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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Habitat Protection' Category


05
Apr

Small Size of Wild Bees Correlated with Their Proximity to Intensive Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2016) Populations of wild, ground-nesting bees grow smaller in areas where agricultural production is high, according to Cornell University researchers. Both wild and managed pollinators are experiencing global population declines that have been linked to a range of factors stemming from human activity, to habitat loss, the spread of parasitic mites and diseases, climate change, and significantly, the use of toxic, systemic pesticides. This study underscores the wide ranging threat that conventional agricultural practices pose to wild insect pollinators. Cornell researchers explore the relationship between intensive agricultural production and the size of ground-nesting Andrena nasonii bees. These charismatic pollinators dig tunnels in the ground up to three  feet deep in which they store honey and nectar, and ultimately lay a single egg. They forage on a variety of fruit crops, and are well known and important pollinators of strawberries. Thus, scientists brought their study to areas in New York with large strawberry plantations. Researchers discovered a significant, positive correlation between the decreased size of female A. nasonii bees and their proximity to intensively farmed strawberry plots. “Once we knew there was an effect of agriculture on the size of the bees, we took a random sample […]

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10
Mar

“Muzzled” USDA Scientist to Speak at National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2016) Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., a top U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist who received a prestigious national award for civic courage  for his work on neonicotinoids and pollinator decline in the face of agency attempts to suppress his work, will be speaking at Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, the 34th National Pesticide Forum, April 15-16, 2016 in Portland, ME. Dr. Lundgren will join other top scientists and leaders who have stood up to protect human and environmental health, despite facing industry backlash and scientific suppression. His story was recently featured in Sunday’s The Washington Post Magazine, Was a USDA Scientist Muzzled Because of His Bee Research, as censorship of federal scientists has grown. As a Senior Research Entomologist and Lab Supervisor for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in South Dakota, Dr. Lundgren had worked for USDA for eleven years with great success, with his research drawing national attention and international recognition. However, in October 2015, Dr. Lundgren, represented by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a whistleblower complaint charging the agency with suppression of research findings that challenged the safety and efficacy of a widely used class of pesticides, neonicotinoids. In April 2015, PEER filed […]

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29
Feb

Glyphosate Residues in Popular German Beers

(Beyond Pesticides, February 29, 2016) Last Thursday, the Munich Environmental Institute stated that it had found traces of glyphosate, the widely used and controversial weed-killer, in 14 of Germany’s most popular beers. These findings are a potential blow to Germany’s Beer Purity Law, which is highly regarded in German beer culture. Industry and German government immediately sought to downplay the results, saying that the levels found did not pose a risk to humans. However, according to the study’s results, all levels found were above the glyphosate residue level allowed in drinking water. Consumers have a right to be worried about the findings, as glyphosate was classified in March 2015  as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The results, published  in German, are broken down by beer and by micrograms per liter in picture format. The researchers cite the laboratory test results of the 14 beers, which found glyphosate levels  between 0.46 and 29.74 micrograms per liter. The highest reading is 300 times the legal limit for drinking water in Germany, which is 0.1 microgram per cubic meter. Hasseroeder, a beer brewed in Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany and owned by Anheuser Busch Inbev, contained the […]

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11
Jan

UK Researchers Find Bee-Killing Pesticide Cocktail in Hedgerows and Wildflowers

(Beyond Pesticides, January 11, 2016) Scientists at Sussex University in the United Kingdom (UK) have found that bumble bees and honey bees are exposed to a harmful chemical cocktail when collecting pollen from wildflowers and hedgerows that border neonicotinoid-treated crops in UK farmland. After testing oilseed rape croplands during blooming season, these chemical cocktails were found to be mixed with fungicides and insecticides, and at concentrations much higher than expected.  According to the Soil Association, which supported the study, “These chemical cocktails could make the impact of neonicotinoids up to 1,000 times more potent than previously realized.” With at least 121 different agrochemicals detected in hive wax and pollen samples in the Unites States, most of which include systemic pesticides, it is becoming increasingly more important to study the synergistic effects of pesticides in and outside of farm land. The study focused on “determining which mixtures of commonly used fungicides occur alongside neonicotinoids” and found that all individual oilseed rape pollen samples contained at least six neonicotinoid and fungicide residues. To compare, three neonicotinoid and six fungicides were detected in wildflower pollen samples. While the wildflower contamination was expectedly lower than crop contamination, the rate of bee contamination paints a […]

