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Cornell University is breeding nine-spotted ladybugs. The N.Y. insect had not been seen for 30 years in the state. There are four spots on each wing cover and the ninth is at the split at the front where the two meet.
Cornell University is breeding nine-spotted ladybugs. The N.Y. insect had not been seen for 30 years in the state. There are four spots on each wing cover and the ninth is at the split at the front where the two meet.

Once extremely common in New York, the nine-spotted became rare over the last 40 years and was even thought to be extinct, said Leslie Allee, a Cornell entomologist.

Allee and another Cornell entomologist, John Losey, formed the Lost Ladybug Project in 2000 to investigate why the nine-spotted and two other ladybug species that were once common in North America had become so rare so fast.

Ladybugs may have an adorable name and look pretty cute, but they also have an important job to do: They eat other insects.

"If we didn't have ladybugs we would need to use much higher levels of pesticides," Allee said. "So not only are they saving us money and saving crops, but they are also contributing to human health by reducing the level of pesticides that are needed."

Combining research with citizen science, the project uses photos and actual ladybugs submitted by people across the country to map where certain ladybug species are found, study differences between them and breed them. So far, 13,370 photos of ladybugs have been contributed by people around the country and Canada.

But no contribution was more significant than last July when project volunteer Peter Priolo organized a group search in Amagansett on Long Island, N.Y. Priolo spotted a nine-spot in a patch of sunflowers on an organic farm. It was the first one found in New York in 30 years and just the second found on the East Coast in the last 40 years, Allee said.

"This completely shifted our research data because it wasn't just one, it was a nice-sized population," Allee said.

Members of the lab in Ithaca headed to Amagansett to collect a bunch of the ladybugs. Now, there are about 100 nine-spotted ladybugs living in plastic containers in the lab. With a steady diet of aphids, housed in a climate-controlled room connected to the lab, the population should grow by 25 percent every three to four weeks. Along with Allee and Losey, undergraduate and graduate students work in the lab feeding the ladybugs, collecting data and cleaning the plastic homes.

So far, research from the project has yielded three different theories on the disappearance of the nine-spotted ladybugs: competition with invasive species of ladybugs; hybridization; and changes to the environment, such as climate change.

On hybridization, for example, the lab is looking at if it is possible that the nine-spotted could have interbred with the seven-spotted and essentially bred itself out of existence.

The conditions in the lab are better than in nature, Allee said, as the temperature is regulated, food is given regularly and there are no predators around. Though the project is about five to 10 years away from reintroducing the bug back into the environment, that remains a possibility, Allee said.

In addition to the research, a significant part of the Lost Ladybug Project is about outreach to community members, said Rebecca Smyth, who corresponds with the people who submit photos. Smyth can only remember one day last year when she did not receive a photograph.

"I saw there were no submissions and I thought, 'can this be true?'" she said. "But then I thought, 'Well it is Christmas, so that is OK."


From the Huffington Post

Bees may seem like uninvited guests at your picnic -- but before you shoo them away from the fruit salad, think twice, as they play a critical role in making your picnic possible.

Some of the most healthful, picnic favorites -- from blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber, avocados, to almonds -- would not make it to the table without the essential work by insects and bees.

Most crops depend on pollinating insects to produce seeds or fruits. In fact, about three-quarters of global food crops require insect pollination to thrive; and one-third of our calories and the majority of critical micronutrients, such as vitamins A, C and E, come from animal-pollinated food crops.


To provide pollination services to such crops, farmers often rely on domesticated honey bees. But with the decline of honey bee colonies due to diseases and pesticides, this single-management strategy is increasingly risky. Moreover, a recent study in the journal Science, led by Lucas A. Garibaldi (at the National University of Rio Negro in Argentina) involving myself and 48 other scientists, indicates that reliance on a single domesticated species is not only risky, but also inefficient.

Based on a synthesis of 600 fields at 41 crop systems, we found that wild bees and insects were more effective at pollinating than managed honey bees, even doubling the proportion of flowers that develop into mature fruits or seeds. In fact, the proportion of flowers that matured to fruit improved in every field visited by wild insects, compared with only 14 percent of fields visited by honeybees. This means that rented honey bees supplement, rather than replace critical, yet free pollination services provided by wild bees to crops.


This is a big deal. As the world population is estimated to increase to nine billion by 2050, with a corresponding need to double the global food supply, we must find ways to make more food from the same amount of land. And our research suggests that to achieve such "sustainable intensification" we should secure healthy populations of wild pollinators across agricultural landscapes worldwide. But given dramatic declines in many bee species globally, this presents a daunting yet timely challenge.

A major driver behind the decline of wild pollinators is the loss and degradation of natural habitats. Simultaneously, farm management practices have been implicated. To better understand these different factors, Claire Kremen (at University of California, Berkeley), Eric Lonsdorf (previously at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago), and I worked with an international team of bee biologists and synthesized data on wild bee communities in agro-ecosystems from around the globe (including 39 studies on 23 crops in 14 countries and 6 continents).

We found that wild bee assemblages were most diverse and abundant on fields managed organically and that grew a variety of crops or had natural vegetation like hedgerows, flower margins, and live fences (as recently published in Ecology Letters).


Our results suggest that switching from conventional to organic farming could lead to an average increase in wild bee abundance and richness by 74 percent and 50 percent respectively, and enhancing field diversity could lead to an average 76 percent increase in bee abundance. Farmers can therefore maximize pollination services to their crops by reducing their usage of bee-toxic pesticides and herbicides, planting small fields of different flowering crops, increasing the use of mass-flowering crops in rotations and breaking up crop monocultures with hedgerows and other natural vegetation.

In addition to local-scale field effects, we modeled landscape-level effects using a crop pollination model (available through the Natural Capital Project), and found that bees benefited when farms were surrounded by natural habitats, especially when in large monocultures; and that each 10 percent increase in the amount of high-quality bee habitats in a landscape leads to an average 37 percent increase in bee abundance and richness.


