Native bee species could be wiped out

Native bee species could be ‘wiped out’ as Asian hornets spread across UK, conservationists warn

Experts sound alarm over increased frequency of sightings from Yorkshire to Cornwall

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Britain’s native bee species face being “wiped out” by a “highly aggressive” Asian hornet, conservationists have warned after the invasive insect was spotted in two locations at opposite ends of the country.

The honey bee-killing Asian hornet, which is believed to have first arrived in Europe on crates imported from China to France in 2004, has been confirmed at locations in Liskeard, Cornwall and Hull.

The creature, which is smaller than the UK’s native hornet, poses no greater risk to humans than the humble wasp, but feasts on honey bees and is capable of killing around 50 a day.

Paul Hetherington, of invertebrate conservation group Buglife, warned that the increased frequency of recent Asian hornet sightings was “very concerning”, both for the bees and people whose livelihoods depended on them.

“Our big worry is how they will impact on wild bees in this country,”

“The frequency of them being found is definitely on the increase. We have a few species that are now getting very rare, and each Asian hornet can eat 50 bees in a day. You could see species wiped out.”

During September the number of hornets in a nest can reach a peak, increasing the chances members of the public will spot them.

Asian hornets were first spotted in Britain in Gloucestershire in 2016. Subsequent sightings were reported in Devon, Cornwall and the Channel Islands. But the frequency and northerly spread of the insects has caused alarm.

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Mr Hetherington said the sighting of Asian hornets in east Yorkshire was particularly surprising, and that the insect may have been imported directly into the UK from abroad as it would struggle to establish itself that far north on its own.

He warned warmer temperatures in Britain due to climate change would “make the country more hospitable”, but said invasive species had long been a problem for the UK.

Until now, a single Asian hornet seen in Lancashire was the most northerly sighting of the insect in the UK.

Nicola Spence, deputy director for plant and bee health at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “These sightings in Liskeard and Hull underline the need to remain vigilant.

“I want to encourage people to look out for any Asian hornet nests and if you think you’ve spotted one, please report your sighting through the Asian hornet app or online.

“While the Asian Hornet poses no greater risk to human health than a bee, we recognise the damage they can cause to honey bee colonies.”

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Asian hornets have a dark brown or black velvety body, a dark abdomen and yellow tipped legs. They are described by the government-linked GB non-native species secretariat as a “highly aggressive predator of native insects”.

The government has promised to cover the cost of removing the insects from private land.

Asian hornets are not the only invasive species to colonise the UK. The horse-chestnut leaf miner arrived from Macedonia in the 1980s, joined around a decade later by the harlequin ladybird, a native of Japan.

A variety of non-native aquatic species have also settled in the UK, including the Eastern European demon shrimp and the zebra mussel, which arrived 200 years ago from the Caspian Sea

France Bans Popular Bee-Killing Pesticides Made by Bayer

France Bans Popular Bee-Killing Pesticides Made by Bayer

 

France Bans Popular Bee-Killing Pesticides Made by Bayer

A contentious French ban on a popular type of pesticide that is decimating bee populations goes into effect on September 1, as new findings are published showing bumblebees get addicted to the harmful chemical.

Neonicotinoids were once hailed as the future of pesticides. Billed in the 1990s as less harmful than traditional poisons, the lab-created, nicotine-based chemical produced by Bayer Monsanto and Syngenta gets absorbed by plants instead of sitting on the surface, and attacks the central nervous system of insects that land or prey upon them. They quickly became among the most popular pesticides, being applied to all manner of flowering crops, Channel News Asia noted.

A number of factors were initially fingered for the affliction, including fungi and viruses, but mounting evidence has proven that pesticides, and neonicotinoids in particular, are the major cause.

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Accordingly, France has moved to ban five neonicotinoid pesticides beginning September 1, giving France the strictest pesticide laws in the European Union, which has only banned three of the five for agricultural uses.

