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A bee collecting pollen from a wildflower

Pollination by wild bees contributes an average $3,251 per hectare per year to crop production, researchers find
A bee collecting pollen from a wildflower.Researchers followed the activities of nearly 74,000 bees from more than 780 species at 90 projects around the world. Photograph: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex Shutterstock

Agence France-Presse

Tuesday 16 June 2015 23.44 EDT
Last modified on Thursday 18 June 2015 11.45 EDT

Wild bees provide crop pollination services worth more than $3,250 per hectare per year, a study reported on Tuesday.

Their value to the food system is “in the billions, globally,” its authors wrote in the journal Nature Communications.

Over three years, researchers followed the activities of nearly 74,000 bees from more than 780 species. The team looked at 90 projects to monitor bee pollination at 1,394 crop fields around the world.

They found that on average, wild bees contribute $3,251 a hectare to crop production, ahead of managed honeybee colonies, which were worth $2,913 a hectare.
Nearly one in 10 of Europe’s wild bee species face extinction, says study

The study adds to attempts to place a dollar figure on “ecosystem services” – the natural resources that feed us – to discourage environmental plundering.

Amazingly, 2% of wild bee species – the most common types – fertilise about 80% of bee-pollinated crops worldwide, the team found.

The rest, while crucial for the ecosystem, are less so for agriculture – so conservationists may undermine their own argument by promoting a purely economic argument for the protection of bee biodiversity, the authors said.

“Rare and threatened species may play a less significant role economically than common species but this does not mean their protection is less important,” said David Kleijn, a professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who led the study.

A healthy diversity of bee species was essential, given major fluctuations in populations, he added.

Honeybees in many parts of the world are suffering a catastrophic decline, variously blamed on pesticides, mites, viruses or fungus. Last month US watchdogs reported that US beekeepers had lost 42% of their colonies from the previous year, a level deemed too high to be sustainable.

“This study shows us that wild bees provide enormous economic benefits but reaffirms that the justification for protecting species cannot always be economic,” said a co-author, Taylor Ricketts of the University of Vermont.

“We still have to agree that protecting biodiversity is the right thing to do.”

According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, about 80% of flowering plant species are pollinated by insects, as well as by birds and bats.

At least a third of the world’s agricultural crops depend on these unpaid workers, the UN agency says on its website. Crops that require pollination include coffee, cocoa and many fruit and vegetable types.

The economic value of pollination was estimated in a 2005 study at €153bn, accounting for 9.5% of farm production for human food.

Commentators not involved in the study said it may play an invaluable part in the campaign to save bees.

“Crucially, the commonest wild bees are the most important, which gives us the ‘win-win’ situation where relatively cheap and easy conservation measures can support these and give maximum benefit for the crops,” said Pat Willmer, a professor of biology at Scotland’s University of St Andrews.

“For example, planting wildflowers with wider grassy margins around crops, as well as less intensive or more organic farming, all enhance abundance of the key crop-visiting bees,” she told Britain’s Science Media Centre.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/17/bees-are-worth-billions-to-farmers-across-the-globe-study-suggests

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grist

A BEACON IN THE SMOG

kealiapondnationalwildliferefugeByron Chin
Hawaii’s Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge

http://grist.org/news/feds-move-to-restrict-neonic-pesticides-well-one-fed-at-least/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily%2520July%252021&utm_campaign=daily

By John Upton
Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
Byron Chin
Hawaii’s Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
So far the EPA has refused to ban use of neonicotinoid insecticides — despite mounting evidence that they kill bees and other wildlife, despite a ban in the European Union, despite a lawsuit filed by activists and beekeepers.

But if the EPA is somehow still unclear on the dangers posed by neonics, it need only talk to the official who oversees federal wildlife refuges in the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Ocean.

Kevin Foerster, a regional boss with the National Wildlife Refuge System, directed his staff this month to investigate where neonics are being used in the refuges they manage — and to put an end to their use. Foerster’s office is worried that farming contractors that grow grasses and other forage crops for wildlife and corn and other grains for human consumption on refuge lands are using neonic pesticides and neonic-treated seeds. There are also fears that agency staff are inadvertently using plants treated with the poisons in restoration projects.

“The Pacific Region will begin a phased approach to eliminate the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (by any method) to grow agricultural crops for wildlife on National Wildlife Refuge System lands, effective immediately,” Forster wrote in a July 9 memo that was obtained and published last week by the nonprofit Center for Food Safety. “Though there will be some flexibility during the transition and we will take into account the availability of non-treated seed, Refuge managers are asked to exhaust all alternatives before allowing the use of neonicotinoids on National Wildlife Refuge System Lands in 2015.”

