Honeybees are disappearing

Persej

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
PerfectCircle said:
There used to be a decent number of people in my country (Montenegro) gaining homemade honey and selling it 10e per jar, but it's very difficult to find a good one now.
Prices are going up as well.
Beekeepers from small town called Mojkovac claim they have total lost over 50 000e because of viruses inflicting the death of bees and many of them are leaving honey production.

Same thing in Serbia. I was recently watching a TV show about honey producers and everybody was complaining how much less the bees they have. They say that they never saw something like that before. It's pandemic.
 

Palinurus

The Living Force
Archiving an update for replies #50, #51, #52, #58 and #59 explaining the reasons for the delay (basically, the change of administration -- "the result of a bureaucratic tug-of-war between the transfer of power from Barack Obama to President Trump"):

https://www.sott.net/article/345981-The-rusty-patched-bumble-bee-officially-placed-on-endangered-species-list
 

Keit

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
The recent news on the Russian web is that there is an anomalous increase in bee deaths after the winter. Usually, it is acceptable to lose up to 20% of the bee family after the winter, but this time some beekeepers in Russia saw up to 100% loss, which is very alarming and unprecedented.
 

Palinurus

The Living Force
Thanks, Keit. :cool2:

I agree, the loss of nearly complete populations is unheard of, AFAIK. The highest death toll I remember off the top of my head was around 50%-60% and that was thought to be exceptional at the time.

So, this takes it to quite a new level altogether I'm afraid.
 

Persej

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Palinurus said:
So, this takes it to quite a new level altogether I'm afraid.

I wonder how long will it take until they are all dead? And can humanity survive that scenario? That would be a good question for the C's.
 

SlavaOn

Jedi Master
I don't have much experience with bee keeping... I have only 1 hive and it did survive its first and very mild winter in Virginia.
The bees that I have are of "Russian", rather, Slavic decent/breed. I was told by a professional beekeeper that they fare better against mites in the US comparing to "Italian" or US native bees.

Since so many colonies are dying, I would think there will be a surplus of bee hives on the market and the prices of the new hives would also go down. I just ordered a new hive and the price is the same as last year. Did you notice any cheap(er) hives for sale in your area/country?

SlavaOn
 

Voyageur

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Keit said:
The recent news on the Russian web is that there is an anomalous increase in bee deaths after the winter. Usually, it is acceptable to lose up to 20% of the bee family after the winter, but this time some beekeepers in Russia saw up to 100% loss, which is very alarming and unprecedented.

I wonder. The beekeeper up the road was telling me the other day (some years it's different mortality levels and causes) that this year some of his hives (not all) were 100% wiped out. What you said above seems right as 20% is normal or even more if it is a harsh winter, yet the bees in a healthy hive can generate pretty good heat. However, he said this past fall/winter it was the skunk population that did them in. Thinking back to the fall, the skunk population did seem rather last year - perhaps in Russia also?

It is common enough that skunks eat bees/wasps, however, in the late fall when the bees set to the task of wintering, the skunks, if they can get in, eat everything up.
 

Ant22

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
voyageur said:
Keit said:
The recent news on the Russian web is that there is an anomalous increase in bee deaths after the winter. Usually, it is acceptable to lose up to 20% of the bee family after the winter, but this time some beekeepers in Russia saw up to 100% loss, which is very alarming and unprecedented.

I wonder. The beekeeper up the road was telling me the other day (some years it's different mortality levels and causes) that this year some of his hives (not all) were 100% wiped out. What you said above seems right as 20% is normal or even more if it is a harsh winter, yet the bees in a healthy hive can generate pretty good heat. However, he said this past fall/winter it was the skunk population that did them in. Thinking back to the fall, the skunk population did seem rather last year - perhaps in Russia also?

It is common enough that skunks eat bees/wasps, however, in the late fall when the bees set to the task of wintering, the skunks, if they can get in, eat everything up.

