Archive for the ‘Honey bees’ Category

varroa mite on beeVarroa mite on honey bee

ARS Scientist Leads $1 Million Funded Consortium to Seek Honey Bee Disease Controls

By Kim Kaplan
March 13, 2018

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist Steven Cook will be leading a $1 million funded international consortium of scientists to seek new controls for Varroa mites, honey bees’ number one problem.

Cook, with the Bee Research Laboratory, a part of ARS’s Beltsville (Maryland) Agricultural Research Center, will be the principal investigator of a group that will include scientists from the United States, Canada and Spain. ARS is the in-house research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The researchers will be screening a variety of chemical compounds for their ability to control Varroa mites with minimal damage to honey bees on an individual and colony level. Laboratory and field studies will be conducted at facilities in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland and Ohio, as well as in Alberta, Canada.

In laboratories in Nebraska and Spain, scientists also will be using advanced methods to work out an understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which Varroa mites develop resistance to various chemical controls.

Improving knowledge of such mechanisms would provide a better guide to researchers and narrow the field in the future for selecting chemicals worth screening as new control agents for Varroa mites.

The largest single grant for this project is an award of $475,559 to Cook from the Pollinator Health Fund established by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) in response to the agricultural threat posed by declining pollinator health. Other funding is coming from participating universities, Project Apis m. and in-kind support from a number of regional beekeepers.

The Honey Bee Health Coalition, a diverse network of key groups dedicated to improving the health of honey bees and other pollinators, also will provide their expertise to facilitate the researchers’ efforts.

Insect pollinators contribute an estimated $24 billion to the U.S. economy annually, according to FFAR. Honey bees specifically pollinate about 100 crops in the United States. Varroa mites have become resistant to many commercially available chemical control agents in recent years.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.



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Total ban on bee-harming pesticides likely after major new EU analysis

Analysis from EU’s scientific risk assessors finds neonicotinoids pose a serious danger to all bees, making total field ban highly likely

Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, have been shown to cause a wide range of harm to bees.
Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, have been shown to cause a wide range of harm to bees. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AP

The world’s most widely used insecticides pose a serious danger to both honeybees and wild bees, according to a major new assessment from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors.

The conclusion, based on analysis of more than 1,500 studies, makes it highly likely that the neonicotinoid pesticides will be banned from all fields across the EU when nations vote on the issue next month.

The report from the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), published on Wednesday, found that the risk to bees varied depending on the crop and exposure route, but that “for all the outdoor uses, there was at least one aspect of the assessment indicating a high risk.” Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, have been shown to cause a wide range of harm to bees, such as damaging memory and reducing queen numbers.

Jose Tarazona, head of Efsa’s pesticides unit, said: “The availability of such a substantial amount of data has enabled us to produce very detailed conclusions. There is variability in the conclusions [and] some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed.”

The Efsa assessment includes bumblebees and solitary bees for the first time. It also identified that high risk to bees comes not from neonicotinoid use on non-flowering crops such as wheat, but from wider contamination of the soil and water which leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids.

The assessment was welcomed by many scientists and environmentalists. “This is an important announcement that most uses of neonicotinoids are a risk to all bee species,” said Prof Christopher Connolly, at the University of Dundee, UK. “The greatest risk to bees is from chronic exposure due to its persistence.” Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, said: “This report certainly strengthens the case for further restrictions on neonicotinoid use across Europe”.

“We have been playing Russian roulette with the future of our bees for far too long,” said Sandra Bell at Friends of the Earth. “EU countries must now back a tougher ban.” Several nations had been waiting for the Efsa report before deciding their position.

However, a spokesman for Syngenta, a neonicotinoid manufacturer, said: “Efsa sadly continues to rely on a [bee risk guidance] document that is overly conservative, extremely impractical and would lead to a ban of most if not all insecticides, including organic products.”

Matt Shardlow, at charity Buglife, said the risk guidance document should be urgently implemented to prevent another pesticide “blunder”. He said: “It is a tragedy that our bees, moths, butterflies and flies have been hammered by these toxins for over 15 years.”

In March 2017, the Guardian revealed draft regulations from the European commission which would ban neonicotinoids from all fields across Europe, citing “high acute risks to bees”. The chemicals could still be used in closed greenhouses.

