There has been some good news about our bees. The big news that I am talking about is....people are listening!!!......businesses are listening!!!.....government is listening!!!! Many of us are speaking out about what is going on with our pollinators. (honey bees, native bees and all pollinators). Many of us are voting with our dollar, not only for the foods that we are buying, but also with the items that we are using (or choosing not to use) on our lawns and gardens. Choosing not to buy plants from a business that incorporates neonicotinoids in the seeds of the plants, letting those businesses know that we do not want those plants and we will not buy them. Letting the pesticide companies also know that we do not want those products in our landscapes. There are many people that still do not know, or have not heard, or do not care, but the numbers that do care are increasing.
An article from "The Guardian" - January 12, 2016
Oliver Milman in New York
"Bayer revises position to propose extra protection for bees from pesticides"
The pharmaceutical giant had initially accused the EPA of overstimulating the impact of pesticides on pollinators, but now admits report is 'scientifically sound'.
Pharmaceutical giant Bayer has said it has put forward proposals for extra protection for bees after initially accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of overestimating the harm causes to the vital pollinators by a widely used pesticide.
A preliminary risk assessment release by the EPA last week found that imidacloprid, one of the world's most common pesticide, can cause honeybee population to fail in some circumstances.
Bayer, a dominant player in the neonicotinoid pesticide market, initially said the report “appears to overestimate the potential for harmful exposures in certain crops, such as citrus and cotton, while ignoring the important benefits these products provide and management practices to protect bees”.
But the company has now clarified its stance, telling the Guardian that it believes the assessment is “quite good and scientifically sound”. A spokesman said Bayer will look to work with the EPA to reduce risks to bees.
“EPA concluded that when used on citrus and cotton, imidacloprid might pose a risk. Note that they didn’t say they are a risk to honeybee colonies,” he said.
But environmentalists have accused the EPA of being too slow to assess the harm caused by pesticides to bees and have urged the regulator to follow Europe in banning them. US bee colonies are in trouble, with a United States Department of Agriculture study in May finding that 42% of colonies have been lost over the past year, the largest loss on record.
Habitat loss, pesticide use, parasites, disease and poor nutrition have been blamed for the precipitous decline of the animals that pollinate around a third of all the food eaten by humans.
The Honey Bee is still battling Varroa Destructor
There is still trouble with the mite, Varroa Destructor. This mite, that came over from Asia and that I wrote about in previous blogs, is creating havoc in the beekeeper's apiaries. In my area, all the beekeepers that I know have been battling this mite and have lost hives because of it.
In December, I heard from one of my readers of this blog. I'll just call him "Frank" from Torrance, CA. Thanks for reading Frank!!
He shared with me that he has some acreage in Southern California and he has a piece of heating & cooling pipe on his property. It's a 10" X 24" X 5 ft high metal box that Frank put a few boards on the top to keep the leaves out. Frank said that one day he heard a lot of buzzing and activity from this metal box. He went to investigate this commotion and found honey bees had moved into this structure. He says that they have now been there for over 5 years!! He is not a beekeeper and has done nothing with them. Still they continue to fly in and out of this structure and continue to build their colony bigger and bigger. Frank says that it is really heavy as it is almost full of comb and honey. Frank wanted to know why these bees are thriving without any help from anyone?
I asked him what kind of things does he think they are foraging on and he mentioned a tree that they are all over when it is in bloom. He did not know the name of this tree.
So here are these bees on Frank's property that no one has tended to in over 5 years. Why is that they can live without any intervention from humans, but then there are the bees that so many of my fellow beekeepers and myself, can barely keep alive. What is the difference?
Frank's bees most likely have some genetic trait(s) that are keeping them strong and able to fight off this Varroa mite and any other pest and disease. And the every day beekeeper's bees (at least in my area) are wimpy, and have to have treatment for these mites, sometimes twice a year.
There is research being done by colleges and individual beekeepers to try to identify these beneficial genetic traits. "The Pennsylvania Queen Improvement Project" along with "Heartland Honey Bee Breeders Cooperative", which includes Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, and Michigan, both sell queens and breeder queens and are now focused on distributing better stock to its local clubs and associations.
The genetics that these two groups are wanting to make available to all beekeepers are Queens that raise brood (the female worker bee in the colony) that are called "leg chewers"!! These bees actually chew the legs off of the varroa mite, after which the mite bleeds to death.
The issue with distributing these types of Queens with this trait would be to keep the "wimpy" genetics from taking back over in any particular area. Queens typically mate with anywhere from 14 to 18 different drones (the male bee). So the genetics of those drones would also have to be from the "leg chewers" stock. This could take a while.
But this is AWESOME NEWS!!!!
Just as it took a while for the stock to become "wimpy", it will take a while for this genetic trait to become the dominant stock.
So What is Happening with "Franks" genetic honey bees??
I have contacted a few different references in the CA area and hopefully have peaked some interest in "Frank's" honey bees. There is a reason, however, that Frank's bees have done so well. The forage that the bees have in Frank's area is crucial to their survival. The food that the honey bee eats, just like our food, gives them the strength to survive. Another factor is that the hive is so large at this time and it is in a rather peculiar "bee hive" so it would be very difficult to move or divide this hive.
Maybe....Frank should become a Beekeeper!!!!!
So this concludes my blog for this month. I will keep you informed about the continual "fight" for our honey bees and our pollinators. Until then, keep up the good work of making your voice heard. It's the only world we have. Let's bring the balance back to Mother Earth!!!