The bill on biodiversity regrowth, nature and landscapes, passed in July 2016, took 27 months of debate to get through the French Parliament, Journal de l’Environnement reported at the time, noting that environmentalists feared the two-year delay in implementing the pesticide ban was designed to give opponents the chance to water down the restrictions.

“At first, it appeared that the bees did avoid the food containing the pesticide,” said lead author Andres Arce, a researcher at Imperial College London. “However, as individual bees increasingly experience the treated food, they develop a preference for it.”

In other words, in the long run the pesticide doesn’t repulse insects: it attracts them, and then it kills them.

The new law only covers neonicotinoid use in agriculture, though, leaving environmentalists and bee fans concerned about its continued use in non-agricultural pest control, such as in flea collars for pet cats and dogs, or in household fly traps.

Lithuanian, the most conservative of all Indo-European languages, is riddled with references to bees.

Lithuanian, the most conservative of all Indo-European languages, is riddled with references to bees.

In mid-January, the snow made the little coastal town of Šventoji in north-west Lithuania feel like a film set. Restaurants, shops and wooden holiday cabins all sat silently with their lights off, waiting for the arrival of spring.

I found what I was looking for on the edge of the town, not far from the banks of the iced-over Šventoji river and within earshot of the Baltic Sea: Žemaitiu alka, a shrine constructed by the Lithuanian neo-pagan organisation Romuva. Atop a small hillock stood 12 tall, thin, slightly tapering wooden figures. The decorations are austere but illustrative: two finish in little curving horns; affixed to the top of another is an orb emitting metal rays. One is adorned with nothing but a simple octagon. I looked down to the words carved vertically into the base and read ‘Austėja’. Below it was the English word: ‘bees’.

This was not the first time I’d encountered references to bees in Lithuania. During previous visits, my Lithuanian friends had told me about the significance of bees to their culture.

Lithuanians don’t speak about bees grouping together in a colony like English-speakers do. Instead, the word for a human family (šeimas) is used. In the Lithuanian language, there are separate words for death depending on whether you’re talking about people or animals, but for bees – and only for bees – the former is used. And if you want to show a new-found Lithuanian pal what a good friend they are, you might please them by calling them bičiulis, a word roughly equivalent to ‘mate’, which has its root in bitė – bee. In Lithuania, it seems, a bee is like a good friend and a good friend is like a bee.

Seeing the shrine in Šventoji made me wonder: could all these references be explained by ancient Lithuanians worshipping bees as part of their pagan practices?

Lithuania has an extensive history of paganism. In fact, Lithuania was the last pagan state in Europe. Almost 1,000 years after the official conversion of the Roman Empire facilitated the gradual spread of Christianity, the Lithuanians continued to perform their ancient animist rituals and worship their gods in sacred groves. In the 12th Century, modern-day Estonia and Latvia were overrun and forcibly converted by crusaders, but the Lithuanians successfully resisted their attacks. Eventually, the state gave up paganism of its own accord: Grand Duke Jogaila converted to Catholicism in 1386 in order to marry the Queen of Poland.

This rich pagan history is understandably a source of fascination for modern Lithuanians – and many others besides. The problem is that few primary sources exist to tell us what Lithuanians believed before the arrival of Christianity. We can be sure that the god of thunder Perkūnas was of great importance as he is extensively documented in folklore and song, but most of the pantheon is based on guesswork. However, the Lithuanian language may provide – not proof, exactly, but clues, tantalising hints, about those gaps in the country’s past.

In Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, I spoke to Dalia Senvaitytė, a professor of cultural anthropology at Vytautas Magnus University. She was sceptical about my bee-worshipping theory, telling me that there may have been a bee goddess by the name of Austėja, but she’s attested in just one source: a 16th-Century book on traditional Lithuanian beliefs written by a Polish historian.

It’s more likely, she said, that these bee-related terms reflect the significance of bees in medieval Lithuania. Beekeeping, she explained “was regulated by community rules, as well as in special formal regulations”. Honey and beeswax were abundant and among the main exports, I learned, which is why its production was strictly controlled.

