The bumble bee population is declining and some species are teetering on the brink of extinction.
That's the gist behind why three conservation groups and bumble bee researcher Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, are asking the federal government to impose regulations on the movement and health of commercial bumble bees to protect the declining native/wild bumble bee population.
A Jan. 12th press release issued by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is drawing worldwide attention. The latest coverage came from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Take Franklin's bumble bee. That's a bumble bee found only in a small stretch of southern Oregon and northern California. Robbin Thorp, a member of the Xerces Society, hasn't seen it for several years and fears it may be extinct.
You'll want to read the article on "Bumble Bees in Decline" on the Xerces Society Web site and look at the photos of the bumble bees that could be nearing extinction.
Two recent studies provide a direct link between diseases in commercial bumble bees and the health of wild bumble bees:
--Otterstatter, M.C., and J.D. Thomson. 2008. Does Pathogen Spillover from Commercially Reared Bumble Bees Threaten Wild Pollinators? PLoS One. Available online at http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0002771
--Colla, S.R., M.C. Otterstatter, R.J. Gegear, and J.D. Thomson. 2006. Plight of the Bumblebee: Pathogen Spillover from Commercial to Wild Populations. Biological Conservation 129: 461-467.
Otterstatter and Thomson note that wild bumble bees near greenhouses have higher pathogen loads (of Crithidia bombi and Nosema bombi) than bumble bees farther away from greenhouses.We're glad to see this kind of research under way and the proposed restrictions sent to the USDA. We need to protect our wild bumble bees.
It's being hailed by environmental groups as "a victory for the bees."
A U.S. federal judge has ruled that the insecticide, spirotetramat, must be pulled from the shelves because it could be dangerously toxic to America's declining honey bee population.
Starting Jan. 15, 2010, it will be illegal for the insecticide, manufactured by Bayer CropScience under the trade names Movento and Ultor, to be sold in the United States.
What the federal court order does is invalidate EPA's approval of the use of the pesticide.
U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote ruled that the EPA did not properly seek comments or publicize the review process. She called for further re-evaluation of the insecticide in compliance with the law.
Spirotetramat, which inhibits cell reproduction in insects, targets such sucking pests as aphids, whiteflies, scales, mealybugs, psylla, phylloxera, thrips, and mites.
Up to now, its registered uses, according to the 74-page EPA document, included a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as uses in greenhouses and nurseries. A few of them: citrus, grapes, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, onions, strawberries, stone fruits and livestock commodities.
The Xerces Society, an invertebrate conservation society based in Portland, Ore., and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental organization in New York, filed the suit as a means to protect bees.
Pesticides--along with diseases, viruses, parasites, pests, malnutrition and the changing weather--have been linked to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious malady in which adult bees abandon the colony, leaving behind the queen, brood and food stores.
"Save the bees" is a hue-and-cry being heard about the world. And rightfully so.
Bees, our little agricultural workers, pollinate about one-third of the food we eat. In the United States, bees pollinate $15 billion worth of plants every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
What a treasure!
Have you seen the Xerces Society's new online Pollinator Conservation Resource Center?
This is something that's long been needed. It's a wealth of information--that's why it's a treasure.
As Matthew Shepherd of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation says: "...the resource center gives access to all you need to complete a pollinator conservation project in any region of the United States. When you visit the resource center, select your region from the map to access plant lists, details of creating and managing nest sites, pesticide protection guides, and practical guidance on planning and implementing habitat projects on farmlands, gardens, golf courses, parks, and wildlands."
"We want the resource center to be the most comprehensive source of pollinator conservation information currently online and will update it as often as we can, adding new materials as they become available."
Shepherd says the resource center is "the result of a collaboration with Neal Williams of the University of California, Davis. In particular, we thank Katharina Ullmann, previously with the Xerces Society and now a member of Neal Williams' research group, for gathering many of the resources."
Among the others lending their expertise: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who maintains an office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
How easy is it to use this site?
Say, for example, you want to plant a bee friendly garden. All you do is click on a link and you'll know what to plant seasonally in your area and what each plant will attract. Then you can click on the various pollinators to see what they look like.
If this Web site were gold, it would be in Fort Knox.
Humans aren't the only calendar pin-up models.
Think native bees.
Think the 2010 Native Bees Calendar.
The Xerces Society and the Great Sunflower Project have joined forces to produce a calendar showcasing 12 commonly found native bees. You'll be able not only to to identity them, but to learn more about them, such as the plants they prefer and their nesting needs.
What are these two organizations?
The Great Sunflower Project, led by San Francisco State University associate professor Gretchen LeBuhn, "empowers people from pre-schoolers to scientists to make the world a better place for bees. The idea is simple; gardeners plant a sunflower and time how long it takes for five bees to visit. Gardens that quickly see bees are healthy. Gardens that don’t see bees aren’t. The sunflowers are both a thermometer measuring the health of the bee community across the continent and a wonderful resource making each garden where they are planted a better place for bees."
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., is "an international nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the diversity of life through the protection of invertebrates and their habitats," says Xerces Society senior conservation associate Matthew Shepherd. The group "works at the forefront of invertebrate protection, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of local citizens to implement conservation and education programs with a focus on endangered species, aquatic invertebrates, and pollinators."
One of the nation’s leading native bee conservation organizations, the Xerces Society provides advice and information to gardeners, land owners, farmers, agency staff and other interested persons.The native bee photos are by noted insect photographer Rollin Coville, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1978. His close-ups are truly magnificent. (You can also see more of his work on his Web site.) Coville collaborates with scientists Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley and Robbin Thorp of UC Davis on a number of projects involving the study of urban bees. Their work recently appeared in the California Agriculture journal.
Shepherd tells us the story behind the story. "Celeste Ets-Hokin, a bee enthusiast in the San Francisco Bay area, came up with the idea and pursued it. At Xerces, we've considered doing a calendar but had always shied away from it because of the time involved. Celeste took the idea to Gretchen LeBuhn, who was looking for fundraising ideas for the Great Sunflower Project. The calendar is really their project and they should get credit for it."
Shepherd modestly says his contribution "has been to answer Celeste's steady stream of questions."
Well done, and for two good causes.
And who says bees can't be pin-up models?
Seems like many folks assume that all bees are "honey bees."
If you look around you, you'll see bees of all shapes, colors and sizes nectaring flowers.
And they're not all honey bees (Apis mellifera)!
The one below, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, is a medium-sized striped sweat bee, Halictus ligatus. It's a ground-nesting bee. It's also a native bee (unlike honey bees which arrived here from Europe in 1622 with the colonists).
This particular sweat bee took an avid interest in the Agapanthus in our yard.
The Xerces Society has compiled a wealth of information on native bees. You'll want to check out their Web site and read about the $458,000 grant the society recently received to study native pollinators and protect their habitat.