An information sheet attached to the memo notes that “severe declines in bee fauna have been a driving force behind the growing concern with neonics,” but that other species are also being affected. The information sheet also warns that pesticide drift, leaching, and water runoff can push neonics into wildlife habitats near farmed lands.

The use of the pesticides in U.S. wildlife refuges has triggered outcries and lawsuits from groups that include the Center for Food Safety. “Federal wildlife refuges were established to protect natural diversity,” said Paige Tomaselli, an attorney with the center. “Allowing chemical companies to profit by poisoning these important ecosystems violates their fundamental purpose and mission.”

Foerster’s move will help protect nearly 9,000 acres of refuges in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands from ecosystem-ravaging poisons.

But the memo has significance beyond that. It confirms that wildlife experts within the federal government are acutely aware of the dangers that the poisons pose. Now we just need the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the EPA to talk to each other.

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http://www.scidev.net/global/agriculture/news/bee-booby-traps-defend-african-farms-from-elephants.html

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Dieter Telemans / Panos

Speed read

  • Conflicts between farmers and elephants are a growing problem
  • Fences incorporating beehives take advantage of elephants’ aversion to bees
  • ‘Beehive fences’ are in use in Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda

 

[NAIROBI] Wire fences booby-trapped with beehives are being built in five African countries to prevent elephants from raiding farms, while also providing local people with honey.‘Beehive fences’ are now being put up in Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda by UK charity Save the Elephant, says Lucy King, leader of the Elephants and Bees Project in Kenya — and they are already in use at three communities in Kenya.

The project, which is a collaboration between Save the Elephants, the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, studies how to use the African bush elephants’ instinctive avoidance of African honey bees to avoid crop losses.

King says conflicts between farmers and elephants are a growing problem, with the animals’ encroachment onto farms causing massive crop losses.

But she tells SciDev.Net that it is easy to construct simple beehive fences using local materials.Hives are hung every 30 feet and linked together,” says King. If an elephant touches one of the hives or the interconnecting wires, the beehives all along the fence swing and release the stinging insects.

Global distribution of undernourishment_Figure 1_F&F
The hives, which are connected with trip wires, are easily upset — releasing the stinging insects — if elephants get too close. Credit: The Elephants and Bees Project in Kenya. ENLARGE ICON Click here to enlarge

She says that a pilot study she led involving 34 farms on the edge of two farming communities in northern Kenya found beehive fences to be an effective elephant deterrent compared with traditional thorn bush barriers.

King says that in the study, which was published in 2011 in the African Journal of Ecology, elephants made 14 attempts to enter farmland and 13 of these were unsuccessful. In each case the elephants were forced to turn away from the area after confronting a beehive fence or walk the length of the fence to choose an easier entry point through a thorn bush.

Only once did elephants break through a beehive fence to eat crops, according to the paper.

Where elephants and agricultural land overlap, incidents of humananimal conflict are on the increase.

Paul Udoto, Kenya Wildlife Service 

More than a decade ago, research found that elephants avoid feeding on acacia trees with beehives in them, says King. “This was followed by behavioural experiments demonstrating that not only do elephants run from bee sounds, but they also have an alarm call that alerts family members to retreat from a possible bee threat,” she says.

Electric fences have proved successful in barring elephants from some human designated areas, says the study. But King notes that, in Kenya, electrification projects often fail because of poor maintenance, spiralling costs and the lack of buying capacity among the communities where the elephants are common.

King says farmers and conservation agencies have focused recently on the effectiveness of farmer-based deterrents such as fire crackers, dogs or drums, but the use of beehive fences has proven more successful.

A similar method — playing recorded tiger growls to scare off marauding elephants — has been trialled separately in India.

According to Paul Udoto, corporate communications manager at the Kenya Wildlife Service, the use of beehive fences to prevent elephants from raiding farms is not a silver bullet, but it could be used alongside these other interventions.

He adds that human-animal conflict is largely due to people moving onto land used by animals.

Where elephants and agricultural land overlap, incidents of humananimal conflict are on the increase, Udoto tells SciDev.Net.

Suresh Raina, a bee expert at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya, is impressed with the idea.It is an intelligent solution to a challenge which farmers were facing in the past to save crops from the incursion of elephants in their fields, he tells SciDev.Net.

> Link to full paper in the Journal of African Ecology

 

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