But the fact that these references to bees have been preserved over hundreds of years demonstrates something rather interesting about the Lithuanian language: according to the Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences, it’s the most conservative of all living Indo-European languages. While its grammar, vocabulary and characteristic sounds have changed over time, they’ve done so only very slowly. For this reason, the Lithuanian language is of enormous use to researchers trying to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European, the single language, spoken around four to five millennia ago, that was the progenitor of tongues as diverse as English, Armenian, Italian and Bengali.

All these languages are related, but profound sound shifts that have gradually taken place have made them distinct from one another. You’d need to be a language expert to see the connection between English ‘five’ and French cinq – let alone the word that Proto-Indo-Europeans are thought to have used, pénkʷe. However, that connection is slightly easier to make out from the Latvian word pieci, and no trouble at all with Lithuanian penki. This is why famous French linguist Antoine Meillet once declared that “anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant”.

Lines can be drawn to other ancient languages too, even those that are quite geographically distant. For example, the Lithuanian word for castle or fortress – pilis – is completely different from those used by its non-Baltic neighbours, but is recognisably similar to the Ancient Greek word for town, polis. Surprisingly, Lithuanian is also thought to be the closest surviving European relative to Sanskrit, the oldest written Indo-European language, which is still used in Hindu ceremonies.

This last detail has led to claims of similarities between Indian and ancient Baltic cultures. A Lithuanian friend, Dovilas Bukauskas, told me about an event organised by local pagans that he attended. It began with the blessing of a figure of a grass snake – a sacred animal in Baltic tradition – and ended with a Hindu chant.

I asked Senvaitytė about the word gyvatė. This means ‘snake’, but it shares the same root with gyvybė, which means ‘life’. The grass snake has long been a sacred animal in Lithuania, reverenced as a symbol of fertility and luck, partially for its ability to shed its skin. A coincidence? Perhaps, but Senvaitytė thinks in this case probably not.

The language may also have played a role in preserving traditions in a different way. After Grand Duke Jogaila took the Polish throne in 1386, Lithuania’s gentry increasingly adopted not only Catholicism, but also the Polish language. Meanwhile, rural Lithuanians were much slower to adopt Christianity, not least because it was almost always preached in Polish or Latin. Even once Christianity had taken hold, Lithuanians were reluctant to give up their animist traditions. Hundreds of years after the country had officially adopted Christianity, travellers through the Lithuanian countryside reported seeing people leave bowls of milk out for grass snakes, in the hope that the animals would befriend the community and bring good luck.

Similarly, bees and bee products seem to have retained importance, especially in folk medicine, for their perceived healing powers. Venom from a bee was used to treat viper bites, and one treatment for epilepsy apparently recommended drinking water with boiled dead bees. But only, of course, if the bees had died from natural causes.

But Lithuanian is no longer exclusively a rural language. The last century was a tumultuous one, bringing war, industrialisation and political change, and all of the country’s major cities now have majorities of Lithuanian-speakers. Following its accession to the EU in 2004, the country is now also increasingly integrated with Europe and the global market, which has led to the increasing presence of English-derived words, such as alternatyvus (alternative) and prioritetas (priority).

Given Lithuania’s troubled history, it’s in many ways amazing the language has survived to the present day. At its peak in the 14th Century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania stretched as far as the Black Sea, but in the centuries since, the country has several times disappeared from the map entirely.

It’s too simplistic to say that Lithuanian allows us to piece together the more mysterious stretches in its history, such as the early, pagan years in which I’m so interested. But the language acts a little like the amber that people on the eastern shores of the Baltic have traded since ancient times, preserving, almost intact, meanings and structures that time has long since worn away everywhere else.

And whether or not Austėja was really worshipped, she has certainly remained a prominent presence. Austėja remains consistently in the top 10 most popular girls names in Lithuania. It seems that, despite Lithuania’s inevitable cultural and linguistic evolution, the bee will always be held in high esteem.