Orchards and fields surrounded by natural or semi-natural habitats (left) versus those that are more isolated (right). Wild bees are more abundant and diverse on fields closest to natural habitats. Almond photos by Alex Klein and Claire Brittain; Red clover photos by Maj Rundlöf; Strawberry photos by Catrin Westphal.

This is good news. This means we have multiple options to safeguard pollinators and their services to crops. We can protect and enhance natural areas around farms as well as improve on-farm management to benefit both our natural heritage and our agricultural harvests.

So if bees at a picnic may not sound like fun, believe me, you couldn't have one without them.

Berkeley Daily Planet, May 20, 2012

It was mid-afternoon on May 16 when more than 30 activists [the news said 90
people attended] began arriving at San Pablo Park. The crowd was greeted by the
lyrics of David Mallett's "Garden Song," performed by the guitar-wielding,
guerilla trio known as Occupella. Passersby could tell this was not your
average Berkeley demo (as if there were such a thing). First clue: Half the
crowd was dressed up as bees.

This West Berkeley park was the staging ground for a self-declared human
"Bee-in at Bayer." The goal: to call attention to the chemical maker's role in
producing a pesticide linked to "Colony Collapse Disorder," a mysterious
syndrome that suddenly turns once-healthy hives into empty shells devoid of

entrance Bayer Berkeley site

"Our entire ecological system depends on pollinators," the organizers noted in
a handout. "Ninety percent of our food crops are pollinated by bees." Occupella
underscored this point by breaking into another song that chorused: "For every
third bite of food, thank the bees."

In addition to protestors in bee-garb, several people showed up in full-body
beekeeper suits, complete with netted hats. Turns out they really were
beekeepers. Underneath one wide-brimmed and netted hat was Kathryn Gilje,
co-director of the Pesticide Action Network. Asked how her backyard hive in
Oakland was faring, she replied: "The bees are doing just great. Producing lots
of honey." Not every hive is so lucky as to have a member of PAN as a

Another less-fortunate local bee-host explained how she became concerned when
her own local community of backyard bees suddenly started to spiral into
decline. Her research led to the discovery of two neonicotinoid
pesticides—Imidacloprid and Clothianidin. Both are currently among Bayer's
best-selling products.

The trade-off could not be clearer. While the EPA's review of neonicotinoid
hazards is due to last through 2018, one third of the country's honeybees are
continuing to vanish every year. As an emailed call-to-arms from the Berkeley
East Bay Gray Panthers put it: "We can't afford to play the odds with
extinction so that Bayer can continue to make exorbitant profits."
bee die-in

Bayer recently made good on a seven-year-old promise to halt production of
Class 1 pesticides that threaten human health but has done nothing to reduce or
halt the production of Clothianidin and Imidacloprid, both of which target
"social insects" like bees. (A passing thought: Have you ever wondered whether
pesticide companies intentionally create tongue-tangling names for their
products? It certainly makes it hard to complain about a chemical if you can't
even pronounce it.)

Back at the park, new volunteers, who arrived dressed in black, were being
wrapped in circles of yellow ribbons that turned their black-bloc regalia into
a rough semblance of apian attire. A few more heartfelt speeches and we were
ready to march off to bee-devil Bayer the Slayer. The plan was simple: make a
beeline for the Bayer plant on Ninth Street and "Swarm!"

A parade of people bedecked as bees is certain to stir up enthusiasm from
neighbors and drivers and, sure enough, horns were tooted in sympathy as the
colorfully bee-decked activists flashed signs reading "Honk If You Like Bees."
One protestor was spotted holding a placard that read: "WASPS 4 BEES. White
Anglo-Saxon Protestor Against Bayer." Another protest sign drew attention to
Bayer's historic role as a major chemical weapons maker for Nazi Germany.

At one point, someone in the parade began singing, "All we are saying is: Give
Bees a Chance." It caught on immediately. In between the chorus, the marchers
also gave bees some chants (thanks to the family of one young agitator who
stayed up late into the night crafting the following shout-outs): "Our Food
System's Fallin' without the Bees' Pollen"; "Bees for Our Nation, Not for your
Corporation"; "No Bees, No Farms, No Food"; and the inevitable "Whose Bees? Our

As the bee-dazzled throng passed the Good Vibrations shop on San Pablo, a
reporter pointed out the company's motto, painted on the front door: "Creating
a buzz since 1977." Shouts of "Join us!" ensued.

While Bayer's Berkeley facility doesn't make Clothianidin, it's a fair target
for anger directed at the parent company. When no one at the plant offered to
meet with the circling swarm of drum-banging activists at the closed side gate,
several organizers delivered a short speech and symbolically presented Bayer
with the "Poisoned Heart Award." The prize took the form of a
disgusting-looking plastic sack stuffed with lumps and oozing a thick coating of
Hershey's chocolate sauce.
The swarm then took flight and alighted at Bayer's nearby Main Gate for a

One by one, the bees shook, stumbled, and fluttered to the ground. Their final,
ad-libbed cries were poignant enough to elicit tears among the
bystanders. "But… I don't WANT to die!" moaned one young woman as she collapsed
on the pavement. "My honey!" another woman cried out, "I haven't finished
making my honey!"

As the bees sprawled silent and unmoving on the asphalt, bystanders looking
past the metal gate blocking entry to the plant noticed a strange,
sinister-looking cloud of vapor. It rose from behind a building and wafted
slowly across the facility, driven by the evening's breeze. Below the cloud, two
solemn protester stood holding a large banner. It read: “Mystery Solved! Bayer
Is Killing Bees.” By Gar Smith

Campaign for total ban of neonicotinoid pesticides:

Food First, May 21st, 2012
Bayer Pesticides Kill Bees

"Bayer is killing bees, bring them to their knees!" buzzed our group of around
90 protesters dressed as bees and beekeepers as we marched from San Pablo Park
to the East Bay headquarters of the international corporation, Bayer, to honor
them with the satirical Poison Heart Award, for their outstanding role in
global bee population decline. East Bay's Taking Back Our Food System organized
the march and demonstration. And while many marchers are not directly involved
with the Occupy movement, they are united over the common belief that our bees
must be saved as many fruits and vegetables depend on bees for pollination.