Efsa’s first assessment in January 2013 found “unacceptable” risks to bees from neonicotinoids and paved the way for the partial EU ban which was passed in April 2013. It banned the use of the three main neonicotinoids on flowering crops, principally oilseed rape, as they were seen as most attractive to bees.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed on disease, destruction of flower-rich habitat and, increasingly, the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

There has been strong evidence that neonicotinoids harm individual bees for some years but this has strengthened in the last year recently to show damage to colonies of bees. Other research has also revealed that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield, prompting warnings of “ecological armageddon”.

In November, environment secretary Michael Gove overturned the UK’s previous opposition to tougher restrictions on neonicotinoids. “The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood,” Gove told the Guardian. “I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.”

The environment department’s chief scientist, Prof Ian Boyd, warned in September that the assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false. This followed other highly critical reports on pesticides, including research showing most farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses and a UN report that denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world.

The world’s most widely used insecticides pose a serious danger to both honeybees and wild bees, according to a major new assessment from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors.

The conclusion, based on analysis of more than 1,500 studies, makes it highly likely that the neonicotinoid pesticides will be banned from all fields across the EU when nations vote on the issue next month.



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Fungicides may have negative impact on bees

Cornell-led team studies “landscape-scale” connections.

Nov 16, 2017

New research by a Cornell-led team of scientists show fungicides – particularly chlorothalonil, a general-use fungicide often found in bumblebee and honeybee hives – may negatively affect bee health, according to Scott McArt, assistant professor of entomology and the lead author of a new study, “Landscape Predictors of Pathogen Prevalence and Range Contractions in United States Bumblebees,” published Nov. 15 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Fungicides have been largely overlooked because they are not targeted for insects, but fungicides may not be quite as benign – toward bumblebees – as we once thought. This surprised us,” said McArt, a fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

 Building on a large data set collected by Sydney Cameron, professor of entomology at the University of Illinois, the scientists discovered what they call “landscape-scale” connections between fungicide usage, pathogen prevalence and declines of endangered United States bumblebees.


While fungicides control plant pathogens in crops, the bees pick up their residue when foraging for pollen and nectar. As farms use both insecticides and fungicides, the scientists worry about synergy. “While most fungicides are relatively nontoxic to bees, many are known to interact synergistically with insecticides, greatly increasing their toxicity to the bees,” McArt said.

Chlorothalonil has been linked to stunted colony growth in bumblebees and an increased vulnerability to Nosema, a fatal gut infection in bumblebees and honeybees.

“Nosema can be devastating to bumblebees and honeybees,” said McArt. “Since fungicide exposure can increase susceptibility of bees to Nosema, this may be the reason we’re seeing links between fungicide exposure, Nosema prevalence and bumblebee declines across the United States in this data set.”

For domestic and global agriculture, bumblebees are a key component due to their ability to use “buzz pollination” that vibrates and shakes pollen loose from flowers. In the United States, bees contribute more than $15 billion to the economy and $170 billion to global agribusiness, according to global economic research and a 2012 Cornell study. While half of crop pollination work is done by commercially managed honeybees in the U.S., the other half is done by bumblebees and wild bees.

McArt and his Cornell colleagues will continue to investigate fungicide-insecticide synergisms and fungicide-pathogen interactions under the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan and a new grant from the New York Farm Viability Institute.

Funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.

Source: Cornell University


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Via PestNet



Scientists urge action against insect decline

Scientists from four different institutes and nationalities came to Brussels on Tuesday, 7 November. [Pollinis]

A recent study showed a 75% decline in Germany’s insect population over a period of almost 30 years but the European Crop Protection Association (representing pesticide companies Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer) told EURACTIV.com that the study did not identify the cause of the decline, which could therefore not be attributable to agriculture.

But Professor Hans De Kroon, one of the authors of the study, countered that.

“Knowing the exact cause is crucial to reversing this situation. But not knowing the exact cause should not be an excuse to do nothing,” he said during a debate hosted by MEP Eric Andrieu (France, S&D) and organised by French NGO Pollinis in the European Parliament on Tuesday (7 November).

Environmentalists call for pesticide ban as study shows extent of insect decline

Scientists have raised the alarm after a study 27 years in the making found the biomass of flying insects in nature protected areas has declined by more than 75% since 1990. The causes of the decline are not fully understood.