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23
Dec

Native Bee Populations on Decline on U.S. Farms

(Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2015) Native  bees are on the decline in some of the major agricultural regions in the United States, according to a new study. The study scientists produced the first national map of bee populations and identified numerous trouble areas. Since 2006, honey bees and other pollinators in the U.S. and throughout the world have experienced ongoing and rapid population declines. The continuation of this crisis threatens the stability of ecosystems, the economy, and food supply, as one in three bites of food are dependent on pollinator services. The study, titled Modeling the status, trends, and impacts of wild bee abundance in the United States  and published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science, for the first time aims to assess the status and trends of wild bees and their potential impacts on pollination services across the U.S. and found that between 2008 and 2013 bee abundance declined across 23% of the nation’s  land area. The decline is generally associated with conversion of natural habitats to row crops. The researchers also list pesticide use, climate change, and disease as other threats to wild bees. The researchers specifically cited 139 counties as especially worrisome, with […]

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30
Nov

Studies Add to Mounting Evidence of Neonic Dangers

(Beyond Pesticides, November 30, 2015) Last week, two studies were published that link neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticide exposure to detrimental effects in bees and butterflies. The first study, published in the international scientific journal Nature, found that bumblebees exposed to neonics suffered pollination services impairment that reduces their delivery to apple crops. The second study, published in the United Kingdom journal Peer J, used over 1,000 sites cataloged from 1984 to 2012 in the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) database to point to the strong association between neonic use and butterfly population decline. These studies contribute to the mounting evidence that neonic insecticides are linked to pollinator decline. Neonics have increasingly been the subject of recent studies that highlight a causal relationship between neonic exposure  and harmful effects to pollinators, like foraging and reproductive complications. These effects are being identified by scientists all over the world, gradually negating industry criticism of study design. Andre Gilburn, PhD, and ecologist at the University of Stirling, led the butterfly study. He said, “Our study not only identifies a worrying link between the use of neonicotinoids and declines in butterflies, but also suggests that the strength of their impact on many species could be huge.” […]

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12
Nov

Native Bees Found to Have Residues of Pesticides Linked to Their Steep Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, November 12, 2015) The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently performed the first-ever study of pesticide residues on native bee populations and found that they are exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides, as well as other pesticides, at significant rates. This study digs deeper into a question  that was previously considered by a researcher who  studied chemical-intensive  apple orchards and linked a steep decline in wild or native bees to the application of pesticides. The USGS study  broadens understanding about the effects of toxic pesticides to native bee species, expanding field research that has principally focused on managed honey bee populations. The study tested for 122 different pesticides including bifenthrin, atrazine and chlorpyrifos, a chemical for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed to revoke all food tolerances in response to  a court-ordered deadline. According to study findings, 72% of bees tested positive for pesticide residues, raising concerns for the potential for unintended pesticides exposures where land uses overlap or are in proximity to one another.   Residues of pesticides found in bees in the study include  thiamethoxam, clothianidin, and imidacloprid, all of which are highly toxic neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals that have been linked to the global […]

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29
Oct

USDA Scientist Punished for Neonic Study Files Complaint

(Beyond Pesticides, October 29, 2015) One of the top entomologists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) filed a whistleblower complaint against a  federal agency, citing unprofessional retaliation following the publication of a study linking neonicotinoid insecticides to the decline of monarch butterflies. Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., Senior Research Entomologist and Lab Supervisor for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in South Dakota, is fighting suspension for publishing research deemed “sensitive” by his USDA superiors. According to Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which is providing legal services to Dr. Lundgren, this case underscores why legal protections for government scientists are sorely needed. Until recently, Dr. Lundgren worked for USDA for eleven years with great success, and his cutting edge research has drawn national attention and international recognition. In April of this year, Dr. Lundgren published a study in The Science of Nature that shows that clothianidin, a neonicotinoid seed treatment, kills monarch butterfly larvae in the laboratory. On August 3, 2015, USDA imposed a 14-day suspension against Dr. Lundgren for submitting the Science of Nature study and for a paperwork error in his travel authorization for his invited presentation about his research to a panel of […]

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20
Oct

Study Finds Neonics “Severely Affect” Health of Honey Bee Queens

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2015) Exposure to neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides results in profound negative impacts to the health of honey bee queens, according to an international team of researchers led by Geoff Williams, MD, PhD, at the University of Bern in Switzerland. While most studies to date have investigated how neonics effect the health of individual workers or overall colony fitness, Dr. William’s study, Neonicotinoid pesticides severely affect honey bee queens, is one of the first to focus on the health of honey bee queens. Neither the European Union nor U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study the impacts of pesticides on queen health before allowing a pesticide to market. The results of this research are particularly concerning, given widespread anecdotal evidence from beekeepers across the globe that ”˜poor quality queens’ are playing a role in bee declines. To test the impacts of these chemicals on queen honey bees, scientists exposed a sample of 29 queens to field-realistic levels of the neonics  clothianidian and thiamethoxam (1 parts per billion and 4 ppb respectively), and compared them to a population of 28 control queens, which were not treated with neonics. Both groups experienced similar environmental circumstances in terms of food availability, rearing […]