Bee populations have been steadily declining for the past couple of decades and
many scientists have attributed it to the increased use of pesticides in
industrial agriculture. This trend is worrying because it not only endangers
the livelihoods of thousands of beekeepers and small farmers, but puts the
future of our global food system at risk. Honey bees pollinate 71 of the 100
most common crops, accounting for 90% of the world's food supply. Managed honey
bees are the most economically important pollinator. In fact more than one in
every three bites of food we eat depends on honey bees for pollination . Some
scientists have even narrowed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), described as "the
mysterious and massive die-off of bees across North America and Europe," to the
use of a specific pesticide that is manufactured by Bayer's clothianidin and
imidacloprid, first-generation neonicotinoids.

Bayer is not just the innocent aspiring manufacturer making aspirin.; They are
one of the largest manufacturers of pesticides in the U.S. and around the
world, along with other infamous companies such as Monsanto and Dow.

So how do neonicotinoids kill bees? Scientists have disclosed that
neonicotinoids disrupt insects' central nervous systems," and "spread through
the vascular tissues of plants." This is most disturbing because once the
pesticides spread they are "toxic through entire growing seasons, including
flowering times when bees consume their pollen." As pesticides infiltrate the
bees' central nervous system, their learning and navigational abilities are
disrupted. This also makes them susceptible to certain parasites. Essentially,
the pesticides fog up the bees' brain and make it difficult for them to find
their way back to the hive. Even If they are successful in making it back to the
hive though, it is most likely that the pollen that the bee has extracted and
brought back is infected with neonicotinoids, meaning the rest of the colony
will be affected resulting in complete collapse of that bee colony.

Today pesticides are a prevalent part of the food and agricultural system,
especially in the US. According to Pesticide Action Network (PANNA), 1,200
different pesticide active ingredients are approved and in use in 18,000
different product combinations. By contrast, France and Britain have registered
around 500 and 300, respectively. Mixtures of these chemical cocktails not only
infiltrate the bees' nervous system, but are stored in their wax and pollen, in
the soil, and in water droplets exuded by trees, and even in nearby untreated
land. This phenomenon creates a dangerous world of chemical exposure not only
for the bees, but for humans, frogs, bats, and a wealth of other plants and
animals that contribute to the health and biodiversity of our natural

While Bayer scientists have continuously reported that there is no evidence
that links neonicotinoids to the depletion of the bee population, there have
been independent scientific studies conducted around the world that prove
otherwise. On Wednesday, May 16 the Taking Back Our Food System protesters sent
a message to BAYER to stop manufacturing these pesticides because without bees,
there are no farms, which means there is no food. So, while the protesters may
have looked a little crazy buzzing through the streets of Berkeley, they did it
and will continue doing it because bees are crucial to the survival of the human
population, and it's essential to protect them so that then can do their jobs,
and we can continue to eat a variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables. By
Yvette Cabrera

Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany) English)
Fax: (+49) 211-333 940 Tel: (+49) 211-333 911
please send an e-mail to receive the English newsletter "Keycode BAYER" free of
charge. German/Italian/French/Spanish newsletters also available.

Advisory Board
Prof. Juergen Junginger, designer
Prof. Dr. Juergen Rochlitz, chemist, former member of the German parliament
Wolfram Esche, attorney
Dr. Sigrid Müller, pharmacologist
Dr. Angela Spelsberg, physician, board member Transparency International
Prof. Rainer Roth, social scientist
Eva Bulling-Schroeter, member of the German parliament
Prof. Dr. Anton Schneider, biologist
Dr. Janis Schmelzer, historian,
Dr. Erika Abczynski, pediatrician

New research shows that nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom are capable of destroying HIV cells while leaving others intact.

Bee Venom

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis (WU) say they’ve found a way to effectively destroy the HIV virus using a toxin found in bee venom.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Antiviral Therapy, states that the technique not only destroys the virus that causes AIDS, but also leaves surrounding cells intact.

Researchers say they hope the nanoparticle technology could be incorporated into a vaginal gel to prevent the spread of HIV in areas with high rates of infection.

How Nanoparticles & Bee Venom Destroy HIV

Microscopic nanoparticles have unique and exciting properties. In biomedicine, they are used to transport important proteins throughout the body. Bee venom’s principle toxin is melittin, a small protein. Researchers used nanoparticles to distribute melittin in laboratory studies.

Similar to the way a bee injects its venom into your skin using its stinger, the toxin melittin is able to poke holes in the protective coating of HIV and other viruses.

“We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV,” Dr. Joshua L. Hood, a research instructor in medicine at WU, said in a press release. “Theoretically, there isn’t any way for the virus to adapt to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that covers the virus.”

When researchers loaded the toxin into nanoparticles, they found that it didn’t harm normal cells because of a protective bumper added to the nanoparticle’s surface. Because HIV cells are smaller than regular cells, they slide between the bumpers while leaving healthy, normal cells intact.

Most current HIV treatments focus on inhibiting HIV’s ability to replicate, but do nothing to stop the initial infection. However, researchers say that because the venom-laced nanoparticles attack a crucial part of HIV’s structure, they can kill before the virus has a chance to infect a person.

How Bee Venom Nanoparticles Can Help Stop the Spread of HIV

Researchers say these bee venom nanoparticles could be used in a vaginal gel to help prevent the spread of HIV in developing countries, such as parts of Africa with a high HIV rate. They could also be used by people who want HIV protection, but not contraception.

“We also are looking at this for couples where only one of the partners has HIV, and they want to have a baby,” Hood said. “These particles by themselves are actually very safe for sperm, for the same reason they are safe for vaginal cells.”

Beyond preventive measures, Hood sees the potential for treating existing HIV infections. He theorizes that the nanoparticles could be injected into a person’s blood in order to clear HIV cells from the bloodstream.

The technology could also be used to combat other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B and C, because the viruses share a similar protective membrane to the HIV virus.