Scientific consensus

Neonicotinoids are the most used class of pesticides in the world and act on insects’ nervous systems. They can be sprayed on leaves but the most common use is seed-coating, used as a preemptive measure against pests. But when seeds are pre-coated in neonicotinoids, the plant only absorbs 2 to 20% – the rest is dispersed in the environment.

Research shows neonicotinoids have an impact the fertility of bees as well as bees’ weight and their reproductive system, reducing total population numbers, argued Peter Neumann,  chair of the Institute of Bee Health in Bern University, and author of a 2015 EASAC report which put the costs of the loss of pollination in Europe at €14.6 billion.

Neonics also have an impact on natural predators, including spiders and birds – who act as a form of natural pest-control, valued €91 billion annually worldwide – and on micro-organisms that ensure soil fertility (€22.75 billion).

Alternatives for farmers

While the data prompts to action, the scientist recognised there is a need for caution as well.

“We need to be fully aware of the consequences of a ban – what are the alternatives for farmers of an EU ban? Are they going to be reimbursed for crop loss, or can they be provided alternative molecules that target only pests?” Neuman asked.

He said “we should get over this fear of GMOs”, largely based on a lack of understanding, and invest in research which could provide an answer to pest management.

But GMOs are probably the largest EU taboo, and for the time being, farmers say a ban would leave them with less effective and more polluting alternatives.

Maize farmers on glyphosate and neonicotinoids: ‘We need to protect science’

As member states are due to vote on two key dossiers, maize farmers claim that EU regulation restricting access to plant protection products and plant genetics has reduced their competitiveness worldwide and that such regulation is not based on science.

But Jean-Marc Bonmatin, a scientist with the French National Research Committee CNRS said solutions such as integrated pest-control management, where pesticides are only used as a last resort, already exist.

And even when farmers lose their crops to pests, the Italian maize farmers’ experience shows it is less costly to insure (€3,50/ha) than to pre-emptively treat the crops with neonicotinoids (€40/ha).

An EU-wide ban

In Europe, Italy banned neonicotinoid seed treatment in 2008, citing concerns for pollinators.

France will ban neonicotinoids from September 2018, although some crops lacking alternatives will be exempted until 2020.

Following an assessment by the European Food Safety Agency EFSA in 2013 which identified “high risk to bees”, the European Commission imposed a partial ban on three neonicotinoid molecules on some crops.

But Fabio Sgolastra, a researcher at the University of Bologna and member of EFSA’s Working Group For Bee Risk Assessment, thinks this was not sufficient: “The risk is not negligible. The partial ban is not in line with science.”

EFSA just recently concluded a new risk-assessment including 100 more studies that have been published since 2013, which have confirmed the threat posed by neonicotinoids to bees and other pollinators.

The Commission will review EFSA’s risk assessment and submit a proposal to ban all uses of neonicotinoids except in greenhouses, which member states will have to vote on by the end of the month.

Justice for bees: French court to look at pesticide ban

An environmental organisation has filed a lawsuit to ban sulfoxaflor, a pesticide that has fallen through the cracks of the ban on neonicotinoids. EURACTIV France reports.




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Pesticides found in honey around the world


Insecticides are cropping up in honey samples from around the world, a new study finds, suggesting that bees and other pollinators are being widely exposed to these dangerous chemicals. The commonly used insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, are absorbed by plants and spread throughout their tissues. When pollinators collect and consume contaminated pollen and nectar, they can suffer from learning and memory problems that hamstring their ability to gather food and sometimes threaten the health of the whole hive. That’s a pressing concern because of the important role of honey bees and wild bees in pollinating crops, particularly fruits and vegetables. To get an idea of the extent of the threat to pollinators from pesticides, researchers in Switzerland asked their friends, relatives, and colleagues around the world to provide locally sourced honey. They found neonicotinoids most frequently in samples from North America, where 86% had one or more neonicotinoid, and least often in South America, where they occurred in 57% of samples. Globally, just over a third of samples had levels that have been shown to hurt bees, the researchers report today in Science. None of the samples had concentrations dangerous to human health. More than two types of neonicotinoids turned up in 45% of the honey samples, and 10% had four or five; the effects of mixtures are not known, but suspected to be worse. The team calls on governments to make more data available on the amounts of neonicotinoids being used in agriculture, which would help clarify the relationship between the amounts used by farmers and how much turns up in honey.

