Archive for Bees
www.independent.co.uk 30th March 2011
Quoted from source:
‘The Government is being asked to investigate a possible link between a new generation of pesticides and the decline of honey bees. It is suspected that the chemicals may be impairing the insects’ ability to defend themselves against harmful parasites through grooming. The Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, will have to answer a question in the Commons from the former Home Office minister David Hanson about whether the Government will investigate if the effect of neonicotinoids on the grooming behaviour of bees is similar to its effect on termites. The pesticides, neonicotinoids, made by the German agribusiness giant Bayer and rapidly spreading in use, are known to be fatal to termites by damaging their ability to groom themselves and thus remove the spores of harmful fungi.’
Read the rest of the article in The Independent here.
www.guardian.co.uk 3rd January 2011
The most comprehensive study to have ever been carried out on bee populations in the USA has come to a finish, and with startling results. The research team from the University of Illinois found that the ‘the abundance of four common species of bumblebees in the US has dropped by 96% in just the past few decades’. The reduced size of the bee populations means inbreeding and disease are likely to effect the remaining insects. Bees are essential for the pollination of 90% of the world’s commercial plants including coffee, soya beans, and cotton. Bumblebees are important in the US particularly for the pollination of tomato and berry plants ‘thanks to their large body size, long tongues, and high-frequency buzzing, which helps release pollen from flowers’. No single reason has been attributed to the bee decline although new diseases, changing habitats, and the increased use of fertilisers have all been cited.
e360.yale.edu 10th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Grassland butterfly populations across Europe have fallen by 70 percent in the past two decades, according to new report from Butterfly Conservation Europe. Relying on data from 3,000 sites in 15 countries, the study said the main cause of the decline was the switch from sustainable, small-scale agriculture to more intensive, industrial-scale farming, which tends to wipe out the flower-filled meadows and grasslands where butterflies thrive. Europe’s grasslands have been formed, in part, by livestock grazing and hay production since the last Ice Age, and the abandonment of these traditional practices, as well as overgrazing, also is playing a role in the drop in butterfly populations, the study said. The report said that the decline of small-scale agriculture was particularly acute in Eastern Europe and in mountainous regions, such as the Pyrenees. The decline of bumblebees, spiders, birds, and several types of plants and flowers is also believed to be linked to the loss of European grasslands.’
www.nytimes.co.uk 6th October 2010
It is a phenomena that has received a lot of attention but up until now, the actual cause of the drastic decline in honeybee populations in the USA has been elusive. Since 2006, 20-40% of bee colonies have collapsed prompting accusations against pesticides and GM foods. Now, an unlikely partnership between the US military and bee experts from the University of Montana have unveiled another theory. According to a paper published in the academic journal PLoS One, the researchers have blamed the interaction of a fungus and a virus for the decline in bee populations. Although the exact way in which the double-act effects the bees is unknown (the next stage of the study focuses on this), several factors indicate that bee nutrition is involved in some way. This is not the first time the US military has been interested in bees. With the help of the same University of Montana, the army has carried out research on the bee’s ability to detect landmines.
Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news 7th September 2010
Recent research into the genetic make-up of smaller bee populations in the Hebrides Islands has given an insight into the potential threats posed to bee populations nationwide if their habitats are further fragmented. Due to the gradual reduction in their habitat the Moss Carder Bees of the Scottish Islands are so inbred that it poses a threat to their very continuation as a species. The lead researcher on the project, Penelope Whitehorn from Stirling University, said that although the effects of inbreeding had not yet directly affected the creatures immune systems it did make them more susceptible to parasitic infections. The rich habitat meant that the effects are not as pronounced as they would have been on the poorer UK mainland. Other consequences include the increased likelihood of infertile males.
One species of bee has already become extinct in the UK. The Short Haired Bumblebee died out in the 1980s due to decreased habitat and parasitic infections. So far attempts to reintroduce the bee to the UK from New Zealand (where the bees were introduced in the 19th century) have failed.