Dr. George Krucik, Healthline’s director of clinical content, said that while nanoparticle research is not new, much more research will be required before these results can be put to use in people.

“This delivery technology holds out the promise of destroying circulating viruses that have not entered a cell, so in theory they could prevent a virus from infecting a cell,” he said. “These laboratory experiments are known as proof of concept studies, which demonstrate the feasibility of the technology. The use of this technology in humans has yet to be explored and will require years of study and clinical trials to see if they are effective in real live people.”

Bee venom is also being studied for use in pain relief medications and anti-aging creams.


Risk from neonicotinoids is 'not acceptable' and EU must limit use to winter crops, says charity


Controversial nerve-agent pesticides widely linked to decline in bees around the world should be banned, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says today.

Neonicotinoids should no longer be used on crops which attract bees and other pollinating insects, the RSPB says, in a call for the Government to support a proposed EU ban on the three most common neonicotinoid substances.

The intervention of the million-member society comes after a mounting tide of evidence indicating linkages between the use of the chemicals, made by the agribusiness giants Bayer and Syngenta, and collapses in colonies of honey bees and bumblebees.

More than 30 separate scientific studies in the last three years have shown adverse effects on insects from neonicotinoids, which are "systemic" insecticides, meaning they enter every part of the target plants – including the pollen and nectar which bees harvest. In January, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a scientific opinion recommending that the three main substances – imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam – should not be used on crops attractive to bees. RSPB agricultural policy officer Ellie Crane said yesterday: "We've been reviewing the science for a long time, and scientists are telling us that neonicotinoids might be killing bees.

"Everyone is basically coming to the same conclusion: there's a real and present danger on crops that are attracting bees because these substances are present in the pollen and the nectar. We have come to the conclusion that the risk is not acceptable." The call, formally made today on the blog of the RSPB Conservation Director, Martin Harper, will put significant pressure on the Government to go along with a recommendation from the European Commission, following the EFSA report, that the chemicals should indeed be withdrawn.

So far, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has refused to consider suspending or banning the substances, because it believes that there is no "unequivocal evidence" that they are causing harm.

Defra has now commissioned its own research into the impact of neonicotinoids on bees and the Department is waiting for the results of field studies being carried out by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA). These will be assessed by the Government's Advisory Committee on Pesticides, and on that basis, a decision will be taken about whether to support a ban.

The key vote will be in a Brussels meeting of the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, to consider a draft regulation from the European Commission. This would restrict use of the three neonicotinoids to winter cereals and other crops that are not attractive to bees.

Original Article can be Viewed HERE


(Earth Focus: Episode 44) Honey bees, the essential pollinators of many major US crops, have been dying off in massive numbers since 2006. This threatens the American agricultural system and the one in twelve American jobs that depends on it. There is growing evidence that a new class of pesticides -- nerve toxins called neonicotinoids, which are used on most US crops including almost all corn -- may be toxic to bees. The Environmental Protection Agency allowed neonicotinoids on the market without adequate tests to determine their toxicity to bees. Environmentalists want neonicotinoids banned until needed safety tests are done. While the US government is slow to act and neonicotinoid sales reap billions for the chemical industry, bees continue to die. Earth Focus reports.

A Midwestern beekeeper friend has earned his living as a migratory bee-farmer for almost 40 years; his son represents the fourth generation of this family to enter the beekeeping business. For most of those decades, the practice of migratory beekeeping was relatively trouble-free; the bees were not harmed by being trucked around America; there was no warning of impending disaster.  All of that changed with the coming of the new systemic pesticides, the neonicotinoids.

During summer in the Midwest, colonies build-up on pollen from maize, and dandelions while gathering nectar from soybeans, alfalfa, clovers and linden trees. Sadly, the maize and soybeans are seed-treated with systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, which emerge later, in the pollen and nectar, to poison the bees. To make matters worse, later in the season, those same crops are sprayed with additional: fungicides, herbicides and insect-growth-regulators (IGRs)Combined with the systemic neonicotinoids, these react ‘synergistically’, to produce a witches’ brew of poison that is far more toxic than any pesticide on its own.

In early winter, American beekeepers load around a million beehives onto flatbed trucks and haul them to California, where they are parked in beeyards, to wait for the pollination of the almonds in February.  Almonds make up more than 825,000 acres of California’s Central Valley generating more cash than both the California wine and tourism industries combined. The almonds form a vast mono-culture, and once the trees have blossomed, the entire area is almost devoid of: wildflowers, bees, insects or birds.

It is hard to judge whether the bees are poisoned more, by the summer neonicotinoids which affect them in the Midwest, or if they are finally pushed over the edge in the winter, by having to eat pesticide-contaminated stores. Either way, for months on end, these bees are exposed to a repeated drip-feed of many different pesticides.

For many migratory-beekeepers, the ‘coast to coast’ persistence of systemic pesticides is the final straw. More than 240 million acres of American corn, soya, canola/ oilseed rape and cotton were treated with neonicotinoids last year. There is literally ‘nowhere left to hide’ that is free of hyper-toxic, systemic, highly persistent, bee-killing pesticides.

In California, according to USDA figures, more than 20 million pounds of: insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, were applied to 825,000 acres of almonds in 2011.  Different mixtures were used on up to twenty applications in one season.  The average annual pesticide-application-weight is thus about 25 pounds per acre. The USDA report confirms that, since 2001, over 200 million pounds of pesticides have been applied to these same almond groves. The majority of these are applied in the weeks before the bees arrive, so they do not harm the incoming bees; however, there no ‘native’ Californian bees are able to survive among the almonds.

Since 2003, more than 10 million American bee colonies have died; however when ‘running replacements’ are taken into account, it is possible that as many as 20 million may have perished. Twenty years of peer-reviewed studies indicate that the hyper-toxic, systemic, neonicotinoid insecticides, are the only logical explanation for this global bee-extinction.

Beekeepers in the UK, who often keep just one or two hives, may find it impossible to grasp the scale of the disaster that has befallen America’s bee-farmers. The following photos and personal report reveal the enormity of this bee-holocaust, which is driving many commercial beekeepers into bankruptcy.


