Tag Archives: bees

Next generation of pesticides could be harmful to bees

Hopes for a new family of agricultural insecticides with little impact on non-target species, such as bees, may suffer a setback as researchers claim that they could pose similar risks to pollinating insects.

Sulfoximines have been promoted as the next generation of pest control chemicals, with a number of products already gaining approval around the world in countries including China, Canada and Australia. However, research published in the journal Naturesuggests that they could cause non-lethal effects in bees which may have unintended consequences.

One of the scientists behind the paper, Dr Ellouise Leadbeater of Royal Holloway, University of London, told the BBC: “Our study highlights that stressors that do not directly kill bees can still have damaging effects further down the line, because the health of the colony depends on the health of its workforce.”

Friends of the Earth pesticide campaigner Sandara Bell commented, “This study shows that replacing one harmful pesticide with another is not the solution to protecting our crops.” However, the NFU said that it was vital that farmers and growers had ‘an effective crop protection toolbox available to combat pests and allow them to produce food for the public.’

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The post Next generation of pesticides could be harmful to bees appeared first on Hort News on 30 August 2018.

Co-op suppliers set up ‘bee roads’

Farmer suppliers to the Co-op have planted more than 1,000 miles of hedgerows to form part of a network of ‘bee’ roads across the UK.

Using its new environmental-impact measurement tool Enviro-Map, the Co-op says that seven different producer groups have created the following environmental features:

  • 1000 miles (1633 km) of hedgerows which are actively managed across the farming groups
  • 1,400 hectares of native, coniferous and broadleaf woodland
  • 455 hectares of watercourses and wetlands
  • 116 hectares of wildflower meadows
  • 100 devices, such as bird boxes, bee hives and beetle banks, on farms to encourage wildlife

Matt Hood, Co-op’s trading director, said: “The need to create a more sustainable approach to farming and food production is just as important as producing high-quality; fairly-priced food and we can only achieve this with regular and reliable measurement of our producers. We are delighted to see that in year one alone, they are already offsetting their farming practises by contributing heavily to improved biodiversity levels which are so utterly critical to the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The post Co-op suppliers set up ‘bee roads’ appeared first on Hort News on 21 June 2018.

Agricultural fungicide attracts honey bees

Researchers at America’s University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that when given the choice, honey bee foragers prefer to collect sugar syrup laced with the fungicide chlorothalonil over sugar syrup alone.

“People assume that fungicides affect only fungi,” said University of Illinois entomology professor May Berenbaum, who led the new research. “But fungi are much more closely related to animals than they are to plants. And toxins that disrupt physiological processes in fungi can also potentially affect them in animals, including insects.”

To test whether foraging honey bees showed a preference for other chemicals they are likely to encounter in the wild, two feeding stations were set up in large enclosure. Foraging honey bees could fly freely from one feeder to the other, choosing to collect either sugar syrup laced with a test chemical or sugar syrup mixed with a solvent as the control.

Over the course of the study honey bees preferred the naturally occurring chemical quercetin, which is found in pollen and nectar, over controls at all concentrations tested. The bees also preferred sugar syrup laced with glyphosate at 10 parts per billion, but not at higher concentrations. While the bees actively avoided syrup containing the fungicide prochloraz, they showed a mild preference for sugar syrup laced with chlorothalonil at 0.5 and 50 parts per billion, but not at 500 ppb.

“The dose determines the poison,” Berenbaum added. “If your ability to metabolize poisons is compromised, then a therapeutic dose can become a toxic dose. And that seems to be what happens when honey bees encounter multiple pesticides.”

Photo Credit: Pexels

The post Agricultural fungicide attracts honey bees appeared first on Hort News.

Tomatoes with virus attract bees

Plant scientists at the University of Cambridge have found that the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) alters gene expression in the tomato plants it infects, causing changes to the scent emitted by the plants. Bees can smell these subtle changes, and glasshouse experiments have shown that bumblebees prefer infected plants over healthy ones.

Scientists say that by indirectly manipulating bee behaviour to improve pollination of infected plants by changing their scent, the virus is effectively paying its host back. This may also benefit the virus: helping to spread the pollen of plants susceptible to infection and, in doing so, inhibiting the chance of virus-resistant plant strains emerging.

