- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Ironically, it occurred the first day of National Pollinator Week.
Sujaya Rao, an Oregon State University (OSU) entomologist working the case, will be speaking on "The Buzz on Native Bumble Bees in Western Oregon: Why They Thrive and Die," from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 18 in Room 230 of Wellman Hall. The talk, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is open to all interested persons.
Scientists attributed the massive bumble bee die-off to the active ingredient Dinotefuran, a neonicotinoid.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) then put temporary restrictions on the use of 18 pesticides containing Dinotefuran.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation was appalled by the die-off, as many of us were--and still are. Mace Vaughan, the Xerces Society's pollinator conservation director, said in a press release: “To our knowledge, this incident is the largest mass poisoning of bumble bees ever documented, and thankfully ODA is taking the issue very seriously. After interviewing the landscaping company that maintains dozens of ornamental trees around the Target parking lot, ODA investigators learned that the pesticide Dinotefuran had recently been applied. Investigators confirmed that Dinotefuran, sold under the trade name ‘Safari,' belongs to a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids that have been linked to bee deaths in recent years."
“Because neonicotinoids are long-lasting in plant tissues and can be found in flower nectar and pollen, and because they have been implicated in the global decline of honeybees, there have been growing concerns about their safety for pollinators,” the Xerces Society related in the press release.
Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, noted that the pesticide was applied to the tree while it was flowering, an action that violates the product's instructions. “Beyond the fact that a pesticide was applied to plants while they were attracting large numbers of bees, in this case the pesticide was applied for purely cosmetic reasons. There was no threat to human health or the protection of farm crops that even factored into this decision.”
Rao, an OSU professor and field crop entomologist, specializes in pest management in grass seed and rotational crops, as well as native bee pollinators in agricultural and native landscapes. On her website, she lists her native bee research objectives as:
Determine the diversity and abundance of native bees in diverse cropping systems and surrounding habitats, and evaluate the impacts of bumble bees and honey bees in pollination. Specific areas of research:
- Red and arrow leaf clover
It's difficult to think of 50,000 bumble bees dying.
How long has it been since you've seen a bumble bee? Last weekend a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, buzzed into our Vacaville yard and foraged in the foxgloves.
Then last week, another bumble bee, the black-faced Bombus californicus, frequented the "Purple Ginny" sage (Salvia coahuilensis) in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. Operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, the half-acre bee garden is open from dawn to dusk.
Now if we could just do more to protect the pollinators...
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Beekeepers and almond growers are concerned--and rightfully so--about the some 80,000 bee colonies that died this year in the San Joaquin Valley almond orchards. In monetary terms, that's a loss of about $180,000. But the loss isn't just financial. It could have long-term effects.
Beekeepers believe that pesticides killed their bees after the almond pollination season ended but just before they could move their bees to another site. This is a serious blow to both industries. Growers need the bees to pollinate their almonds. Now some beekeepers are vowing this is it; they'll never to return for another almond pollination season.
"When should the colonies be allowed to leave the orchards?" he asks. "When pollination no longer is happening. That does not mean that the bees should remain in place until the last petal falls from the last blossom."
"Why might beekeepers desire to move their hives out of the orchards 'early?' Once the almonds no longer provide nectar and pollen for the bees, the bees find replacement sources of food. Unfortunately, those sources may be contaminated with pesticides that almond growers would never use when the bees are present. Some common pests that surge right near the end of almond bloom include Egyptian alfalfa weevil larvae and aphids in alfalfa, and grape cutworms in vineyards. Delayed dormant sprays sometimes are being applied in other deciduous fruit orchards, even when the trees are in bloom. Often blooming weeds in the crops are attracting honey bees. If the year is really dry, the bees may be attracted to sugary secretions of aphids and other sucking bugs."
Mussen says it's "not difficult to see that accidental bee poisonings often happen. Despite our California regulations requiring beekeepers to be notified of applications of bee-toxic chemicals within a mile of the apiaries, bees fly up to four miles from their hives to find food and water. That is an area of 50 square miles in which they may find clean or contaminated food sources. Thus, growers whose fields are 'nowhere near' any known apiary locations may accidentally kill many bees with chemical applications."
"It seems," Mussen says, "that a combination of exposures of colonies to truly bee-toxic insecticides, followed by delayed effects of exposure to fungicide/IGR mixes during bloom, really set the bees way behind. The problem proved so severe that a number of beekeepers stated that they were never returning to California for almond pollination. That is not a good thing, since we really don't have too many colonies coming to almonds as it is."
In his newsletter, Mussen goes into depth about when and how bees pollinate the almonds and what could be causing the problem and how it can be resolved.
His take-home message? "Our honey bees cannot continue to be exposed to as many toxic agricultural products as they are, or we will not have enough bees to fill the pollination demand for our nuts, fruits, vegetable, forage and seed crops."
That's serious business.