Environmental groups order government to keep restrictions on insecticides as renewal date looms

 

Seventeen of the UK’s leading wildlife, conservation and environment groups are calling for the current EU restrictions on neonicotinoid insecticides to be retained – and extended to all crops – to ‘protect Britain’s bees’.

In an open letter to the UK government, the organisations say “it is clear that there is now more than enough evidence to retain the ban and extend it to all crops, and that this is essential to reverse the decline of bees and other pollinators.”

The EU restrictions, which ban the use of three neonicotinoids on flowering crops, is due to be reviewed next year. The ban was introduced in 2013 after European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that the chemicals posed a ‘high acute risk’ to honey bees.

In the letter, the organisations – which include Friends of the Earth, RSPB, Greenpeace, The Wildlife Trusts, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation and Bat Conservation Trust – say: “Since 2013 many more independent laboratory and field studies have found neonics impairing the ability of different bee species to feed, navigate and reproduce resulting in declining populations.

“The government says it will not hesitate to act on evidence of harm. The third anniversary of the neonics restrictions is Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s chance to catch up with scientific evidence and public opinion by keeping and extending the ban as part of properly protecting Britain’s bees and pollinating insects.”

Farmers access to right inputs ‘crucial’

In a debate on crop protection at CropTec 2016 this week, National Farmers Union chief crops adviser Guy Gagen said farmers need to be ready to talk to the public about crop protection products, and to emphasise the work farmers to do for the environment and to promote biodiversity on their farm.

The NFU has been meeting with both domestic and European politicians, Defra government officials and stakeholders to deliver the message that it is ‘crucial’ that farmers have access to the right inputs so their farm businesses can be ‘competitive, profitable and progressive’.

Mr Gagen stressed the importance of increasing public awareness around the use of crop protection products, such as pesticides, underlining their importance to farm businesses.

He said: “We still have to deal with regulatory pressures coming through the EU, these are not going away and without key products, the situation for farmers could become very serious, very quickly.

“There are simple, but effective, measures available to promote biodiversity and protect water such as keeping slug pellets and herbicides out of the water and participation in stewardship schemes such as the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.”

Agriculture experts from the University of Hertfordshire have said key crop protection products, such as pesticides, play an important role in ensuring food is safe and healthy for the world’s population. Global food production could fall by as much as 35-40 per cent without them, the scientists warn.

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‘Dozens of new studies’

Three of the UK’s leading bee experts have said that the scientific case against the use of the three pesticides has grown over the past three years, and that the restrictions should continue and be extended to other crops.

Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at Sussex University, said that three years ago, EFSA’s analysis of the scientific evidence concluded that neonicotinoids ‘pose an unacceptable risk to bees’.

“Since then dozens of new studies from around the world have been published, including a major Swedish field trial in which neonicotinoids were shown to impact profoundly on bumblebee colonies and solitary bees.

“Work from Italy has showed that even tiny doses of neonicotinoids impair the immune system of honeybees, rendering them susceptible to infections. Perhaps more concerning, it has become clear that neonicotinoids are persistent and pervasive in the environment, so that soils, wildflowers, ponds and rivers commonly contain significant levels.

He said: “This widespread pollution of the environment with these potent neurotoxins has now been linked not just to bee declines but also to declines in butterflies, aquatic insects, and insect-eating birds. With farmland wildlife populations in free fall, it is surely time to extend the moratorium on neonicotinoids to cover other uses.”

Open letter in full

December 1st marks the third anniversary of the introduction of Europe-wide restrictions on three neonicotinoid pesticides – often known as ‘neonics’ – after they were found by scientists to pose a “high acute risk” to honeybees.

It is clear that there is now more than enough evidence to retain the ban and extend it to all crops, and that this is essential to reverse the decline of bees and other pollinators.