I just checked and there shouldn’t be any skunks in Russia - or Europe - they are native to Canada, the United States and South America. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Striped_skunk or http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41635/0

Maybe Russia has had a problem with another wild animal affecting the bee hives? I couldn't find any info on this.

What makes me wonder is the fact that skunks have always been a well known danger to honey bees and the reported deaths traditionally oscillated around 20%.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunk
Skunks are one of the primary predators of the honeybee, relying on their thick fur to protect them from stings. The skunk scratches at the front of the beehive and eats the guard bees that come out to investigate. Mother skunks are known to teach this behavior to their young.

Based on voyageur's testimonial above, skunk activity might have significantly increased. I wonder if pesticides are making them more hungry / aggressive or awake more often during winter?

Skunks are not true hibernators in the winter, but do den up for extended periods of time. However, they remain generally inactive and feed rarely, going through a dormant stage.

Although this still doesn't explain comparable bee death ratios in Russia :huh:
 

Voyageur

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Ant22 said:
Although this still doesn't explain comparable bee death ratios in Russia :huh:

This study - with some maps, in conclusion looked to multi-year winters (overwintering) and other:

Study on honey bee colony mortality

https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/live_animals/bees/study_on_mortality_en

Some conclusions after two years of the study

Rates of colony mortality differed from one year to another towards a decrease in the second year.
Significant regional differences in colony losses were also observed.
Climate might have influenced winter colony losses over the two years.
European and national surveillance systems benefited from this experience.
It will facilitate future implementation of projects (e.g. explanatory studies) studying other risk factors affecting colony health.

The study does not poke into Russia, so not sure how this would look there.

There is a paper here https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/60500500/PDFFiles/401-500/465-Villa--Overwintering%20of%20Russian.pdf on overwintering of Russian bees (they used them in the US due to mortality levels there with mites) monitored in the study. The pdf paper must be copy protected so can't easily offer up an abstract. In other discussions, often mites are pointed out as a cause, yet natural hives (in Russia) did not show a decline due to mites.

There sure seems to be many variables, and we likely only know the half of it when it comes to bee'ness.

An article here describes (as you say no skunks in Russia - lucky and maybe symbolic) some of bees predator species:

Bumblebee Predators http://www.bumblebee.org/PREDATORS.htm

Probably more bumblebees are killed by parasites than by predators. This may be because the bumblebee females are armed with a sting, but it is also due to the protection given by their warning colouration.

Some crab spiders ambush bumblebees at flowers. These spiders do not spin webs, but sit and wait for their prey to come within reach. They are well camouflaged. In north America Misumenia vatia catches bumblebees as they land on flowers.

Robber flies catch their prey on the wing in their legs. And in north America have been found to prey on bumblebees.

A few species of bird can remove the sting before eating the bumblebee, e.g. bee-eaters, spotted flycatchers, tits and shrikes. The Bombus lucorum queen below was probably killed by a bird, as was the one above where the thorax has been emptied. They rub the sting off before eating the abdominal contents which would include the honeystomach.

In the U. S. there are wasps called beewolves {that's a new one on me} in the genus Philanthus, these wasps specialize in hunting bumblebees. The bumblebee is caught while feeding and is paralysed with a sting, it is taken back to the nest and enclosed with a wasp egg in a cell; there are usually about five bumblebees in each cell.

All of the above are predators of foraging bumblebees.

Other predators break into nests and include badgers, who will eat the entire brood {Russia has these}, wax, stored food and any adult bees that do not escape. In north America skunks do the same. Foxes, minks, weasels, bears, field mice and shrews are also predators. In Iceland the mink is the major predator. However there is no mammal that specialises in bumblebee predation. More recently I've been hearing of hedgehogs which break into bumblebee nests that are above ground and not in solid structures. Like badgers hedgehogs would relish the grubs and any stores of honey and pollen.

These predators of course would show evidence of their being at hives, so that would need to be looked at.
 

