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 Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter 
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Post Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter
Gardeners - plant more flowers that will bloom in your garden year round.

Don't use pesticides in your flower or vegetable gardens.

Help the bees!

By GARANCE BURKE and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press Writers Garance Burke And Seth Borenstein, Associated Press Writers 1 hr 41 mins ago

MERCED, Calif. – The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives laden with pesticides.

Two federal agencies along with regulators in California and Canada are scrambling to figure out what is behind this relatively recent threat, ordering new research on pesticides used in fields and orchards. Federal courts are even weighing in this month, ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overlooked a requirement when allowing a pesticide on the market.

And on Thursday, chemists at a scientific conference in San Francisco will tackle the issue of chemicals and dwindling bees in response to the new study.

Scientists are concerned because of the vital role bees play in our food supply. About one-third of the human diet is from plants that require pollination from honeybees, which means everything from apples to zucchini.

Bees have been declining over decades from various causes. But in 2006 a new concern, "colony collapse disorder," was blamed for large, inexplicable die-offs. The disorder, which causes adult bees to abandon their hives and fly off to die, is likely a combination of many causes, including parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and pesticides, experts say.

"It's just gotten so much worse in the past four years," said Jeff Pettis, research leader of the Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. "We're just not keeping bees alive that long."

This year bees seem to be in bigger trouble than normal after a bad winter, according to an informal survey of commercial bee brokers cited in an internal USDA document. One-third of those surveyed had trouble finding enough hives to pollinate California's blossoming nut trees, which grow the bulk of the world's almonds. A more formal survey will be done in April.

"There were a lot of beekeepers scrambling to fill their orders and that implies that mortality was high," said Penn State University bee researcher Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who worked on the USDA snapshot survey.

Beekeeper Zac Browning shipped his hives from Idaho to California to pollinate the blossoming almond groves. He got a shock when he checked on them, finding hundreds of the hives empty, abandoned by the worker bees.

The losses were extreme, three times higher than the previous year.

"It wasn't one load or two loads, but every load we were pulling out that was dead. It got extremely depressing to see a third of my livestock gone," Browning said, standing next to stacks of dead bee colonies in a clearing near Merced, at the center of California's fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Among all the stresses to bee health, it's the pesticides that are attracting scrutiny now. A study published Friday in the scientific journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) One found about three out of five pollen and wax samples from 23 states had at least one systemic pesticide — a chemical designed to spread throughout all parts of a plant.

EPA officials said they are aware of problems involving pesticides and bees and the agency is "very seriously concerned."

The pesticides are not a risk to honey sold to consumers, federal officials say. And the pollen that people eat is probably safe because it is usually from remote areas where pesticides are not used, Pettis said. But the PLOS study found 121 different types of pesticides within 887 wax, pollen, bee and hive samples.

"The pollen is not in good shape," said Chris Mullin of Penn State University, lead author.

None of the chemicals themselves were at high enough levels to kill bees, he said, but it was the combination and variety of them that is worrisome.

University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum called the results "kind of alarming."

Despite EPA assurances, environmental groups don't think the EPA is doing enough on pesticides.

Bayer Crop Science started petitioning the agency to approve a new pesticide for sale in 2006. After reviewing the company's studies of its effects on bees, the EPA gave Bayer conditional approval to sell the product two years later, but said it had to carry a label warning that it was "potentially toxic to honey bee larvae through residues in pollen and nectar."

The Natural Resources Defense Council sued, saying the agency failed to give the public timely notice for the new pesticide application. In December, a federal judge in New York agreed, banning the pesticide's sale and earlier this month, two more judges upheld the ruling.

"This court decision is obviously very painful for us right now, and for growers who don't have access to that product," said Jack Boyne, an entomologist and spokesman for Bayer Crop Science. "This product quite frankly is not harmful to honeybees."

Boyne said the pesticide was sold for only about a year and most sales were in California, Arizona and Florida. The product is intended to disrupt the mating patterns of insects that threaten citrus, lettuce and grapes, he said.

Berenbaum's research shows pesticides are not the only problem. She said multiple viruses also are attacking the bees, making it tough to propose a single solution.

"Things are still heading downhill," she said.

For Browning, one of the country's largest commercial beekeepers, the latest woes have led to a $1 million loss this year.

"It's just hard to get past this," he said, watching as workers cleaned honey from empty wooden hives Monday. "I'm going to rebuild, but I have plenty of friends who aren't going to make it."

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:51 am
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Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:57 pm
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Post Re: Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter
My two hives were reduced to one to try to make it thru the winter. We had a horrifically cold winter for us--snow on the ground pretty much from early December to mid-March. Highly unusual for us.

Bees were surviving until mid-Feb when we had a sudden upswing in daytime temps. We hit sunny 50s one day, but then a drop to below freezing that night. The bees broke their winter cluster and froze. When I opened the hive, I found 5 fist-sized clusters around the hive.

About gave up but decided to give it one more try. Beekeeping is *very* expensive, but I build most of my own equipment and save money that way. Could only afford one "package" of bees this year--one queen and about 3# of bees.

Fortunately, the queen--a Cordovan Italian--has been outstanding and the colony has expanded very nicely. I've also been able to supplement with some captured swarms and bees from cut outs (where they're in someone's wall), plus a couple of purchased queens.

I've learned a lot more about getting them thru brutal winters, and have made some good friends in the beek community. Back in the day, the old timers would "cellar" the bees, i.e. literally put the hives in the basement/cellar to take advantage of thermal heat. I'm going to clear a space in the basement just in case I have to do that this year. I have 5 colonies right now, 4 with queens whose genetics I want to preserve.

I plan on throwing the feed to them, too. I can't eat that white sugar I have stored, so I'm making it into syrup for them. We just came out of "dearth," the usual time of year when there's very little pollen. We should be having a nice fall flow when the goldenrod & asters start blooming.

btw, if you want to know anything about bees, just ask. If I don't know off hand, I can find out.

Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:38 am
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Location: Friendswood, TX
Post Re: Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter
Oh, jane! Thanks for the update on your bees! I find them fascinating.

We've had two kinds of bees visiting our Texas lilac - regular brown honeybees and huge black bumblebees.

When I tell you they are thick, thick on the lilac blooms - they are. East Texas hasn't even had a chance to trim back the seed heads from the first bloom because the bees are clustered on the tree. It is almost as if they are starving. I've never seen them this thick before.

I love it! You can stand on my porch and hear a low, steady, hum. :heart

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:56 am
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