Declining Flower Diversity - part of a complex picture of pollinator loss

posted Jan 23, 2016, 12:32 PM by Mike Stamper   [ updated Jan 26, 2016, 1:38 PM ]

...Recently posted on Bee Culture, "CATCH THE BUZZ – WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE: COMPLEXITY & WORLDWIDE BEE DECLINES" is maybe the best overview of the issues facing pollinators written in the past few years.  The author discusses each of the major causes implicated in pollinator declines worldwide - "For example, in a recent review in Science magazine, Goulson et al. (2015) points to several, interacting factors: availability of food and nest resources, exposure to agrochemicals, incidence of antagonists (i.e., disease, parasites and invasive species), and climate change."  Please click 'view more' below and then click here to read the full article.

Questioning Academic Research Ethics...

posted Dec 28, 2015, 1:02 PM by Mike Stamper   [ updated Dec 28, 2015, 1:07 PM ]

In January of 2015, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Oakland organization U.S. Right to Know requested email records between academics, scientists, and representatives of Big Agriculture.

The FOIA requests were sent to 14 scientists at four public universities, requesting information on communications and email records.

The FOIA findings included communications of well-known, staunch proponents of GM crops like Kevin Folta, a professor and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Gainesville, who received a $25,000 grant from Monsanto. The emails reveal the funds could “be used at [his] discretion in support of [his] research and outreach projects”.

..Read the rest of the article here:

Pollinator Plants...

posted Dec 18, 2015, 9:20 AM by Mike Stamper

Interested in plants that support and encourage honeybees and a host of native pollinators?  Check out the "Bee Plant page ( on the Bee Culture site.  If you do not already subscribe, Bee Culture is a great source of information concerning beekeeping, agriculture, and environmental issues.

Plant for Native Bees...

posted Sep 17, 2015, 2:03 PM by Mike Stamper

The USDA has published a new guide for people wanting to customize their gardens to support native bee populations.  Part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog, the article discusses the importance of supporting native bee populations and suggests some best practices for doing so.  The full article can be found here: New Guide Helps Citizens Customize Their Gardens for Native Bees.

Bee Buffers in Ohio

posted Sep 2, 2015, 12:39 PM by Mike Stamper   [ updated Sep 2, 2015, 12:43 PM ]

Long discussed as a way to improve honeybee health and encourage wild pollinators, Bee Buffers are becoming a reality with support from the Pollinator Partnership.  Planted with pollinator friendly nectar bearing plants, a one acre buffer is enough to impact 33 acres of farmland.  Last year, pilot projects were launched in California and North Carolina.  The Pollinator Partnership is actively recruiting Ohio farmers to extend the project to that state this year.

Raising Queens...

posted Aug 26, 2015, 2:52 PM by Mike Stamper   [ updated Aug 26, 2015, 2:55 PM ]

Few things are as mysterious and amazing as the life of the queen bee, says bee breeder Sue Cobey. Just a few days after she hatches from her cell, the queen’s fertility is optimal and she has just a brief time to mate for the rest of her four-year life. 

The timing is critical, says Cobey, as she describes the process to a roomful of rapt Puget Sound-area beekeepers. If the weather is warm and mild, she leaves the hive, flying low at first to avoid her own colony’s drones before heading to a place where drones from other hives are waiting for a queen to fly by.

(Click here to read the rest of the article in the Summer 2012 issue of Washington State Magazine)

Urban Expansion Threatens Biodiversity

posted Sep 25, 2012, 2:16 PM by Mike Stamper

     A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences warns that current rates of urban development could significantly affect biodiversity worldwide in the near future.  Based on models of urban expansion, researchers at Yale, Texas A&M and Boston University predict that by 2030 urban areas will expand by more than 463,000 square miles, or 1.2 million square kilometers.  The study points out, that, while urban planners currently think in terms of carbon footprint, biodiversity may actually be a more important consideration.
     “We need to rethink conservation policies and what it means to be a sustainable city,” said Burak Güneralp, the study’s second author and research assistant professor at Texas A&M University. “It’s not all about carbon footprint, which is what mayors and planners typically think about now, but we need to consider how urban expansion will have implications for other, nonhuman species and the value of these species for present and future generations.”

Beekeeper Sues Crop Dusting Company

posted Apr 27, 2012, 11:47 AM by Mike Stamper   [ updated Sep 25, 2012, 2:21 PM ]

     In what may be the first case of its kind, the California bee keeping company Bronco Bee Company is suing Wheeler Ridge Aviation in an effort to recover damages for the loss of over 1 million bee in a recent pesticide kill.  Having exhausted regulatory remedies, Bronco felt it was time to make a stand in civil court.  The case is as much about the importance of protecting honeybees as about recovering money for the loss.  To find out more about this story please see: 

New Studies Point to Insecticide Family as Vector for CCD

posted Mar 30, 2012, 11:56 AM by Mike Stamper   [ updated Mar 30, 2012, 12:05 PM ]

  One class of insecticides, neonicotinoids, has long been suspected as a major factor in Colony Collapse Disorder. Two new studies, one out of the UK and the other out of France, lend support to this speculation.  These pesticides directly attack the central nervous systems of target pests.  The effects are similar to those of malathion and parathion, both linked to significant colony kills when they were commonplace during the latter part of the 20th century.  While neonicotinoids have been cleared as safe for honeybees and bumblebees for many years, many researchers have raised a red flag.  They were concerned that sub-lethal effects of these now ubiquitous insecticides were not being factored into the decision making process.  There has long been evidence that a key, sub-lethal side effect of exposure is deterioration of the part of the bee's central nervous system that controls navigation.  As related to CCD, this would mean that the bees lose the ability to find their way home.  