Persej

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I have a lilac in front of my house and lot of bees on it at this time of year. But I just found a dead bee near it. :/

I already had a mass dying of bees three times, when bees tried to get into my apartment. I am afraid that it will happen again. I don't know how to help them. We are not spraying anything, except against mosquitoes, but that only happens in July and August.
 

Palinurus

The Living Force
Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/05/26/third-nations-honeybee-colonies-died-last-year-why-you-should-care/348418001/#

A third of the nation's honeybee colonies died last year. Why you should care

USA Today Network Sean Rossman , USA TODAY Published 11:41 a.m. ET May 26, 2017 | Updated 19 hours ago

America's beekeepers watched as a third of the country's honeybee colonies were lost over the last year, part of a decade-long die-off experts said may threaten our food supply.

The annual survey of roughly 5,000 beekeepers showed the 33% dip from April 2016 to April 2017. The decrease is small compared to the survey's previous 10 years, when the decrease hovered at roughly 40%. From 2012 to 2013, nearly half of the nation's colonies died.

"I would stop short of calling this 'good' news," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. "Colony loss of more than 30% over the entire year is high. It's hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses."

The research, published Thursday, is the work of the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership and the Apiary Inspectors of America.

The death of a colony doesn't necessarily mean a loss of bees, explains vanEngelsdorp, a project director at the Bee Informed Partnership. A beekeeper can salvage a dead colony, but doing so comes at labor and productivity costs.

That causes beekeepers to charge farmers more for pollinating crops and creates a scarcity of bees available for pollination. It's a trend that threatens beekeepers trying to make a living and could lead to a drop-off in fruits and nuts reliant on pollination, vanEngelsdor said.

One in every three bites of food, van Engelsdorp said, is directly or indirectly pollinated by honeybees, who pollinate about $15 billion worth of U.S. crops each year. Almonds, for instance, are completely reliant on honeybee pollination.

"Keeping bees healthy is really essential in order to meet that demand," said vanEngelsdorp. He said there are concerns it won't.

636313936607904596-honeybee.png

This summary chart shows the results of an 11-year annual survey that tracks
honey bee colony losses in the United States, spanning 2006-2017.
(Photo: University of Maryland/Bee Informed Partnership)

So what's killing the honeybees? Parasites, diseases, poor nutrition, and pesticides among many others. The chief killer is the varroa mite, a "lethal parasite," which researchers said spreads among colonies.

"This is a complex problem," said Maryland graduate student Kelly Kulhanek, who assisted with the study. "Lower losses are a great start, but it's important to remember that 33% is still much higher than beekeepers deem acceptable. There is still much work to do."

vanEngelsdorp said people can do their part to save bee colonies by buying honey from a local beekeeper, becoming a beekeeper, avoiding using pesticides in your yard and making room for pollinators, such as honeybees, in your yard.

"Bees are good indicators of the landscape as a whole," said Nathalie Steinhauer, who led data collection on the project. "To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honeybee health is a community matter."
 

Persej

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Greeks are also complaining about bees. They say they lost about 50% this winter.

http://www.rts.rs/page/stories/sr/story/125/drustvo/2750116/med-iz-kine-zagorcava-i-med-pcelara-pod-olimpom.html
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
Beekeepers in Latin America are aghast that their livelihoods are being ruined by the contamination of local ecosystems with the controversial glyphosate herbicide produced by agrochemical giant Monsanto.

Controversial Monsanto Weed Killer Blamed for Decimation of Uruguayan Beekeeping
https://sputniknews.com/latam/201707311056042008-uruguay-bees-monsanto-glyphosate/

Beekeepers in Latin America are bearing the cost of Monsanto products which are a threat to the environment and public health.

The herbicide glyphosate is the active ingredient in the Roundup weed-killer produced by agrochemical giant Monsanto. The company, which is awaiting approval from authorities in the EU and US for its merger with German chemical giant Bayer, was for many years the only licensed producer of the pesticide.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate a "probable human carcinogen," which led to calls from health professionals and campaigners for the substance to be banned. In France, the Ecology Ministry banned its use in nurseries and garden centers.