My correspondent in California wrote to me on February 5th 2013:

“I thought I’d give you a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look into the death of my bees in California. I started out last spring in the Midwest with 3,150 healthy bee colonies; of which 992 still survive, and most of those are very weak. More than 2,150 of my valuable bee colonies are now extinct.” 

Each dead colony means a loss of between $200 and $300 depending on the timing of the loss; it can cost $200 to buy and establish a new hive of bees. Dead bees do not pollinate flowers or fulfill pollination contracts! Almond-growers can lose as much as $4,000 gross income per dead hive, since their almond crop remains un-pollinated.  The enormous sums of money involved pose an imminent threat, not only to the bee-business but also to the entire almond industry.


“This should be the busiest time of my year... however, since I have lost 2,158 hives in less than a month to ‘colony collapse disorder’ I have  had to withdraw from a 1,200 hive pollination-contract, which means I have less work at present. The cold California weather has also delayed things; it will be two weeks before we see the first almond blossoms. Frankly I’m spinning my wheels and fighting depression, I need to get busy…”
In years gone by Almond Growers applied ‘hard’ insecticides as sprays during the ‘dormant’ winter season – when there were no flowers or bees present. This presented few problems unless the beekeeper brought them into the orchards too early from his over-wintering yards. Nowadays these ‘dormant-period sprays’ are almost a thing of the past as ‘softer’ insecticides and insect-growth-regulators are being used. Farmers mix: insecticides, fungicides and growth regulators in a single ‘tank mix’, which is applied while bees are actually in the orchards and the trees are in full bloom. If these pesticides are applied at night, there are relatively few acute deaths among the adult bees; however the combined effect of these sprays on the general fertility of the colony can be severe; we often notice ‘brood disruption’ two to three weeks after the pesticides are sprayed.

The application of these ‘tank mixed’ insecticides and insect-growth-regulators may not kill forager bees outright, especially if applied at night; but at sub-lethal levels they damage the nurse bees’ ability to feed the young larvae; so the population of the hive shrinks as old bees are not replaced.  Moreover, ‘insect growth regulators’ are applied to the trees, to disrupt the growth of target-insects but these hormones also have disastrous effects on bee-larvae, preventing them from moulting or completing metamorphosis.

Depending on the weather, bees may be exposed to as many as six spray-episodes, while among the almond blossoms; each spray contains a different mixture of insecticides, herbicides, insect-growth-regulators, fungicides, surfactants and adjuvants. The combined poisons prevent the bees rearing much of the brood into workers. If almonds are the only crop being pollinated this ‘lack of brood’ phenomenon may only last a few weeks and then clear up, when the bees are moved away to pesticide-free crops.

Poisoned Cherries

Unfortunately, when bees are moved away from the almonds, they are then exposed to additional waves of pesticides among the cherry, apple, and blueberry orchards, where they are taken to fulfil other pollination contracts.

Among the fruit crops, the bees are then exposed to as many as three additional fungicide or insecticide sprays. This additional pesticide-stress, means it takes even longer for brood-production to return to normal. To make matters worse, some orchards grow beside walnut-groves, which are sprayed with ‘insect-growth-regulators’ during bloom-time. These hormones also poison bee larvae and brood; so depending on the time of application and the wind direction, hives can suffer further serious damage from this additional pesticide exposure.

Pesticide-Free Foothills

In late March, the surviving colonies are withdrawn from cherry-pollination and moved into the California foothills, to forage on natural clover and wildflowers. While resting there, the beekeepers split colonies into two halves, in order to make new hives and hopefully rebuild from the season’s colony collapses.


Late April – Return to the Midwest

In late April beekeepers load the beehives onto trucks and haul them back across America to the Midwest, where they remain for the spring, summer and fall. Colonies build-up naturally in spring, as warmer days and blossoms stimulate the bees. Colony-growth and expansion may take-off as early as April 1st, but often this is still too cold. For this reason Midwestern beekeepers try to time their arrival home for late April, to catch the abundance of ‘late’ tree pollen, and the start of the dandelion-nectar flow. The bees really love the abundance of dandelion pollen and nectar; in the past, these were excellent for building-up colonies, but sadly, it has been ten years since bees have built-up normally on dandelions.

Midwest Corn and Soya: Contaminated with Neonics

The Midwest has a very diverse geography and climate: Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota are far enough north, that growing corn there was once considered a ‘marginal’ activity. However, America’s obsession with fermenting corn to make ethanol fuel, has changed everything. ‘Corn is now King’ over much of this vast area.

Over 90% of all corn in the Midwest is seed-treated with the systemic neonicotinoids Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam. In 2011 the USDA reported that 92 million acres of American maize were seed-treated with Clothianidin, which emerges in the pollen, making it highly toxic to honeybees.

Amish farmers can even be seen planting GM/ neonic-coated corn. It is a bizarre sight to see a team of Amish horses pulling a sprayer with a gasoline-powered pump, spraying roundup weed-killer on the GM/ roundup-ready corn.

During planting, Neonic-treated corn/ maize often produces a ‘minor bee-kill’ at hive entrances; but this is deceptive. The sprinkling of dead bees found in front of such hives is just the tip of the iceberg   In truth, exposure to neonic-contaminated planting dust from corn may kill as many as half of all the workers in each hive; this causes a dramatic fall in foraging activity. Most neonic-poisoned bees die in the field, well away from the hive; unable to find the way home, they vanish without trace.

If one studies the ground in front of such hives, it becomes evident that the alleged ‘short-term’ bee-kill, associated with planter-dust, is in fact long-lasting. Some bee-corpses found in the grass are already decayed, while others seem to be ‘only just dead’ and can be ‘resurrected’ by tickling them with a blade of grass. This causes them to attempt feeble movements; ‘spastic’ is the word which best describes their feeble trembling.