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This issue of the icipe e-bulletin includes, amongst others, an excellent article on ‘Invasive species in Africa‘ by Dr. Segenet Kelemu, Director General, icipe  and on the invasive fall armyworm, Spodoptera frujiperda, by IAPPS East Africa Regional Coordinator, Dr. Tadele Tefera.

To view the bulletin click on the url below:

Click to view: icipe e-bulletin – Volume 7, Issue No. 2, 2017 (pdf)

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SW FarmPress

In new study, researchers say agriculture can be important to honey bees


Honey Bee
A new study indicates that agricutural production may be beneficial to honey bees, but care must be taken with pesticide selection and application.
Scientists at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture published results of the study in a recent issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology, titled the “Agricultural Landscape and Pesticide Effects on Honey Bee Biological Traits.” While not all news is good news according to the results of the study, some interesting discoveries were made.

Logan Hawkes 3 | May 09, 2017

It’s no secret that pesticides can cause harm to honey bee colonies, but a new study from University of Tennessee researchers has found that  under the right conditions, the overall health of honey bee colonies can benefit as a result of row crop production.

The number of honey bee colonies in the United States has declined by 45 percent over the past 60 years, not just because of agrochemical exposure, but also a result of various pathogens, parasites, and other factors such as changing farm demographics. The new study illustrates that while some aspects of farming represent a high risk for honey bee colonies, a determination that row crop farming can contribute to the well being of bee colonies is encouraging news to the agricultural industry.

Scientists at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture published results of the study in a recent issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology, titled the “Agricultural

Landscape and Pesticide Effects on Honey Bee Biological Traits.” While not all news is good news according to the results of the study, some interesting discoveries were made.With little argument, results of the study concede that pesticides are thought to be a principal factor causing honey bee decline, in addition to damages caused by the parasitic varroa mite. Many insecticides are toxic to bees, even at very low doses, and they may cause significant disorders at sub lethal doses in colony dynamics and the division of labor of honey bee colonies by affecting honey bee behavior, orientation, communication, and return flights.


In addition to harmful pesticides, however, the study indicates some environmental factors play a central role in colony losses, such as habitat loss or changes, poor nutrition, inadequate foraging flora, and the transportation stress induced by the excessive “transhumance of honey bee colonies to provide pollination services.”

While pesticides are necessary for pest control in agriculture, increasing crop production and providing worldwide food security, care must be taken by farmers to minimize that damage through adequate control measures, a practice that row crop farmers have been making an effort to adopt in recent times. Those efforts are helping to reduce the negative aspect of pesticides, more precisely neonicotinoid class pesticides, and their capability of suppressing honey bee immune-competence that might lead to an impaired disease resistance capacity.

For the purposes of this study, a number of locations were utilized to test the effects of landscapes (urban versus agricultural) on colony health. Researchers measured three key elements of honey bee colony health—colony weight, brood production, and colony thermoregulation—in different landscapes and with different risks of pesticide exposure. Researchers then evaluated honey bee colony performance in replicated exposure groups in an effort to tease apart the relative effects of pesticides and environment on colony health.

The results indicated a number of factors. While additional external elements influenced colony weight and brood production, it was determined that hives in agricultural areas did exhibit better colony weight as a result of better forage opportunities. The cause of death among colonies varied depending on location, but it should be noted that pesticide exposure was accountable for pollinator death in colonies located near high production agricultural areas.


In conclusion, the study indicated honey bee colonies foraging in moderate and high production areas where row crop farming was practiced were clearly able to grow faster and to a larger size as a result of better access to sustainable nutrition sources than bees foraging in more urbanized areas. Better nutrition sources and nectar yields in farm areas helped to develop greater population size, which in turn enabled better colony thermoregulation.

The study further concludes that while non-farm areas may provide a less-toxic environment for honey bees, they may not provide sustainable foraging resources, leading to colony starvation. Thus, a trade-off appears to exist between increased food resources and the potential for exposure to pesticides in agricultural systems. Careful selection of pesticides and conscientious application of bee-toxic pesticides, however, should greatly reduce the risk of honey bee exposure and promote healthier hives under the right conditions.

Access the full article here.

( https://academic.oup.com/jee/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jee/tox111/3231574/Agricultural-Landscape-and-Pesticide-Effects-on?redirectedFrom=fulltext )

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