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10
Sep

California to List Glyphosate (Roundup) as Cancer-Causing

(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2015) Last week, California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced that it intended to list glyphosate (Roundup) and three other chemicals as cancer-causing chemicals under California’s  Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Glyphosate  is a phosphanoglycine herbicide that inhibits an enzyme essential to plant growth. Under California law, Proposition 65 requires that certain substances identified by the International View postAgency for Research on Cancer (IARC) be listed as known cancer-causing chemicals. In March, a study by the IARC classified glyphosate as a Group 2A material, which means that the chemical is carcinogenic based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The agency considered the findings from an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel report, along with several recent studies in making its conclusion. However, industry supporters of glyphosate all over the globe are conducting their own studies to attempt to prove that it is not a carcinogen. These studies, like one by German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR), are based almost solely on industry science and classified industry reports, each of which might not consider critical variables. With more glyphosate-focused studies being released, the growing evidence […]

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04
Sep

Call for More Research on Bee-Toxic Pesticides as Their Link to Bee Deaths Strengthens

(Beyond Pesticides, September 4, 2015) Research into neonicotinoid insecticides, a class of bee-toxic chemicals, and their effects on bees, needs to be more comprehensive in order to better reflect their global use, concludes a recent review of the current literature. The authors of the review state that despite considerable research efforts, there are still significant knowledge gaps concerning the impacts of neonicotinoids on bees. Since 2006, honey bees and other pollinators in the U.S. and throughout the world have experienced ongoing and rapid population declines. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides (especially the  neonicotinoid class of insecticides), either acting individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees and wild pollinators. Neonicotinoids can be persistent in the environment, and have the ability to translocate into the pollen and nectar of treated plants. The systematic review, titled Neonicotinoid Insecticides and Their Impacts on Bees: A Systematic Review of Research Approaches and Identification of Knowledge Gaps  and published in the journal PLoS ONE, took a look at over 200 primary research studies in order to identify knowledge gaps. While there is a growing body of science examining the impacts of neonicotinoid use, knowledge gaps need […]

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28
Aug

EU Food Safety Watchdog Confirms Neonicotinoids Harmful to Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, August 28, 2015) The European Union’s food safety agency confirmed Wednesday that foliar spraying of neonicotinoids (neonics), the widely-used bee-toxic insecticides, poses a risk to bees, bolstering previous research that led to a two-year moratorium on the chemicals in the EU. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which guides EU policymakers, said leaf spray containing three neonicotinoid pesticides — clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam — could harm bees. Previous research found that these chemicals pose a risk as seed treatments or granules, which prompted the European Commission to limit their use in  December 1, 2013. The use of the three neonicotinoid substances in seed or soil treatments is prohibited in the European Union for crops attractive to bees and for cereals other than winter cereals except in greenhouses. “They (the EFSA conclusions) confirm that the Commission was correct to take precautionary measures in 2013,” a Brussels-based EU executive said in a statement. Neonicotinoids have been found by  a growing body of scientific literature  to be linked to honey bee and pollinator decline. Recently, a  study  performed by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) in the United Kingdom provides evidence confirming the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and continually increasing […]

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26
Aug

Country-wide Field Study Links Pollinator Decline to Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2015) A  study performed by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) in the United Kingdom (UK) provides evidence of confirming the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and continually increasing honey bee colony losses on a landscape level. The study, Evidence for pollinator cost and farming benefits of neonicotinoid seed coatings on oilseed rape, was published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. This is a significant study, as the UK government has always maintained that neonicotinoid pesticides do not threaten bees, and that honey bee losses are instead caused by the parasitic varroa mite, siding with industry arguments that pesticides are safe when used properly. However, this new study indicates otherwise, confirming a direct link between neonicotinoids and honey bee colony losses at a nationwide level. This study distinguishes itself from  a previous study in the U.S. that extrapolated real world neonicotinoid exposure levels  to  test hives by analyzing actual fields in a  long-term assessment. To a large degree, the new study addresses industry critics of the earlier study design who have tried to discount previous findings of bee decline associated with neonicotinoid use (see Beyond Pesticides’ Sowing the Seeds of Doubt, which addresses these industry myths). […]