The unusual thing about the survivors, is that they are mostly very young workers, probably ‘nurse-bees’.  A heavy exposure to neonicotinoids via planter-dust may be acutely toxic, killing forager-bees outright; however, a weaker dose can induce sub-lethal poisoning, killing the bees more gradually. Nevertheless, the neuro-toxin still affects them strongly; if they show clear signs of poisoning, the guard bees will not allow them into the hive, and the outcasts just crawl away to die in the field. Bees, whose nervous-systems and navigation are badly affected by a stronger dose of neonicotinoids, never find their way home.

Most of the bees found dead at the hive entrance are abnormally-young; the bees normally seen at hove entrances are tough old guard-bees, or mature foragers. Young nurse-bees appear ‘soft and fuzzy’ since they are covered in fine hair, which is gradually lost, as work takes its toll; adult foragers look harder-edged: the thorax is hard and polished. Likewise, while the wings of young nurse bees shine with perfection, the wings of old-foragers look tattered and frayed.


Nurse bees are too immature to be assigned foraging duties outside the hive so they are not being poisoned by contact with pesticides in the field. They are exposed to neonicotinoids via contaminated pollen and nectar brought back to the hive by adult foragers. The nurse bees digest this pollen and nectar in order to secrete ‘brood food’ for larval bees; thus they are slowly poisoned before they graduate to foraging duties outside.  Instead, these poisoned nurse bees crawl out of the hive entrance to die a slow, spastic death.

Loss of Adult Forager Bees Triggers a Colony Crisis

Many studies confirm that if the hive loses its adult foragers a ‘colony-development-crisis’ ensues; the loss of mature workers forces the dwindling colony into an ‘emergency reaction’; immature nurse-bees are pushed outdoors as ‘precocious foragers’ while still too young for this work. Their lifespan is severely shortened and they die early, speeding the collapse of the colony.

Pesticide-induced depopulation happens early in the season, when temperatures are gradually rising, so a hive may often recover from this early setback; many of the weakened colonies have just enough bees left to keep the brood warm. Thus, once the acute pesticide-exposure, from the planting of neonic-treated crops lessens, fresh, the hive gradually recovers, as pesticide-free sources of pollen and nectar become available from wildflowers or other crops.

Neonicotinoids Trigger Abnormal Queen Replacement

A very abnormal phenomenon associated with early-season-pesticide-poisoning, is that many colonies will suddenly kill, or ‘supercede’, their existing queen.  Supercedure is a natural process, by which bee colonies replace an ageing-queen, as her fertility fades; it usually happens when she is two or three years old. The colony then produces a number of new queen cells, or a single ‘supercedure’ cell, in mid-season.  Supercedure, of current-season queens, early in the year, was considered extremely unusual before the advent of neonicotinoids; but many beekeepers report that this is now common. Abnormal supercedure of young queens is exactly what one might expect, if they have been fed neuro-toxins via contaminated pollen and nectar.

A queen must eat her own body-weight in food every day, in order to lay 1,500 or 2,000 eggs. Thus she consumes hundreds of times more food than a worker and can live for three years, as opposed to six weeks; thus her exposure to neonicotinoids, or other pesticides, may be greater than that of a worker bee or nurse bee.

Thus, early-season pesticide-exposure causes abnormal brood-mortality, which disrupts the ratio of capped-brood to open-brood in the hive; once again, this encourages the bees to supercede the queen because it all ‘feels wrong’. If workers sense that a queen is ‘abnormal’ in any way, this can trigger immediate queen-replacement. If her pheromones are perceived to be weak; if the rate of egg laying drops-off; if she trembles on the comb – she will be killed at once. However, if a colony supercedes the queen in early summer, there will be a month-long-gap in egg laying and brood production, since it takes about four weeks for a new queen: to be produced and mated, before she can lay new eggs.  A pesticide-affected colony, which supercedes a young queen, will never catch-up with a healthy hive, which has maintained its queen through a season of continuous brood production.  Such abnormal-supercedure colonies will make little or no surplus honey.

The Main Midwest  Honey Flow: 

In the Midwest the main honey-flow usually starts in early July. The bees gather most of the nectar from a mixture of clovers and basswood, or linden trees.



Soybeans: Three Routes of Exposure to Neonicotinoids

The first wave of pesticide-exposure comes in late July, from insecticide sprays used to control aphids on soybeans. This exposure route is complex; most American soybeans are coated on planting, with the same mixture of neonicotinoid insecticides and fungicides as is corn. However fewer mass bee-kills are observed among soybeans at planting, since far-less pesticide-contaminated dust, rubs off the soybean seeds than happens with corn. It should be noted that the neonicotinoid coating, which abrades from the seeds, is thousands of times more concentrated and poisonous than the greatly diluted version which finally emerges in pollen and nectar.

The pesticide coating sticks much better to the smooth, egg-shaped soybeans, than it does to the rough and angular corn seeds; so less pesticide rubs off the soybeans to contaminate the planter-exhaust dust; this is very different to what happens with corn. Also, since most soybeans are planted with a soil-drill, and many do not use compressed air to distribute the seeds, there is far less pesticide-laden exhaust dust.

Second Phase of Neonicotinoid Exposure

Bees feeding among the mature soybean crop are then exposed to pesticides via a second route, when the neonicotinoids, originally applied as a seed-coating, finally emerge in the pollen and nectar of the blooming flower.

Third Phase of Pesticide Exposure

A third pesticide-exposure route associated with the soybean crop, is caused by later application of different insecticides, applied as foliar sprays.

A Pesticide ‘Free for All’

Since the American EPA has abandoned any pretence of enforcing pesticide label regulations, farmers can apply insecticides virtually anytime on a ‘perceived need’ basis: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year;.

Soaring commodity prices and high-pressure salesmanship from pesticide companies means that, farmers mostly opt to treat their crop with insecticides ‘prophylactically’ (as an ‘insurance measure’), rather than in response to a real invasion of insects.  In order to maximise the lethal-kill-period of the pesticide, most of the insecticides used are classified as: ‘Extended Residual’, designed to persist and remain lethal in the crop for several weeks. A pesticide-cocktail is applied as a single tank-mix; commonly this will include Chlorpyrifos combined with Lambda-Cyhalothrin, mixed with a sticky fluid and adjuvant. Crop-consultants advertise that this will continue to kill insects for up to 21 days, and they are most often applied while the crop is flowering, in the heat of the noonday sun – when bees are actively foraging.

