Border Bees Diary

Diary of a Beekeeper in the Scottish Borders

Archive for August, 2008

Wasp Attack on Bee Colony

Posted by borderglider on August 13, 2008

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I had a small tragedy this week when a newly created hive of bees was overwhelmed by a wasp attack:every single bee was killed, all the eggs and larvae were eaten and all the honey was stolen by the wasps. The hive had been created as a nucleus with a couple of thousand young bees – which were given a queen-cell. All went well and I was pleased to find the new queen had mated and produced two sizeable patches of brood.

I saw the hive last weekend and all was well – though there were some wasps around. When I went to inspect this weekend I found a large pile of dead bees on the mesh floor – no living bees in the hive at all. There were a few dead wasps as well. The most striking thing was the hundreds of bee-wings scattered on the varroa inspection tray – and on closer examination I could see legs, heads, thoraxes by the hundreds.

Bee colony massacred by wasps
wasps and bees lie among hundreds of dis-membered bee wings

I did not realise that wasps physically dis-member bees – biting off wings, legs and heads; possibly they do this to carry away the bee’s abdomens which they may use to feed their own larvae. Wasps are predators of other insects and feed their own young on insect prey. In return their own larvae excrete a sugar-rich fluid which the adult wasps feed on.

Wasps and bees lie among hundreds of dis-membered bee wings
Wasps and bees lie among hundreds of dis-membered bee wings

DIY WASP TRAPS
I made 6 new wasp traps today and placed them in a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the hives; there were dozens of wasps inside the traps within 15 minutes – so the local wasp population is evidently really high this year.
I have created a web page showing how to make wasp traps out of 2 litre plastic milk containers – at zero cost in less than 5 minutes. To download the design for the wasp trap please click below:
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Posted in BEEKEEPING, Pests and Diseases | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

LOS ANGELES TIMES: BUZZZZZZ-KILL

Posted by borderglider on August 6, 2008

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-oe-meyerhoff30-2008jul30,0,2821586.story

by Al Meyerhof, Los Angeles Times, July 30th 2008

The loss of billions of bees raises questions about our pesticide controls.

By Al Meyerhoff
LOS ANGELES TIMES July 30, 2008

“It’s likely that most people have never heard of Gaucho. And no, it’s not a South American cowboy. I’m talking about a pesticide.There is increasing reason to believe that Gaucho and other members of a family of highly toxic chemicals — neonicotinoids — may be responsible for the deaths of billions of honeybees worldwide. Some scientists believe that these pesticides, which are applied to seeds, travel systemically through the plant and leave residues that contaminate the pollen, resulting in bee death or paralysis. The French refer to the effect as “mad bee disease” and in 1999 were the first to ban the use of these chemicals, which are currently only marketed by Bayer (the aspirin people) under the trade names Gaucho and Poncho. Germany followed suit this year, and its agricultural research institute said it concluded that the poisoning of the bees was because of the rub-off of the pesticide clothianidin (that’s Pancho) from corn seeds.

So why did the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 grant an “emergency” exemption allowing increased use of Gaucho — typically invoked during a major infestation — when only a few beetles were found in blueberries? Why did the agency also grant a “conditional” registration for its close relative, Pancho, allowing the chemical on the market with only partial testing? And why is the agency, hiding behind a curtain of “trade secrets,” still refusing to disclose whether the additional tests required of companies in such cases were conducted and, if so, with what results?

Therein lies a tale. Most pesticides, we’re told, are safe. So we add about 5 billion pounds a year of these deadly chemicals to our world, enough to encircle the planet if it were packaged in 100-pound sacks. Sure, they are regulated — but badly — under the antiquated Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. This law allows a chemical on the market unless it’s proved to pose “an unreasonable risk,” far too weak a standard.

Gerard Eyries, a Bayer marketing manager, said in connection with the French action that “imidacloprid [that’s Gaucho] left a small residue in nectar and pollen, but there was no evidence of a link with the drop in the bee population.” Bayer also blamed seed makers and suggested that there may be “nonchemical causes” for this massive bee kill. But Bayer may not be entirely objective here. In 2006, Gaucho sales topped $746 million.