Since 2013 many more independent laboratory and field studies have found neonics impairing the ability of different bee species to feed, navigate and reproduce resulting in declining populations.

There is now solid evidence of harm from neonics to wild bumble and solitary bees which are even more sensitive to these pesticides than honeybees. Evidence has also grown of neonics harming the wider environment with studies indicating a link to butterfly population decline, identifying risks to bird species and finding neonics accumulating to dangerous levels in wildflowers surrounding crops.

2017 will be a crucial year for decisions on bees as scientists will publish the official review of the evidence of harm to bees from the three restricted neonicotinoids.

The government says it will not hesitate to act on evidence of harm. The third anniversary of the neonics restrictions is Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s chance to catch up with scientific evidence and public opinion by keeping and extending the ban as part of properly protecting Britain’s bees and pollinating insects.

Yours faithfully,

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth
Dr Jeremy Biggs, Director, Freshwater Habitats Trust
Pauline Buchanan Black, Director General, The Tree Council
Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive, Sustain
Martin Harper, Conservation Director, RSPB
Heidi Herrmann, Co-Founder, Natural Beekeeping Trust
Dr Maggie Keegan, Head of Policy, Scottish Wildlife Trust
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive, Angling Trust & Fish Legal
Peter Melchett, Policy Director, Soil Association
John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive, Buglife
Kit Stoner, Chief Executive, Bat Conservation Trust
Steve Trent, Executive Director, Environmental Justice Foundation
Steve Trotter, Director, The Wildlife Trusts
Dr Keith Tyrell, Director, Pesticides Action Network
Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive, Butterfly Conservation
Catherine Weller, Head of Biodiversity Programme, ClientEarth

 

 

Asian Hornet Update

Following the finding of Asian hornets in Gloucestershire last week we have received a large number of suspect Asian hornet reports from members of the public and beekeepers which we are following up. Bee inspectors have now visited over 100 sites. Asian hornets have been seen at just six locations within 500 meters of the original site.

Efforts to track down the nest and destroy it are ongoing. There have been no other substantiated reports of hornets anywhere else in the UK so please be patient while we continue our field work and be assured that when appropriate, national alerts will be sent out via our email alert system. In the meantime, our news feed on BeeBase will be used to keep everyone updated.

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Do you know how honey is produced by the bees

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If you don’t know how do bees produce honey until now after reading of this text you will know very well the whole process…

The western, or European honeybee, pollinates three fourths of the fruits, veggies and nuts that we eat. We’d be in trouble without them. Of course, there’s a reason we don’t call them zucchini bees, almond bees, or apple bees. They also give us honey. One healthy hive will make and consume more than 50 kg of honey in a single year, and that takes a lot of work.

Honey is made from nectar, but it doesn’t come out of flowers as that golden, sticky stuff. After finding a suitable food source, bees dive in head first, using their long, specially adapted tongues to slurp tiny sips of nectar into one of two stomachs. A single bee might have to drink from more than a thousand flowers to fill its honey stomach, which can weigh as much as the bee itself when full of nectar. On the way back to the hive, digestive enzymes are already working to turn that nectar into sweet gold. When she returns to the hive, the forager bee will vomit the nectar into the mouth of another worker. That bee will vomit it into another bee’s mouth, and so on.

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This game of regurgitation telephone is an important part of the honey making process, since each bee adds more digestive enzymes to turn long chains of complex sugars in the raw nectar into simple monosaccharides like fructose and glucose. At this point, the nectar is still pretty watery, so the bees beat their wings and create an air current inside the hive to evaporate and thicken the nectar, finally capping the cell with beeswax so the enzyme rich bee barf can complete its transformation into honey. Because of its low water content and acidic pH, honey isn’t a very inciting place for bacteria or yeast spoilage, and it has an incredibly long shelf life in the hive or in your pantry. Honey has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back thousands of years, pretty much unspoiled.