"In our country glyphosate is applied to more than 28 million hectares. Each year, the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million liters, which means that 13 million people are at risk of being affected, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF)," Argentina's union of medical professionals, Fesprosa, stated in 2015 in a call for the substance to be banned.

However, application of the controversial chemical has only increased and it has had a knock-on effect on ecosystems across Latin America, Sputnik Mundo reports.

Uruguayan beekeepers say they are in fear for their livelihoods as a result of the use of glyphosate. It seems that their bees are collecting nectar from plants treated with glyphosate and producing honey that contains large amounts of the substance.

In August 2016, the EU discovered that the amount of glyphosate in Uruguayan honey exceeds the EU limit of 50 parts per billion, or 0.05 milligrams of the substance per kilogram of honey. As a result, the import of Uruguayan honey was stopped and the honey that had already been transported to Europe was difficult to shift. The Uruguayan government set up a commission to find out the source of the excess glyphosate.

President of the Uruguayan Beekeeper's Society Ruben Riera told Sputnik Mundo that the contamination of honey with glyphosate is having a devastating effect on farmers.

"It would have been unprofitable to withdraw the products back to Uruguay, it was better to sell it cheaply in Europe. This was a serious blow to beekeepers who had already been forced to lower their prices in the past," Riera explained.

"In three to four years, if glyphosate continues to poison honey, then beekeepers will simply be ruined. It doesn't matter how the herbicide got into the honey, if the production model doesn't change then everything will stay the same. What's the point in knowing that glyphosate is in rivers, streams, the nectar of flowers, if the glyphosate contamination remains the same?"

Uruguayan honey is also exported to the US, where there is currently no limit on the amount of glyphosate in food. However, that could change since California declared glyphosate a carcinogen earlier this month. Monsanto responded with a pledge to "aggressively challenge" the decision.

"It is likely that the ban [on glyphosate] will spread to the United States, there are signs of alarm in other states. If there is widespread discontent, the United States could establish controls on the import of our honey," Riera said.

"The medical literature clearly describes the risks to the population as a result of consuming products with traces of glyphosate. We can't yet accurately determine a cause-and-effect relationship, but there is great suspicion that glyphosate is the reason [for more human cancers]."

Concern about the impact of glyphosate continues to mount. Last week, a study carried out by the US Organic Consumers Association (OCA) found glyphosate in 10 out of 11 samples of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and called on consumers to boycott the product until it puts an end to the contamination.
 

Palinurus

The Living Force
Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/pesticides-bees-human-threat-found-in-honey-threat-danger-a7985281.html

Pesticides that pose threat to humans and bees found in honey

Experts call the findings 'alarming', 'sobering' and a 'serious environmental concern' while stressing
that the pesticide residue levels found in honey generally fell well below the safe limits for human consumption.


John von Radowitz Thursday 5 October 2017 19:05 BST

Three-quarters of the honey produced around the world contains nerve agent pesticides that can harm bees and pose a potential health hazard to humans, a study has shown.

Scientists who tested 198 honey samples from every continent except Antarctica discovered that 75 per cent were laced with at least one of the neonicotinoid chemicals.

More than two-fifths contained two or more varieties of the pesticides and 10 per cent held residues from four or five.

Environmental campaigners responded by demanding a "complete and permanent" ban preventing any further use of neonicotinoids on farm crops in Europe.

Experts called the findings "alarming", "sobering" and a "serious environmental concern" while stressing that the pesticide residue levels found in honey generally fell well below the safe limits for human consumption.

However, one leading British scientist warned that it was impossible to predict what the long term effects of consuming honey containing tiny amounts of the chemicals might be.

Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, said: "Beyond doubt ... anyone regularly eating honey is likely to be getting a small dose of mixed neurotoxins.

