Why bee health matters, by Anne Nagro

This article is in the most recent Pest Control Technology trade journal issue. You may obtain it by subscribing to PCT magazine.   It's great to see pest management professionals and the NPMA (National Pest Management Association) taking a serious interest in bees and pollinators in general. EPA of course is driving this.   Read this article for more up to date information from the pest management perspective on things.  Being both a pest management professional and an entomologist/beekeeper, I try to read both types of articles and stay up on these issues.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Droning on...the downside of being male in the insect world!

There's been a lot of talk of drones lately in the news.  I don't think they were thinking of peace-loving bees, however.  But, if you are a male (drone) bee in the insect world, your future is bleak at this time of year.
The hive becomes anti drones!

With the first hint of cold temperatures, the female worker bees are getting the hive ready for the winter. It will be an all-girl's club for the winter months!  The drones are all kicked out.
The drones have been building up in numbers in the hive all summer long.  And, a healthy summer hive, in order to be healthy, MUST have at least 20% drones present.  But, come fall and the first hint of frost, that percentage drops to 0% for the winter months.

Bluntly put, drones are a drag on the hive's resources and efficiency.  Drones cannot feed themselves (or anyone else) and are entirely dependent upon the workers for feeding. They do none of the work of bringing in and storing nectar or pollen. They do not make honey. They do not lay or tend eggs or larvae or pupae. They just hang out in the hive, or fly to nearby drone mating fields and hang out there all summer long.  And, their presence in the hive tends to attract pests, Varroa mites in particular, that develop in drone cells as they mature into adults.

The only reason drones exist is to mate with a queen bee.  This is not done in the hive; mating occurs near the drone mating fields (perhaps 5 miles away) where the guys are all hanging out like lusty teenage boys.

The virgin queen that flies by has a pheromone that attracts them.  Then the drones that fly the fastest and highest to keep up with her majesty are the ones lucky enough to get to mate her in mid-air.  The prize for that, sadly, is once the deed is done (sperm sac passed to female), he explodes in mid-air and drops to the ground, dead as a doorknell.  Some reward, huh?  No cigarettes; no, "how was it for you?". Nothing!

So, it's doubly sad this time of year to see the workers kicking these poor remaining big eyed guys out of the hive.  If you look in front of the hives you see them; on their backs, with legs flailing in the air, as they either freeze or starve to death, whichever comes mercifully first.  They are no longer in the nice warm 93F degrees hive that their sisters are keeping warm by vibrating their thoraces (pl. of thorax) around the queen in the middle of the cluster.  They are no longer being fed by their sisters.
They are just thrown out of their house and sent packing to an early death.  I do feel badly for them. But, they've had a good life.  The process of the birds and the bees goes on, and the cycle of nature continues, cruel though it may sometimes appear to be.

Image from Encyclopaedia Britannica 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

National Pest Management Association (NPMA) statement on Pollinator Health

from NPMA enews alert:


October 4, 2013

Thousands of dead and twitching bees were found near honey bee colonies in a suburb of Minneapolis on September 12.  Researchers at Minnesota's Department of Agriculture and the University of Minnesota's Bee Lab and Bee Squad have just reported that residues of fipronil were found in the dead bees. The state is investigating the incident and working to determine how the bees were exposed to fipronil residues.

This incident follows on the heels of another occurrence this summer, in which 25,000-50,000 bumblebees and other insects were killed in Oregon after exposure to dinotefuran, a commonly used neonicotinoid. In that case, a property maintenance contractor applied the pesticide to 55 flowering linden trees in an effort to control aphids. As a result, the state of Oregon enacted a temporary ban on the use of many dinotefuran-based insecticides.  (See complete list here) The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) will reassess the temporary restriction after officials finish their investigation into the pesticide applications in question. The temporary ban only affects certain pesticide uses that could harm pollinators, including outdoor applications on lawns, landscape ornamentals, trees and crops.  

The health of pollinators has received unprecedented attention in recent months, even garnering a cover story on the August 19th issue of  Time magazine, and corresponding live Twitter chat on the subject, featuring guests from the EPA, USDA and author of The Beekeeper's Lament, Hannah Nordhaus.

Many of the products that are applied by professional applicators have the potential to be toxic to bees when exposed to direct treatment or residues on plants in bloom, including crops, ornamental plants or weeds.  Such products should not be applied when bees are visiting or expected to visit the treatment area, or if the applied product may drift outside the treatment area. By limiting the direct and potential exposure of pollinators to pesticides, pest management professionals can reduce the likelihood of similar events in the future and beneficial organisms like bees can be protected.  It is very important that the applicator know the potential toxicity to bees for the products they are planning to apply.   Also, the applicator should always read, understand and follow labels in their entirety, including the environmental hazard and precautionary statements, prior to product application.  This information should be reinforced immediately to all service technicians. 

NPMA Statement on Pollinator Health
Pollinators play an essential role in the nation's food supply chain. We are dependent on bees, flies, moths and other insects to help pollinate crops.  However, some of these insects - bees in particular -are also known to pose health and safety risks to the public. In fact, stinging insects send an estimated 500,000 people to the hospital every year.  They are the leading cause of anaphylaxis-related deaths in the United States. In light of this, bees are - and some government entities have deemed them - a public safety hazard. 

So how do we, the American public, protect our families and our children, from these insects that are both vital and potentially harmful?  The answer is carefully.  The federal government, farmers, the professional pest management industry, and home and business owners must cooperate together to ensure effective tools are available to keep the public safe from stinging insects, yet do so in a manner that will enable pollinators to thrive in appropriate settings.