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25
Aug

Minneapolis, MN Passes Organic, Pollinator-Friendly Resolution

(Beyond Pesticides, August 25, 2015) Last Friday, the City Council of Minneapolis, MN unanimously passed a resolution declaring Minneapolis a pollinator-friendly community and urging city residents to take steps to protect dwindling pollinator populations. A groundswell of public support from a wide range of local and national groups, including Beyond Pesticides, resulted in swift passage of the resolution, the latest in a long string of local government action to safeguard pollinators from harmful pesticides, as federal proposals fail to address the magnitude of the crisis. “With the passage of today’s resolution, Minneapolis is now doing its part in the global effort to protect and grow the pollinator populations,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said to CBS Minnesota. The resolution, introduced and written by Councilmember Cam Gordon, assigns a number of bee safe actions to various city departments. While the Health Department’s Environmental Services Unit will maintain a list of pollinator-friendly plants, the Community Planning and Economic Development Department and Property Services Division of the City Coordinator’s office will create habitat for local pollinators. The Minneapolis Public Works Department will pursue both increased bee habitat and adopt clear guidelines against the use of pesticides, including but not limited to systemic neonicotinoid  (“neonic”) insecticides, […]

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21
Aug

Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoids Found in Nearly Half of U.S. Streams

(Beyond Pesticides, August 21, 2015) Neonicotinoid insecticides contaminate over half of urban and agricultural streams across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a study released earlier this week by the U.S. Geographical Survey (USGS). Neonicotinoids (neonics) are bee-toxic insecticides that have been linked to the global decline in bee populations by a large body of science. The study, titled “First national-scale reconnaissance of neonicotinoid insecticides in streams across the USA” and published in Environmental Chemistry,  was conducted from 2011 to 2014 and spans 24 states and Puerto Rico. Researchers found that at least one of the six neonicotinoids tested by USGS researchers was found in more than half of the sampled streams. Detections of the  six  neonicotinoids varied:    imidacloprid  was found in 37 percent of the samples in the national study, clothianidin in 24 percent, thiamethoxam in 21 percent, dinotefuran in 13 percent, acetamiprid in 3 percent, and thiacloprid was not detected. Both urban and agricultural uses contributed to neonic concentrations in streams, with imidacloprid occurrence significantly related to the amount of urban land-use and clothianidin and thiamethoxam significantly related to the amount of cultivated crop. “In the study, neonicotinoids occurred throughout the year in urban streams […]

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05
Aug

Bumper Canola Crop Expected Even Without Bee-Toxic Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2015) The United Kingdom (UK) is poised to harvest higher than expected yields of winter oilseed rape (canola) in its first neonicotinoid-free growing season since the European moratorium on neonicotinoids went into place in 2013. This bumper harvest comes amid the recent approval of an emergency exemption for neonicotinoid use on the crop in certain areas of the UK, and disproves the industry argument  that  the crop would falter without the use of neonicotinoids. Activists argue that these findings show there is ”˜no emergency’ for neonicotinoid use and that the current moratorium should remain in effect. The first harvest results of winter oilseed rape (canola) planted without neonicotinoid seed treatments have come in – and farmers are experiencing a better than usual crop. Figures for the first oilseed rape harvest since the European-wide ban on neonicotinoid pesticides was introduced show that the yield so far is higher than the average for the previous decade, when the chemicals were used on the majority of oilseed rape grown in the UK. Farmers Weekly, a leading multimedia information service for farmers and agricultural businesses, has reported that yields are up by as much as eight percent. The European Union […]

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31
Jul

Meeting Records Expose Industry’s Influence in UK’s Neonic Emergency Use Decision

(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2015) New information has surfaced regarding the role of agrochemical giants Bayer and Syngenta in the United Kingdom (UK)’s recent decision to temporarily allow the use of neonicotinoid seed treatment on oilseed rape crop. A record of the meeting, involving the UK government’s expert committee on pesticides (ECP) and industry representatives, had previously been suppressed. The newly released record of the meeting shows that Bayer and Syngenta were the only external representatives asked to answer the ECP’s questions. The emergency use, which has been granted for 120 days, allows growers to use Bayer’s Modesto (clothianidin) and Syngenta’s Cruiser OSR (thiamethoxam). The active ingredients of these products belong to a class of toxic chemicals known as neonicotinoids  (neonics), which have been  linked  to pollinator decline. These pesticides are associated with  decreased learning,  foraging  and navigational ability in bees, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems. Used widely in agriculture as seed treatment for various crops, foraging bees, in the absence of their native habitat, are exposed to fields of poison where even pollen and nectar are contaminated. In addition to toxicity to bees, neonicotinoids have been shown […]

