Category Archives: Farming

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/

Pesticides found to starve fish ‘astoundingly fast’

Report from The Guardian:-

“The Silent Spring prophecy that pesticides could “still the leaping of fish” has been confirmed, according to scientists investigating the collapse of fisheries in Japan. They say similar impacts are likely to have occurred around the world.

The long-term study showed an immediate plunge in insect and plankton numbers in a large lake after the introduction of neonicotinoid pesticides to rice paddies. This was rapidly followed by the collapse of smelt and eel populations, which had been stable for decades but rely on the tiny creatures for food. … ”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/31/fishery-collapse-confirms-silent-spring-pesticide-prophecy

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

Strips of wildflowers could cut pesticide spraying

Strips of wildflowers across farm fields could cut pesticide spraying.   Guardian newspaper report:-

“The stripy fields have been planted across England as part of a trial to boost the natural predators of pests that attack cereal crops.

Long strips of bright wildflowers are being planted through crop fields to boost the natural predators of pests and potentially cut pesticide spraying.  The strips were planted on 15 large arable farms in central and eastern England last autumn and will be monitored for five years, as part of a trial run by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology…. ”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/31/stripes-of-wildflowers-across-farm-fields-could-cut-pesticide-sprayinghttps://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2015.1369

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2015.1369

 

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

 

Wildflowers cut pesticide use.

Stripes of wildflowers across farm fields could cut pesticide spraying.
The stripy fields have been planted across England as part of a trial to boost the natural predators of pests that attack cereal crops.  See the Guardian newspaper report: –

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/31/stripes-of-wildflowers-across-farm-fields-could-cut-pesticide-spraying

Not safe to use pesticides at industrial scales

The assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false, according to a chief scientific adviser to the UK government.  See The Guardian newspaper report …..

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/21/assumed-safety-of-widespread-pesticide-use-is-false-says-top-government-scientist

New Research Shows Risk to Bumblebee Extinction

THE GOVERNMENT MUST BAN BEE-HARMING PESTICIDES AS NEW RESEARCH SHOWS RISK TO BUMBLEBEE EXTINCTION

The government must act to permanently ban bee-harming pesticides says
Friends of the Earth as new research from Royal Holloway University suggests that neonicotinoid pesticides pose a risk of bumblebee extinction.

The research showed that queen bees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides were
26% less likely to be able to start a new colony.

Friends of the Earth is urging the UK government to back moves in the EU to
permanently extend current neonicotinoid restrictions to all crops – and
commit to keeping any ban post-Brexit.

Responding to the research, Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth nature
campaigner, said:

“This new study comes hot on the heels of the largest field trials of
neonicotinoids showing harm to honey bees and wild bees. It also follows
new evidence of how these pesticides leak into the environment and turn up in
wildflowers posing further risk to bees.

“It is clear that use of these chemicals on any crop poses a risk to bees
and other wildlife. The Government has repeatedly said it will follow the
science – how much more science does it need before it acts to protect our
precious bees?

“Michael Gove must put his support behind a comprehensive ban on
neonicotinoid pesticides across the EU and continue the ban in the UK
post-Brexit”


*Editor’s notes:*

1) Bumblebees are less able to start colonies when exposed to a common
neonicotinoid pesticide, which could lead to collapses in wild bee
populations, according to new research [1] in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London, and the University of Guelph have found
that exposure to thiamethoxam, a common pesticide, reduced the chances of
a bumblebee queen starting a new colony by more than a quarter.

2) In June 2017 a pan-European field study was published [2] providing
evidence that neonicotinoids harm honeybees and wild bees. Covering a
crop area equivalent to 3,000 football pitches, it was the biggest yet
real-world study of these pesticides. Undertaken in the UK, Germany and
Hungary, the experiment found : Increasing levels of neonicotinoid
residues in the nests of wild bee species was linked with lower
reproductive success across all three countries; Exposure to treated
crops reduced overwintering success of honeybee colonies – a key
measure of year-to-year viability – in the UK and Hungary.

3) Another study [3] this year, carried out on corn farms in Canada, found
crops were not the main source of neonicotinoids to which bees were
exposed. Instead, the contaminated pollen came from wildflowers, as has
also been shown in the UK. Nadia Tsvetkov, at York University in Canada
and who led the research said that “This indicates that neonicotinoids,
which are water soluble, spill over from fields into the surrounding
environment, where they are taken up by other plants that are very
attractive to bees”.


[1] http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0260-1

[2]https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/news/neonicotinoid-pesticides-harm-honeybees-wild-bees-first-pan-european-field-study

[3] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6345/1395