Category Archives: Bees

Testing products which help (?) bees

Bees and wildlife are much in the public eye these days, with frequent media reports of declines.  In the UK, for example, approximately 70% of the land area is used for agriculture. Clearly, helping wildlife at a national level requires agricultural land to play a major role and there are various encouragements for this, with funding opportunities like the Countryside Stewardship scheme (Supplement 1) (244 separate grants including for ‘badger gates’, ‘beetle banks’, and ‘autumn sown bumble bee mix’) and advice and support from organisations such as LEAF (Supplement 2) (Linking Environment and Farming).

What can the general public do?  A plethora of products such as nest boxes, feeding stations and wildlife friendly seeds are available to purchase on-line and in garden centres.  Internet shopping websites such as Amazon UK list over 10,000 products for bees in their Garden and Outdoors section.

Here we take a close look at a number of these products which are specifically designed to help bees and other insects: bee hotels, bee bricks, bee and butterfly seed balls, and ladybird and butterfly houses. Our investigation uses a number of approaches, including expert responses and scientific research results….

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0005772X.2019.1702271

Too many honey bees threaten wild bee numbers

Come springtime the Brussels region’s environment agency Bruxelles Environnement will take up the beehives it manages at nature sites in Brussels, and remove them permanently.

The move forms part of a plan by the region to tackle the recent huge growth in members of the public keeping bees – a trend inspired by concerns about pollution, climate and biodiversity. Bees have become something of a mascot for this movement, in part because they are an excellent barometer of environmental conditions, and in part because of their crucial role in maintaining biodiversity.

But it’s possible to have too much biodiversity, and the honey bee – a variety essentially created by Man for Man – now represents a threat to its wild cousin….

https://www.brusselstimes.com/brussels-2/90095/brussels-wants-to-stop-unfettered-growth-in-beehives-wild-honey-biodiversity-hives-pollution-climate-apiarist/

How do chemicals affect bees?

Pesticides reduce their egg-laying capabilities

Researchers found 26% of queen bumblebees treated with insecticides, stopped founding new colonies after winter hibernation.  This means over a quarter of bumblebee nests are being lost every year, increasing their chances of extinction.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/08/14/542895824/popular-pesticides-keep-bumblebees-from-laying-eggs?t=1566656775002


Pesticides affect male bees’ sperm health

Researchers found drones (male honey bees) with neonicotinoid exposure did not have reduced sperm count, but did have reduced sperm viability.  Their conclusion finds that pesticides leads to queen honey bees failing to become properly fertilised and leads to premature colony failure.

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2016.0506


Glyphosate reduces healthy gut microbiome in honey bees

Glyphosate is a very successful herbicide because it targets an enzyme usually only found in plants. However, gut bacteria in honey bees also contain this enzyme and once affected by glyphosate, increases their susceptibility to infection by disease and other pathogens.

Research has shown glyphosate leads to a weakened immune system in bees, and could be one of the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder.

https://www.pnas.org/content/115/41/10305


Fungicides reduce beneficial fungi in Bee Bread

Honey bees use pollen to make what is known as “bee bread”. This is where they collect pollen, then mix it with a bit of nectar and some of their digestive fluids before tightly packing it into their cells where it ferments. Fermentation breaks down proteins into important vitamins such as amino acids, lactic acid, and vitamin K. Honey bees eat this because it is a source of medicine, as pollen comes from a wide range of plant sources – just as we get our vitamins from a wide range of fruit and vegetables.

But fungicide research has shown that it reduces beneficial fungi needed for bee bread fermentation, leading to inferior quality bee bread which reduces their immune system and ironically leads to more fungal disease – such as Chalkbrood.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15287394.2013.798846


Neonicotinoid exposure damages bees brains and affects their ability to forage

Researchers have found “rapid mitochondrial depolarization in neurons” in bumblebees exposed to neonicotinoids – meaning the plasma membrane of a muscle or nerve changes in permeability, affecting how cells transmit nerve impulses.

They found that bees suffered poor navigation, which led to poor foraging, which then led to a deficit in colony growth and contributed to bumblebee decline.

https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fj.14-267179?sid=c056c9e0-9441-4180-8cbf-0d912050cfe2


Get updates from https://cyrene.co.uk/how-do-chemicals-affect-bees/

A third of British wild bees and hoverflies are in decline

A widespread loss of pollinating insects in recent decades has been revealed by the first national survey in Britain, which scientists say “highlights a fundamental deterioration” in nature.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/26/widespread-losses-of-pollinating-insects-revealed-across-britain

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47698294

EU pesticide ban failing to protect bee populations

Bees living in suburban habitats are still being exposed to significant levels of pesticides despite the EU ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops, new research from University of Sussex scientists shows.

While the introduction of new EU restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid chemicals five years ago has reduced exposure of bees living in farmland, the study found that overall more than half of all pollen and nectar samples collected from bee nests in Sussex, Hertfordshire and Scotland between 2013 and 2015 were contaminated.

Read the press release:-  The Pesticide Ban is Failing

Cities are better for bumblebees than the countryside.

The Guardian newspaper reports a study by Royal Holloway University :-

“Bumblebee colonies fare better in villages and cities than in fields, research has revealed.

Bumblebees are important pollinators, but face threats including habitat loss, climate change, pesticide and fungicide use and parasites. Now researchers say that bumblebee colonies in urban areas not only produce more offspring than those on agricultural land, but have more food stores, fewer invasions from parasitic “cuckoo” bumblebees, and survive for longer.

“[The study] is not saying that cities are necessarily the ideal habitat for bees, it is just that they are doing better in the cities than in the countryside,” said Ash Samuelson, a doctoral student and first author of the research from Royal Holloway, University of London.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/27/bumblebees-thrive-in-towns-more-than-countryside

 

Bumblebees use perfume patterns to tell flowers apart

Guardian newspaper report ….

“Pollinators don’t just wing it when it comes to finding a sweet treat: the shape, colour, perfume and even electrical charge of flowers are all known to offer clues.

But now researchers say bumblebees also use another floral feature to guide them: how the concentration of a scent varies across the flower’s surface.”

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jun/13/bumblebees-use-perfume-patterns-to-tell-flowers-apart?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Lab+notes+2016&utm_term=278201&subid=25664344&CMP=ema-3242

https://research-information.bristol.ac.uk/en/publications/bumblebees-distinguish-floral-scent-patterns-and-can-transfer-these-to-corresponding-visual-patterns(943b7ba6-cae5-4662-96aa-705afc19cdc4).html

 

New EU report on the risks from using neonicotinoids

A report from the European Food Safety Authority published on 28th Feb 2018 gathers together evidence from over 1500 studies and could be a game-changer for bees.

This landmark science review concludes that neonicotinoid pesticides pose a high risk to both honeybees and wild bees.

For the new assessments, which this time cover wild bees – bumblebees and solitary bees – as well as honeybees, EFSA’s Pesticides Unit carried out an extensive data collection exercise, including a systematic literature review, to gather all the scientific evidence published since the previous evaluations.

https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/180228