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30
Jul

USDA Allows Introduction of 2,4-D-Tolerant GE Cotton in Response to Roundup Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, July 30, 2015) Despite concerns for human and environmental contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) adds 2,4-D-tolerant cotton, a genetically engineered (GE) crop, to the list of unregulated GE crops, joining 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans. Last week, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) division of USDA released its decision on Dow AgroSciences’ petition to deregulate the 2,4-D resistant GE cotton. The decision was signed off by Michael J. Firko, the Deputy Administrator of Biotechnology Regulatory Services. In September of last year, Deputy Firko also signed the determination paperwork that deregulated GE corn and soybean. The deregulation essentially releases the GE organism from the regulatory requirements of 7 CFR part 340 or the plant pest provisions of the Plant Protection Act. Dow’s GE cotton, part of the Enlist Weed Control System, is resistant to 2,4-D choline, glufosinate, and glyphosate. Growers in the cotton industry have been vying for the GE cotton to enter the market in order to combat herbicide-resistant weeds due to the broad scale use of Monsanto’s RoundUp (glyphosate), which continues to fail across the agricultural industry due to weed resistance. Glyphosate is a phosphanoglycine herbicide that inhibits an enzyme essential to plant […]

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23
Jul

Neonicotinoids Harm Beneficial Predatory Insects through Secondary Poisoning

(Beyond Pesticides, July 23, 2015) A recent study looks at the detrimental effects of neonicotinoids (neonics) on molluscan herbivores and their non-target insect predators, finding that slug exposure to neonics results in the secondary poisoning of beneficial predatory beetles. The study, authored by Maggie Douglas, PhD candidate at Penn State University, was presented earlier this month at a congressional briefing, An Expert Briefing to Discuss Pollinators and Efforts to Protect Them. The briefing was organized by Center for Food Safety and attended by the sponsors of Saving America’s Pollinators Act (H.R. 2692), Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). The study specifically looks at the pest slug Deroceras reticulatum and its predator beetle, Chlaenius tricolor. Ms. Douglas and her co-researchers find that neonicotinoid seed-treated soy beans can unintentionally impact predatory, beneficial insects through a previously unexplored pathway. Here are some highlights of the study’s methods and findings: Soy beans were treated with the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam. The seed treatments had zero effect on pest slugs, and instead were bioaccumulated and then transferred through the slugs into their insect predators, impairing or killing >60%. This resulted in a loss of crop due to a decline in beneficial insect predators and an […]

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13
Jul

Study Links Climate Change to Shrinking Bumblebee Habitats

(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2015) Many factors have been identified in bee and other pollinator decline across the globe, including loss of habitat, disease, and pesticides. A  new study from researchers in North American and Europe finds that the  changing climate also plays a vital role in decreasing bee habitat and thus reducing populations. The study reports that North American and European bumble bees are unable to colonize new warmer habitats north of their historic range, while simultaneously disappearing from the southern portions of their range. Published in Science, the study,  Climate change impacts on bumblebees converge across continents,  which is a comprehensive look at 67 bumblebee species and their territories over the last century, finds that many North American and European bumblebees have retreated from the southern edge of their historic ranges (away from the equator). While other species of animals have been able to adapt to climate change by expanding their habitats, bumblebees have not shifted to warming northern climes and are experiencing shrinking distributions in the southern ends of their range. The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), for instance, has disappeared from parts of the southeastern U.S. Bumblebees are also retreating to higher elevations, shifting upward by […]

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17
Mar

Study Shows the Benefits of Pesticide-free Pollinator Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2015) Foraging bumblebees would prefer to dodge traffic rather than pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, according to the results of a new study published in the Journal of Insect Conservation. Researchers from Plymouth University in England discovered that the number of bumblebees observed foraging plants along roadsides was over twice the number located in adjacent patches facing agricultural crops. As both native and managed bees continue to decline throughout the globe, this research strengthens calls from farming and environmental groups to improve agricultural practices through increased on-farm diversity, and sharp reductions in the use of pesticides, particularly systemic chemicals such as neonicotinoids. Mick Hanley, Ph.D., lead author of the study, explains, “There have been hedgerows and field boundaries in these locations for centuries, and even if you go back 50 or 60 years, you would not have  seen this phenomenon. Both sides of hedgerows would have been flourishing, and bees and other insects would have been numerous on both sides, but that was before an increase in the use of fertilizers.” However, it is likely the use of agrichemicals that has caused such a stark discrepancy between roadside and farm-side habitats. “Now what you see is […]

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