Something is killing the bees, though. Some scientists suspect a virus; others mites, even cellphones. (Bees are not known to use phones, though, having their own communications system — a dance called the “waggle.”)

Here in the U.S., the bee kill is a big problem. Domesticated bees were brought to the U.S. on the Mayflower. Today, they contribute at least $15 billion to the nation’s agricultural economy. For example, California’s $2-billion-a-year almond crop is completely dependent on honeybees from about 1.5 million hives for pollination. This year, more than 2.4 million bee colonies — 36% of the total — were lost in the U.S., according to the Apiary Inspectors of America. Some colonies collapsed in two days.

Part of the problem is how we farm. Rather than rotating crops, farmers grow the same one each year. This “monoculture” creates a breeding ground for pests. Farmers then use chemicals that kill not only the target organism but other life forms as well — like honeybees. That this approach may now be coming back to bite big-production agriculture is not without some irony. For decades the agriculture industry has been its beneficiary — with farmworkers, consumers and local communities the victims. But, actually, we’re all in trouble.

No independent government testing is required before a pesticide is registered for use. Large gaps in basic scientific knowledge about pesticides remain, including their environmental “fate” (where they end up) and their toxicity to humans and to wildlife. A problem pesticide may be removed from the market only after a long process and full trial — something that should be done before. The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 improved control of residues in our food. That didn’t help the bees.

Rachel Carson was vilified by an industry smear nearly 50 years ago, after the release of her book, “Silent Spring.” “If we were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson,” said American Cyanamid, the maker of DDT, “we would return to the Dark Ages … insects, vermin and disease would once again inherit the Earth.” But, as Carson so eloquently put it in a CBS documentary in 1964: “Man’s attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we now have acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is part of nature, and his war is inevitably a war against himself.”

Al Meyerhoff, an environmental attorney in Los Angeles, is a former director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s public health program.

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Pesticides Are Seriously Messing Up Our Honey Bees

Posted by borderglider on August 6, 2008

“The Indictment Against Farm-Insecticides Is Growing More Detailed”

Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture

Kim Flottum, Editor of Bee Culture

A thought-provoking article by Kim Flottum – Editor of Bee Culture magazine in the USA which reveals that some very experienced beekeepers are convinced that neo-nicotinoid pesticides are directly involved in Colony Collapse Disorder. For full article please visit:

http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/blogs/bees/honey-bee-pesticides-55080101

ABSTRACT:

” How the Government Serves the Chemical Companies

These chemicals I’ve mentioned are all in the neonicotinoid family of insecticides. They came along after the government, several years ago, decided that the long lived pesticides had to go and better, shorter, less troublesome chemicals and integrated pest management programs had to replace them (this was called the FQPA … food quality protection act … you can sound out the letters any way you want).

Well, those long lasting chemicals were the bread and butter of the agrochemical companies and the government essentially took them away. But the government wants cheap food and there’s only one way to do that, and that’s to have good management practices, including good insect control. Very good insect control.

Long story short, budget cuts forced the EPA to cut corners and one of those corners was testing new products. Why not let the chemical companies test them, and we’ll evaluate the results, went the EPA thinking. Better: why not let the fox in the chicken house, went the thinking, and we’ll see if the chickens die.

So now the only major chemicals used to control insects on crops are in the neonic family. They are all the same, and they are all over. And all the chemicals listed here are in that family.

Do they accumulate from one year to the next in the soil, building to levels three to four times what they should be? When, after three or four years they are ingested by honey bees in nectar or pollen do they cause behavior or health problems?

There seems to be evidence that they do, but it’s only anecdotal, and science doesn’t deal with this sort of data, does it….

Dave Hackenburg has brought up a boatload of questions about pesticides. Whether they have anything to do with CCD or not is less important than if these chemicals, and their multi-season accumulations are causing significant risks for bees, or people, remains to be seen.

And what about this agrochemical complex Dave describes? What do Bayer, Syngenta, Monsanto, and others have in store for us?

Dave’s comment? “We still don’t know what’s going on, or why. But bees are dying, and we better figure it out … quick”.”

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