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For one pound of honey, tens of thousands of foraging bees will together fly more than three times around the world and visit up to 8 million flowers. That takes teamwork and organization, and although they can’t talk they do communicate… with body language. Foragers dance to tell other bees where to find food. A circle dance means flowers are pretty close to the hive, but for food that’s farther away, they get their waggle on. The waggle dance of the honey bee was first decoded by Karl Von Frisch, and it’s definitely one of the coolest examples of animal communication in nature. First the bee walks in a straight line, wagging its body back and forth and vibrating its wings, before repeating in a figure eight. Whatever angle the bee walks while waggling tells the other bees what direction to go. Straight up the line of honeycombs, then the food is in the direction of the sun. If the dance is pointed to the left or right, the other bees know to fly in that angle relative to the sun. The longer the waggle, the farther away the food is, and the food is better, the more excited the bee shakes its body.

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If that’s not amazing enough, even if they can’t see the sun itself, they can infer where it is and the time of day by reading the polarization of light in the blue sky. A single bee is a pretty simple creature, but together they create highly complex and social societies. There’s three main classes in a beehive: drones, workers and queens. When a new queen is born, she immediately runs around and kills her sisters, because there can be only one. During mating season, she’ll fly to a distant hive to mate with several males and store away the sperm, which she’ll use back at her home hive to lay more than a thousand eggs a day throughout the rest of her life. Any unfertilized eggs, those that don’t join up with sperm, will mature into male drones, which means they only have one set of chromosomes. But fertilized eggs are all genetically female, destined t become either queens or workers. Queens do the egg laying of course, but worker bees are the backbone of the beehive.

So what makes most females become workers, while just one wears the hive crown? A baby bee’s diet activate genetic programming that shifts its entire destiny. Every bee larva is initially fed a nutrient rich food called royal jelly, but after a few days, worker bee babies are switched to a mixture of pollen and honey called “bee bread”. But queens eat royal jelly their whole life, even as adults. Scientists used to think it was just royal jelly that put queens on the throne, but just last year they discovered one chemical in bee bread, the food that queens don’t get, that keeps worker bees sterile. Being a queen seems to be as much about what bees don’t eat as what they do. Making honey is insect farming on its grandest scale, with intricate societies cooperating to make a food fit for bear tummies bid and small… with the pleasant side effect of pollinating most of the world’s flowering plants.

 

Bees don’t slack on the job, even when they are ill

Scientists think the insects are ‘hardwired’ to search, no matter how they feel.

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Struggle to get into work when you feel under the weather? You should take inspiration from the hard-working honeybee and spring out of bed.

New research has shown that honeybees remain excellent searchers even when they are ill.

The bees are hardwired to search the landscape efficiently, allowing them to continue working for the greater good of their hives.

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Scientists in Cornwall used radar technology to track individual bees and were able to show they remained nimble and travelled hundreds or thousands of metres even when they had infections or viruses.

Honeybees tirelessly commute between rewarding flower patches and their hive and their remarkable navigational skills rely on distinct landmarks, such as trees or houses, which they very efficiently find and memorise on orientation flights.

Experts fitted a transponder – a tiny dipole aerial much lighter than the nectar or pollen normally carried by the bee – to the thorax.

Tracking each bee individually allowed them to pick up a radar signal from the transponder showing where and how it was flying. The aerial is harmless to the bee and removable.

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Bees, like humans, can fall ill and getting around during periods of sickness can become very challenging.

The study shows that even very sick bees are still able to search their surroundings optimally in so-called Levy flight patterns.

Lead author Dr Stephan Wolf, from Queen Mary University of London, said: “The honeybees we observed had remarkably robust searching abilities, which indicate this might be hardwired in the bees rather than learned, making bees strong enough to withstand pathogens and possibly other stressors, and allowing them to still contribute to their colony by, for example, foraging for food.”

During the study the team monitored 78 bees, some of which were unwell.

The researchers discovered that the unhealthy bees did not fly as far or for as long as the healthy bees but they continued to search in the same manner, suggesting that the pattern was inbuilt.