Negative Effect of Pesticides on Honey-Production

In the summer of 2012 some neighbouring Midwest beeyards produced wildly varying crops of honey; some poor-producers averaged just 70 pounds of honey per colony, while adjacent yards produced over 140 pounds.  The only explanation is that tracks from pesticide spray-rigs could be seen in the soybean crop around the less-productive beeyards.




Neonicotinoid Treated Corn 

Immediately after the soybeans finish flowering, the bees suffer another major pesticide-exposure, when the corn tassels shed their pollen. Midwest corn fields often form vast mono-cultures, covering thousands of acres; in such areas bees are forced to harvest pollen from corn, as the only source available. Corn pollen from seed-treated corn contains neonicotinoid insecticides. For the last couple of years, some Midwest corn fields have also been sprayed from the air with fungicides, during the pollen-tassel phase. So bees gathering corn-pollen receive a double-dose of neonicotinoids and fungicides at the same time. Shortly after this aerial spraying of fungicides, bees suffer another break in the brood-rearing-cycle. The collapse of brood-production could not come at a worse time in the season, when hives should be raising thousands of healthy young worker bees in preparation for winter.

‘Winter Bees’ Vital to Colony Survival

As colonies prepare for the winter, they deliberately reduce the hive population. Worker bees only live for six weeks, so a bee that is born in summer cannot possibly survive until March. In order to get around this problem of bee-longevity, the colony produces a generation of ‘winter bees’ in early autumn. These young bees have little work to do, since there are no flowers to harvest –and all the honey has been processed and stored. Consequently they do not work themselves to death in six weeks, as is normal, but instead are tasked with keeping the queen warm and alive during the long winter months. The colony also enacts a ruthless ‘winter-fitness-selection’ on itself: worn-out old bees are expelled, or leave voluntarily, since they would just consume valuable food supplies and die anyway in mid-winter. Only the young are allowed to stay with the queen.

Male drones are evicted from the hive to starve and die; many of the older workers leave instinctively, sensing that their time has come. This ‘natural selection’ has evolved to ensure the hive is stocked with lots of healthy young ‘winter-bees’, to survive the winter months. At all costs, the colony must maintain a critical thermal mass if it is to survive the winter; if the population is too small to maintain this temperature, the colony dies.

Thus, repeated pesticide-shocks throughout the growing season trigger the collapse of brood rearing in late summer. As a result, the colony does not produce enough young worker bees and, in desperation, worn-out worker bees are retained in the hive beyond their normal residency. To the untrained eye, the colony still looks well-populated and has plenty of honey and bee-bread for the winter. But in reality, this colony of geriatric bees is doomed to collapse in mid-winter.

Neonicotinoids increase pathogens and parasites

Neonicotinoids are known to weaken bees’ immune systems, making them more vulnerable to: parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungal disease, (Pettis. Engelsdorp & Alaux).  A colony may appear to collapse as a result of varroa, viruses, bacterial disease or nosema infection, but the underlying cause is arguably the destruction of the bees’ immune system by minute amounts of neonicotinoids.

As noted above, in pesticide-affected colonies,  ‘older’ worker bees are abnormally retained in winter to bolster the population. It is logical that these ‘geriatric’ winter bees already have a weakened immune system – due to age and sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids; but they also carry a lifetime’s load of parasites and pathogens when they go into the winter-hive. Months of close-quarter-living, within the winter cluster, provides perfect conditions for diseases and parasites to grow, triggering colony collapse. Newly-bred winter bees would carry a far lower burden of parasites and diseases, since they are too young to have acquired them.

What we observe, repeatedly, is a gradual decline in colony-strength, which accelerates as the cluster shrinks. Eventually the colony falls below a critical thermal mass, collapses and dies.

This bee-farmer’s photographs record the disaster: of 3,200 bee colonies which he brought to California on November first, just 900 remained alive on February 5th.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that these 900 remnant-colonies will even survive to return to the Midwest, because they have not yet been placed among the almonds, where they will encounter further waves of pesticide-stress in late February.  They will then endure even more pesticide applications among the cherry, apple and blueberry crops.  So the prospect of this bee-farmer salvaging anything from this catastrophe does not look good.  The wider implication is that his personal tragedy is being repeated on a far, far greater scale, among the thousands of other bee-farmers, who have brought over 1.5 million hives to California.  It looks like 2013 may prove to be a historic watershed for the almond industry, as the year in which there were simply not enough surviving bees to pollinate the vital almond crop.  Whether this bee-farmer can survive to rebuild his devastated business is an open question that will only be answered in the coming months.






Table 20: Total reported pounds of all Active Ingredients (AI), acres treated, acres planted, and

prices for almonds each year from 2006 to 2010. ‘Acres treated’ means cumulative acres treated i.e. 1 acre treated 10 times = 10 treated acres.


In the table above – 825,000 acres of Almonds were treated with 20,498,411 pounds of pesticides in 2011, which means that in a single growing season, each acre of Almonds received 24 applications of different herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. Each acre of almonds received almost 25 pounds weight of pesticides in just one year. Many of these pesticides have a high persistence in soil and water. By extension, roughly 200 million pounds of pesticides have been applied to this patch of California in just ten years.  Where did all that poison go to?  Where did it end up?  In the streams, watercourses, ditches, ponds and rivers of California.


Dear all,

This may only be of key interest if you are involved in farming or food
production, though it will of course affect us all in the very near future.

If you know any farmers, food distributors or people who are involved in
farm-policy and conservation, please pass it on.

If you are concerned about Monsanto and Syngenta's bid to secure a virtual
monopoly on the supply of all crop seeds, please download and read the
following report from the American Centre for Food Safety.
This is a definitive document which will influence the debate for years to
come. Very good summary of the history and the issues.