"In terms of acute toxicity, this certainly won't kill them and is unlikely to do measurable harm. What we don't know is whether there are long-term, chronic effects from life-time exposure to a cocktail of these and other pesticides in our honey and most other foods."

For practical reasons it was "impossible to do a proper experiment to test this", he added.

Neonicotinoids are neuro-active chemicals similar to nicotine that have proved to be highly effective at protecting crops from pests, especially aphids and root-eating grubs.

They can either be sprayed on leaves or coated on seeds, in which case they infiltrate every part of the growing plant.

Years of research have shown that under controlled conditions the chemicals are toxic to honey bees and bumblebees, causing brain damage that can affect learning and memory and impair their ability to forage for nectar and pollen.

Controversy still surrounds claims that the chemicals may be harming bee colonies in the "real world" and sabotaging the insects' vital role as pollinators.

In June results from the world's largest bee colony field trial in three European countries found that neonicotinoid exposure reduced the survival of both honey and wild bees in the UK and Hungary, but not Germany.

The scientists were given a special dispensation to conduct the trial on 33 large farmland sites despite a temporary ban on three key neonicotinoids imposed by the European Commission (EC) in 2013.

Currently it is illegal to use the pesticides thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid, on mass-flowering crops that attract bees. The chemicals can still be used to treat other kinds of crops including wheat and other cereals and sugar beat.

The new research published in the journal Science could not have come at a more sensitive time in Europe. EC policymakers are right now discussing whether to make the ban permanent and more wide ranging.

A total ban would have a huge impact on cereal growers in the UK.

For the study, an international team of European researchers tested almost 200 honey samples from around the world for residues left by five different neonicotinoids.

Three-quarters of all the samples contained at least one of the pesticides. A total of 45% contained two or more and a tenth contained four or five.

Concentrations were highest in European, North American and Asian samples.

While in most cases the levels were well below the EU safety limits for human consumption, there were exceptions.

Honey from both Germany and Poland exceeded maximum residue levels (MRLs) for combined neonicotinoids while samples from Japan reached 45% of the limits.

Samples from England had neonicotinoid levels that were no more than 1.36% of the amount thought to be safe for human consumption.

The researchers, led by Dr Edward Mitchell, who carried out the work as director of the Laboratory of Soil Biodiversity at the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland, wrote: "The fact that 45% of our samples showed multiple contaminations is worrying and indicates that bee populations throughout the world are exposed to a cocktail of neonicotinoids.

"The effects of exposure to multiple pesticides, which have only recently started to be explored, are suspected to be stronger than the sum of individual effects."

Dr Chris Connolly, reader in neurobiology at the University of Dundee, who wrote a commentary article accompanying the research, said the findings were "timely" and "alarming".

He added: "The levels detected are sufficient to affect bee brain function and may hinder their ability to forage on, and pollinate, our crops and our native plants.

"Clearly, the use of neonicotinoids need to be controlled. Their widespread use on crops is due to their prophylactic use, as insurance against the possibility of future pest attack. The neonicotinoids are highly effective insecticides with low toxicity to humans, but this unnecessary overuse is also driving the development of pest resistance against them. It is time that these chemicals are heavily restricted for use."

Sandra Bell, nature campaigner at the environmental group Friends of the Earth, called on environment secretary Michael Gove to back greater restrictions on neonicotinoids and pledge to ban them from the UK post Brexit.

She said: "The discovery of bee-harming pesticides in honey samples across Europe reinforces the need for a complete and permanent ban on these chemicals.

"Honey is a vital source of food to bees, not just a sweet treat for humans, so finding that so many of the honey samples contained a cocktail of these pesticides is a real concern - especially as scientists warn that exposure to a mixture of chemicals can be more harmful.

"Nothing short of a full ban will protect our bees."

Press Association

Other sources:
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6359/109.full
http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-10-06/pesticides-found-in-75-per-cent-of-honey-sold-worldwide/9011510
 
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