Honeybees know it’s going to rain, so work more before it starts

Honeybees know it’s going to rain, so work more before it starts

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Busy bees get busier if the next day looks rainy.

This is according to Xu-Jiang He and colleagues at Jiangxi Agricultural University in Nanchang, China, who attached tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to 300 worker honeybees from each of three hives.

They used these to monitor when the bees left the hive, how long they were gone and when they quit work in the evening.
The bees spent more time out of the hive foraging and stopped work later in the afternoon when the following day proved to be rainy rather than sunny. They seemed to be responding to cues such as changes in humidity, temperature and barometric pressure that preceded rainstorms.

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Stores for hoarders?
The finding is surprising because honeybees should not need to set aside extra stores of food for a rainy day, says Gene Robinson, a honeybee expert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Honeybee foraging ecology is not based on immediate need. They are a hoarding species,” he says.

Robinson notes that He’s team only tracked the bees for 34 days, so other factors such as blooming times of flowers could also have affected their behaviour.

If the Chinese researchers are correct, though, their discovery will help shape our understanding of how and why honeybees forage when they do, says Robinson.

And that, in turn, may help in managing the impact of climate change and human activity on bees, which are the world’s most important pollinating insects.

 

African honey bees change lives and save elephants

The Elephants and Bees Project is an innovative study using an in-depth understanding of elephant behaviour to reduce damage from crop-raiding elephants using their instinctive avoidance of African honey bees. The project explores the use of novel Beehive Fences as a natural elephant deterrent creating a social and economic boost to poverty-stricken rural communities through pollination services and the sustainable harvesting of “Elephant-Friendly Honey”.

Elephants & Bees is thrilled to share this short video on the project’s amazing milestones. Get to learn how bees are bringing harmony to communities that live with wildlife.

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700 Beehives Hang Off This Rocky Cliff to Boost Dwindling Bee Populations

beehives in china

700 Beehives hang off this rocky cliff to boost dwindling Bee populations

The Shennongjia Nature Reserve in central China has an unusual approach to boost the country’s dwindling bee population: a sky-high, vertical apiary.

Roughly 700 wooden beehives hang from a cliff 4,000 feet above sea level on a mountain in the conservation area. According to People’s Daily Online, this vertigo-inducing “wall of hives” is meant to attract the area’s wild bees into settling in the boxes, as it mimics their natural habitats. To get to the boxes, beekeepers have to climb to each one individually. The hives contain thousands upon thousands of bees. As you might know, global food production is dependent on pollination provided by honey bees and other pollinators.

But in some parts of China, bees have virtually disappeared, forcing some farmers to pollinate their crops by hand with feather dusters. The website Xinhua.net reported (via The Daily Mail), that in China’s north and north east, bees have become extinct. Other areas in China are also seeing bee populations decline, the publication said.

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It is suspected that neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species, is a major factor in overall global bee population declines. Twenty-nine independent scientists conducted a global review of 1,121 independent studies and found overwhelming evidence of pesticides linked to bee declines.

As beekeepers and conservationists around the world try to solve the plight of colony collapse disorder, this extraordinary apiary in in the Far East seems to be seeing some success, The Daily Mail reported.

Why build an apiary on a mountain? According to the National Commission of the People’s Republic of China for UNESCO, the Shennongjia Nature Reserve is unique in that its location has several different climates zones in a single area—subtropical, warm temperate, temperate and cold temperate—which allows for a rich variety of fauna and flora (as well as ample pollen) to grow.

Along with the bees, approximately 1,131 species of plants grow in the reserve, along with 54 kinds of animals, 190 kinds of birds, 12 kinds of reptile and 8 kinds of amphibian. The commission said that the main cash income of the farmers living in the reserve is “mainly based on a diversified economy by raising cattle, pigs and beekeeping as well as collecting the Chinese herbal medicine etc.”

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