Original article from National Geographic

A combo of pesticides takes a toll on their memory and communication skills

A honeybee pollinates a flower.

Honeybees learn and remember the locations of flowers, but a new study shows they may be losing their way.

Photograph by John Kimbler, My Shot

Christy Ullrich

National Geographic News

Published February 13, 2013

A single honeybee visits hundreds, sometimes thousands, of flowers a day in search of nectar and pollen. Then it must find its way back to the hive, navigating distances up to five miles (eight kilometers), and perform a "waggle dance" to tell the other bees where the flowers are.

A new study shows that long-term exposure to a combination of certain pesticides might impair the bee's ability to carry out its pollen mission.

"Any impairment in their ability to do this could have a strong effect on their survival," said Geraldine Wright, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University in England and co-author of a new study posted online February 7, 2013, in theJournal of Experimental Biology.

Wright's study adds to the growing body of research that shows that the honeybee's ability to thrive is being threatened. Scientists are still researching how pesticides may be contributing to colony collapse disorder (CCD), a rapid die-off seen in millions of honeybees throughout the world since 2006.

"Pesticides are very likely to be involved in CCD and also in the loss of other types of pollinators," Wright said. (See the diversity of pollinating creatures in a photo gallery from National Geographic magazine.)

Bees depend on what's called "scent memory" to find flowers teeming with nectar and pollen. Their ability to rapidly learn, remember, and communicate with each other has made them highly efficient foragers, using the waggle dance to educate others about the site of the food source.

Their pollination of plants is responsible for the existence of nearly a third of the food we eat and has a similar impact on wildlife food supplies.

Previous studies have shown certain types of pesticides affect a bee's learning and memory. Wright's team wanted to investigate if the combination of different pesticides had an even greater effect on the learning and memory of honeybees.

"Honeybees learn to associate floral colors and scents with the quality of food rewards," Wright explained. "The pesticides affect the neurons involved in these behaviors. These [affected] bees are likely to have difficulty communicating with other members of the colony."

The experiment used a classic procedure with a daunting name: olfactory conditioning of the proboscis extension reflex. In layman's terms, the bee sticks out its tongue in response to odor and food rewards.

For the experiment, bees were collected from the colony entrance, placed in glass vials, and then transferred into plastic sandwich boxes. For three days the bees were fed a sucrose solution laced with sublethal doses of pesticides. The team measured short-term and long-term memory at 10-minute and 24-hour intervals respectively. (Watch of a video of a similar type of bee experiment.)

This study shows that when pesticides are combined, the impact on bees is far worse than exposure to just one pesticide. "This is particularly important because one of the pesticides we used, coumaphos, is a 'medicine' used to treat Varroa mites [pests that have been implicated in CCD] in honeybee colonies throughout the world," Wright said.

The pesticide, in addition to killing the mites, might also be making honeybees more vulnerable to poisoning and effects from other pesticides.

Stephen Buchmann of the Pollinator Partnership, who was not part of Wright's study, underscored how critical pollinators are for the world. "The main threat to pollinators is habitat destruction and alteration. We're rapidly losing pollinator habitats, natural areas, and food-producing agricultural lands that are essential for our survival and well being. Along with habitat destruction, insecticides weaken pollinators and other beneficial insects."

A friend sent me this in an e-mail.

She wrote

"This particular spot in the world, Sichuan 
province, is interesting to me because no one says what pesticides were being 
used that wiped out all the insects. Is it co-incidental timing that when Bayer 
Crop Science was developing neonicotinoids, these farmers were using a new 
pesticide? Just where in the world did Bayer experiment with their deadly 
poisonous imdicacloprid? It had to have been somewhere on a vast scale. Was it 
here in China? Was this the place that, at the time, was hidden, unknown far 
from a large city? Why I wonder is because in the 1980's, China was not 
progressive like it is now. The farmers may have been given free chemicals. 
Perhaps it bears investigation by Chinese entomologists. Don't you think China 
and the world need to know the name of what poison was so vastly toxic that no 
bugs can live there to this day? They have tried to reintroduce bugs and birds 
but to no avail. "

Does this mean that BAYER products WERE USED? No, it does not...but does it deserve some investigation?  ABSOLUTELY.

In China, in the world's pear capital, it is the farmers who carry out the pollination of the trees: costly and painstaking work that replaces the bees killed by pesticides.

The city of Hanyuan, dressed in the finery of the white blossoms on the pear trees, could make us believe in the eternal China with its red and black brick roofs and the grandeur of its foggy landscapes. But don't let yourself be misled. It was agricultural reform instituted by the "Great Helmsman" that made the city the pear capital of Sichuan at the beginning of the 1980s. Perched at 1600 metres altitude, Hanyuan transformed its rice paddies into orchards. At the time, pears sold for 4 to 5 times the price of rice because China had to feed its population, which had tripled in ten years, going from 400 million to 1.2 billion. Today, with 7% of the world's cultivated land, the country has to feed 22% of the world's population.
The blossoming period of the pear trees is a crucial season, the one for pollination. Pear trees are auto-incompatible, which means that the trees need a hybrid pollination to produce fruit in good quantity and of a good size. Natural pollinators like bees have disappeared from the valley, killed or chased away by the pesticides that the farmers use on their crops. So, Chinese agricultural engineers replaced the insects with people and hand-pollination has spread in the valley and throughout the province of Sichuan.
In the Cheng Su family's orchard, they have been busy for several days now. The couple, for whom half their yearly income comes from the sale of five tons of pears, are pollinating one by one the flowers on their trees at a rate of thirty or so trees per day. The husband climbs the trees while his wife takes care of the lower branches, for 5 to 6 hours a day during the hottest hours of the day. This year, the season started late, the snow and cold lasting until early March. The first blossoms opened quickly, just after the thaw. Just as quickly, the family gathered the flowers from the early blooming pear trees in the house's courtyard to obtain the pollen necessary for the pollination. Once gathered, the pollen is dried under a heating cover. The prepared pollen is in fact a mix of pollen, pistils and stamens and its colour is brown, rarely yellow.