CMV is transmitted by aphids – bees don’t carry the virus. It’s one of the most prevalent pathogens affecting tomato plants, resulting in small plants with poor-tasting fruits that can cause serious losses to cultivated crops. As well as being one of the most damaging viruses for horticultural crops, CMV it also persists in wild plant populations, and the new findings may explain why.

“Bees provide a vital pollination service in the production of three-quarters of the world’s food crops. With their numbers in rapid decline, scientists have been searching for ways to harness pollinator power to boost agricultural yields,” said study principal investigator Dr John Carr, Head of Cambridge’s Virology and Molecular Plant Pathology group. “Better understanding the natural chemicals that attract bees could provide ways of enhancing pollination, and attracting bees to good sources of pollen and nectar – which they need for survival.”

Photo Credit: University of Cambridge / Alex M Murphy, Sanjie Jiang and John P Carr

The post Tomatoes with virus attract bees appeared first on Hort News.

Pollinator decline threatens food security

According to a UN agency, a growing number of pollinator species worldwide are being driven towards extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a two-year global study shows that this decline threatens millions of livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies. However it also highlights a number of ways to effectively safeguard pollinator populations.

“Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security,” said Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca, Ph.D., co-chair of the assessment and Senior Professor at the University of São Paulo. “Their health is directly linked to our own well-being.” There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees alone, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals that contribute to pollination.

According to IPBES, the volume of agricultural production dependent on animal pollination has increased by 300 per cent during the past 50 years, but pollinator-dependent crops show lower growth and stability in yield than crops that do not depend on pollinators.

The assessment found that pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides, threaten pollinators worldwide, although the long-term effects are still unknown. A pioneering study conducted in farm fields showed that one neonicotinoid insecticide had a negative effect on wild bees, but the effect on managed honeybees was less clear. “While gaps remain in our knowledge of pollinators, we have more than enough evidence to act,” Prof. Imperatriz-Fonseca said.

Photo Caption: Bees are just one important pollinator

Photo Credit: Pixart Bay

The post Pollinator decline threatens food security appeared first on Hort News on 4 March 2016.

Bumblebees could deliver organic pesticides

A Vancouver-based start-up has plans to use bumblebees, already many growers best friend, to deliver natural pesticides and beneficial fungi directly to plants.

The company aims to commercialise technology developed by researchers at the University of Guelph. This uses a tray filled with a patented mix of natural, beneficial microbes, which is then placed into the beehives placed in the crops for pollination.

“Imagine you have an apple orchard,” said Michael Collinson, president and CEO of Bee Vectoring Technology. “Because apple trees have a very large canopy, even though you may spray it and use a special type of spray that doesn’t go everywhere, you still won’t touch every bloom. Whereas the bees deliver product every single day, to every single bloom.”

The company says it has conducted extensive testing to make sure the process is safe for bees and uses materials in the powder that bees would naturally come across. “The bees are actually already carrying it, but they don’t carry it that often,” adds Collinson. “So what we’re doing as a company, what happens once in a while in nature, we’re making it happen consistently.”

The post Bumblebees could deliver organic pesticides appeared first on Hort News.

Countryside Stewardship offers boost to bees

The Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has said that the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which has a total budget of £900 million, will help protect bees and other pollinators as well as the wider countryside.

Over the next five years the new Countryside Stewardship scheme will offer grants to help improve our environment and countryside – with £85 million set aside to support projects in 2016.

Bees and pollinators are one of four main priorities for the scheme, which is being run on a competitive basis for the first time this year, with applications ranked and money only awarded to those who will make the biggest improvements in their local area. Extra points will be given to agreements working to support bees and pollinators and other farm wildlife.

Elizabeth Truss said, “This is the first ever countryside stewardship scheme that specifically combines help for bees and pollinators as well as wildlife, woodland and rivers. This will mean more margins and meadows with colourful wildflowers in our countryside. Productive farming goes hand in hand with improving the environment.”

However, NFU Vice President Guy Smith warned, “At this late stage, there are still a number of questions about how the scheme will work but we are committed to working with Defra and Natural England on its development and – more importantly – how it will be implemented on the ground.”

The post Countryside Stewardship offers boost to bees appeared first on Hort News.