The National Pest Management Association is working with the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), state regulators, and other stakeholders equally committed to ensuring an appropriate symbiotic relationship exists between the safety of the American public and the essential role bees play in agriculture. 

Additional Resources

The National Pest Management Association and the Professional Pest Management Alliance will continue to monitor issues surrounding pollinator health and share relevant information as it becomes available.

No one likes diesel fumes! Not even bees!

from Reuters news agency:

Exhaust confuses bees, study finds

Diesel fumes mask scent of flowers


— Exposure to pollution from diesel ex­haust fumes can disrupt honeybees’ ability to recog­nize the smells of flowers and could in the future af­fect pollination and global food security, researchers said on Thursday.

In a study published in the nature journal Scientif­ic Reports, scientists from Britain’s University of Southampton found that the fumes change the pro­file of the floral odors that attract bees to forage from one flower to the next.

“This could have serious detrimental effects on the number of honeybee colo­nies and pollination activ­ity,” said Tracey Newman, a neuroscientist who worked on the study.

Bees are important polli­nators of flowering plants, including many fruit and vegetable crops.

A 2011 U.N. report esti­mated that bees and other pollinators, such as butter­flies, beetles and birds, do work worth $203 billion a year to the human econo­my.

Bee populations have been declining steadily in recent decades but there is scientific disagreement over what might be causing it. Much attention has been focused on whether a class of pesticides called neonico­tinoids may be the culprit.

A report from the Eu­ropean Food Safety Author­ity in January said three widely used neonicoti­noids, made mainly by Switzerland’s Syngenta and Germany’s Bayer, posed an acute risk to hon­eybees.

EU leaders voted in April to ban three of the world’s most widely used pesticides in this class for two years because of fears they could be linked to a plunge in the bee populations.

But the British govern­ment, which recommended abstaining in a previous EU vote in March, argues the science is inconclusive and advises caution in extrapo­lating results from labora­tory studies to real-life field conditions.

Guy Poppy, an ecology professor who worked with Newman, said that to be able to forage effectively honeybees need to be able to learn and recognize plants — a process their results showed could be disrupted by so-called NOx gases, par­ticularly nitrogen dioxide, found in diesel exhaust and other pollution.

For their study, the scien­tists took eight chemicals found in the odor of oil rape­seed flowers and mixed them in one experiment with clean air and in anoth­er with air containing die­sel exhaust.

Unrecognizable smell

They found that six of the eight chemicals reduced in volume when mixed with diesel fumes, and two disap­peared completely within a minute — meaning the pro­file of the chemical mix had changed. The odor mixed with clean air was unaffect­ed.

When the researchers used the same process with NOx gases — nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide — found in diesel exhaust emissions, they saw the same results, suggesting NOx is key to how and why the odor’s profile was al­tered.

When the changed chem­ical mix was then shown to honeybees — which are known to use their sensi­tive sense of smell to forage for flowers — they could not recognize it.

Giles Budge of Britain’s Food and Environment Re­search Agency said New­ton’s study highlighted “a fresh issue to add to the many problems facing our insect pollinators.”

But he said that since the study was based in the lab­oratory, more research is needed to see if the problem is occurring in the wider environment.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Nabbed by a European hornet in mid-air!

From last weekend's observations...

I was just out by my hives watching the girls bringing in pollen on this next to last day of September. It's sunny and warm, a late afternoon, about 85F degrees outside.

Asters, some clover and goldenrod are in bloom in my yard; otherwise there is a dearth of flowers available, as it is very dry and we've had no rain.  I see the girls are especially fond of a small purple aster near to my house's back door, and along with bumble bees and wasps and sweat bees, they are all over this stuff for the pollen.

I watch the beeline back and forth from the two healthy hives to these asters.  It's a very predictable pattern.

I soon see someone else has noticed and figured this out as well.  A European hornet, the largest North American hornet we have (see image below), is hovering in front of the first hive looking for an opportunity. With horror, I watch as it nabs one of my hardworking girls, with full pollen sacs, right out of midair as the worker is returning from the asters to the hive!

My little worker struggles and flaps violently as she tries to break loose, but the hornet has a good grip on her with its mid and forelegs.  The weight of the bee is causing the hornet trouble flying, and she pitches, rolls and yaws as she tries to fly to a stationary object where she can eat her early evening meal.  She lands with her hind legs on a nearby birdhouse.  I creep up secretly to watch; and momentarily, I consider releasing the worker! But then, I quickly remember how painful a European hornet sting has been reported to be.

The hornet starts on my worker's head and thorax.  Even headless, my little worker is still flailing her wings and legs.  Oh, this is horrible! I can't watch; and yet,  I wish I had my camera with me to document this. The hornet has large muscular mandibles and picks away at her flesh; little bit by little bit.  Then, it tires of the birdhouse perch and decides to fly with only my worker's abdomen remaining; it goes up to a higher roost in the silver maple tree.  I lose sight of them in the dappled sunlit leaves.

Wow!  I don't know where this European hornet's nest is located, and I see no other hornets currently, but I hope they don't all decide to come over to my hives and feast!  Of course, the worker hornet no doubt has already communicated (with pheromones) its find; and that information has been passed along now, and it may soon be happening.  Fortunately, it will soon be nightfall.  Then, I remember an obscure fact from Entomology 101 class. European hornets are the only hornets that can fly at night...but, usually to porch lights, and there are thankfully no lights near my hives!

Photo image from wikipedia, European hornet
File:Vespa crabro-dorsal.jpeg