   Check out the following articles in the popular press for more information:
   An older study, done in England in 2009, is available in PDF form below.

Increasing genetic diversity of honey bees needed

posted Mar 17, 2012, 11:43 AM by Mike Stamper   [ updated Sep 25, 2012, 2:19 PM ]

Susan Cobey

     DAVIS — Increasing the overall genetic diversity of honey bees will lead to healthier and hardier bees that can better fight off parasites, pathogens and pests, says bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of the University of California, Davis, and Washington State University.

Just as stock improvement has served the poultry, dairy and swine industries well, the beekeeping industry needs access "to stocks of origin or standardized evaluation and stock improvement programs," Cobey said.

Cobey is the lead author of the chapter "Status of Breeding Practices and Genetic Diversity in Domestic U.S. Honey Bees" of the newly published book, "Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solution."

"The many problems that currently face the U.S. honey bee population have underscored the need for sufficient genetic diversity at the colony, breeding, and population levels," wrote Cobey and colleagues Walter "Steve" Sheppard, professor and chair of the WSU Department of Entomology and David Tarpy of North Carolina State University, formerly a graduate student at UC Davis.

"Genetic diversity has been reduced by three distinct bottleneck events, namely the limited historical importation of a small subset sampling of a few honey bee subspecies, the selection pressure of parasites and pathogens (particularly parasitic mites) and the consolidated commercial queen-production practices that use a small number of queen mothers in the breeding population," Cobey pointed out.

The honey bee, Apis mellifera, originated in the Old World where it diverged into more than two dozen recognized subspecies, they related. However, only nine of the more than two dozen Old World subspecies ever made it to the United States and only two of these are recognizable today.

European colonists brought one subspecies, Apis mellifera mellifera or "the Dark Bee" of Northern Europe, to America in 1622, establishing it in the Jamestown colony. The bee was the only honey bee present in the United States for the next 239 years (1622 until 1861).

The Italian or golden honey bee, Apis mellifera ligustica, was introduced into the United States in 1859 and is now the most common honey bee in the United States. "Currently available U.S. honey bees are primarily derived from two European subspecies, A. m. carnica and A. m. ligustica," the bee scientists said.

The U.S. ban on the importation of bees in 1922 to ward off a tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi) further aggravated the genetic bottleneck. Today the No.1 enemy of the beekeeping industry is the parasitic Varroa mite (Varroa destructor), which has played a major role in the crippling decline of the U.S. honey bee population.

Found in virtually all bee colonies in the United States, it feeds on bee blood, can transmit diseases and generally weakens the bee immune system.

What's being done? "In the U.S. the recognized need to increase genetic diversity and strengthen selection programs of commercial breeding stocks has resulted in collaborative efforts among universities, government researchers, and the queen industry," according to Cobey, Sheppard and Tarpy. "The current challenges facing the beekeeping industry and new technologies being developed are pushing beekeeping into a new era."

To increase genetic diversity in the U.S. honey bee gene pool, Cobey and Sheppard are importing honey bee germplasm or semen of several subspecies of European honey bees and inseminating virgin queens of domestic breeding stock. They are also working on diagnostic programs to assist beekeepers to assess colony health and to evaluate commercial breeding stocks.

Cobey, who teaches queen-bee rearing classes and queen bee instrumental insemination at UC Davis and WSU, joined UC Davis in May 2007. Her research focuses on identifying, selecting and enhancing honey bee stocks that show increasing levels of resistance to pests and diseases. Cobey developed the New World Carniolan stock, a dark, winter hardy race of honey bees, in the early 1980s by back-crossing stocks collected from throughout the United States and Canada to create a more pure strain.

Sheppard, who leads the Apis Molecular Systematics Laboratory at WSU, studies population genetics and evolution of honey bees, insect introductions and mechanisms of genetic differentiation. His work was featured in a recent edition of the Washington State University Magazine.

Tarpy, now an associate professor and Extension apiculturist, at North Carolina State University, received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 2000. He studied with Robert Page, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who later became the vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Foundation Professor of Life Sciences, Arizona State University.

Overall, the 21-chapter book "provides an overview of the complexities of honey bee health, including colony collapse disorder (CCD)," Cobey said.

The book, published by CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton, Fla., is edited by research entomologist Diana Sammataro of the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center, Tucson, Ariz., part of the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Jay Yoder, professor of microbiology and immunology, Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio.

The purpose of the book, the editors wrote, "is to provide collective knowledge from the many scientists who work with bees, to share their research, and to inspire future generations of researchers, beekeepers and students to continue to study bees and keep them healthy and pollinating."

The chapters, written by noted bee scientists, range from information on pathogens, parasites, pests and viruses to problems encountered in bee pollination, nutrition, disease outbreak and breeding practices.

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