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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Wildlife/Endangered Sp.' Category


27
Jun

Scientists Say, “We know enough to act now,” on Perilous Global Insect Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2017) A review of scientific literature urges for swift societal action on the collapse of insect populations worldwide, according to authors of a study. The authors point out that while there is a need for more research on the extent of the phenomenon as well as causal factors, there is currently sufficient evidence to spur and inform transformational policy in response to a definite worldwide crisis. The paper, Declines in insect abundance and diversity: We know enough to act now, provides a run-down of actions to take—from national policy to apartment balconies. Recent reports name alarming drops in insect diversity and abundance, prompting the ominous label of “insect apocalypse.” Almost half of all insect species are rapidly declining, and a third are being threatened with extinction. The authors state, “Although there has been some criticism of specific studies, the overall trend is clear and the broad geographic reach is perhaps the most dire feature of the current crisis, as assessments from all continents except Antarctica reveal declines.” The main culprits of insect demise are habitat loss and degradation, pesticides, and climate change. The authors note that it is less critical, at this juncture, to focus on […]

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24
Jun

Ask Congress to Stop EPA Actions that Threaten Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, June 24, 2019) During “Pollinator Week,” last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency betrayed its responsibility to protect the environment and approved “emergency” uses of sulfoxaflor, a bee-toxic insecticide, in 11 states on millions of acres of crops that are attractive to bees. Sulfoxaflor is functionally identical to the neonicotinoid class of systemic pesticides, which are readily absorbed and translocated into the plant tissues, including its pollen and nectar. These insecticides are substantial contributors to the dramatic decline of pollinators and what is now recognized as a global insect apocalypse. Ask Your Elected Members of Congress to Tell EPA that Its Actions Are Unacceptable and Must Be Reversed In 2015, beekeepers sued to suspend the use of sulfoxaflor. A year later, in 2016, the chemical’s registration was amended with the specific exclusion of crops such as cotton and sorghum that attract bees, essentially acting as an aromatic draw to poison. However, EPA regularly utilizes the “emergency exemption” rule under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to circumvent these restrictions. The Center for Biological Diversity reports, “Ten of the 11 states have been granted the approvals for at least four consecutive years for the same ’emergency.’ Five have […]

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31
May

Organic Animal Farms Improve Bird Abundance

(Beyond Pesticides, May 31, 2019) Research from Finland provides clear evidence that there is a positive relationship between organic animal farms and bird abundance. While chemical-intensive agriculture is currently a major driver of biodiversity loss worldwide, organic practices can, conversely, bolster wild populations. Furthermore, the research points to the value of scientific analysis to inform policy. Researchers questioned whether agri-environment-climate schemes (AES), policy elements in the EU where farmers are rewarded for various practices that support biodiversity, are having an impact on the abundance of 46 bird species associated with farmland. They studied the effect of various AES measures related to bird species traits (e.g. diet, migration ecology, Red List status). Using citizen science data from local bird watchers and land use assessments, researchers utilized ArcGIS mapping tools and statistical analysis to quantify relationships among factors. Organic livestock farming was the only AES measure that had a significant effect on bird abundance. Insectivorous birds as well as long-distance migrant species had the highest positive relationship to organic animal farms. In the discussion, the authors reason that organic animal farms with nutrient-rich, antibiotic-free manure likely increases insect abundance which in turn supports insectivorous and, to a lesser degree, omnivorous birds. Previous […]

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30
May

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service To Consider Monarch Butterfly Endangered Status, Amid Staggering Declines and Threat of Legal Action

(Beyond Pesticides, May 30, 2019) Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) agreed to a 2020 deadline for reaching a decision on protection status for monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act. This agreement comes nearly five years after the filing of a petition by conservationists with the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety led to the launch of an ongoing status review in 2014. While FWS deliberates, monarch butterflies continue their staggering, decades-long population decline, perhaps for the last of their decades. In the 1990s, the eastern monarch population numbered nearly one billion butterflies, and the western population numbered more than 1.2 million. Last year’s winter counts recorded around 93 million eastern monarchs and fewer than 200,000 western monarchs. That loss is “so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio,” Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement to Live Science. Recent studies project that if current trends continue, both eastern and western monarch populations face migratory collapse within the next 20 years. FWS is no stranger to the threats facing monarch […]

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23
May

Fulfilling Legal Settlement with Limited Scope, EPA Cancels Twelve Neonicotinoid Products

(Beyond Pesticides, May 23, 2019) On Monday in the conclusion of a lawsuit, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final notices of cancellation on the registration of twelve neonicotinoid pesticide products in the Federal Register, each of which contains chlothianidin or thiamathoxam as an active ingredient. The decision to pull these products from the market was required as part of a legal settlement under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in December 2018 of a successful case, Ellis v. EPA, brought by beekeeper Steve Ellis and a coalition of other beekeepers and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides. The case establishes a legal precedent in which the court required action to address the bee-toxic effects of pesticides; however, the effect of the settlement and its impact on overall neonicotinoid and other systemic insecticide use is limited. For all but two of the twelve canceled products, a nearly identical surrogate remains actively registered. Furthermore, the fact remains that there are hundreds more products containing the active ingredients targeted by the lawsuit that have not been removed in any capacity – 106 products containing clothianidin and 95 containing thiamethoxam remain untouched on the market. Breaking down the impacts of the EPA ruling even […]

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13
May

Trump Officials Propose to Rollback Endangered Species Protection, Break Agreements to Act, and Block Public Review of Decisions

(Beyond Pesticides, May 13, 2019) The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed four lawsuits last week challenging the Trump administration’s failure to release a trove of documents detailing how the administration is regulating dangerous pesticides, especially as they relate to endangered species. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a set of proposed changes last week that would dramatically reduce protections for the nation’s most endangered plants and animals from pesticides known to harm them. The proposals ignore the real-world, science-based assessments of pesticides’ harms, instead relying on arbitrary industry-created models. The EPA proposals would, for example, gut protections for endangered plants that are pollinated by butterflies and other insects by ignoring the fact that animals routinely move back and forth between agricultural areas and places where endangered species live. The proposals follow intensive efforts by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to halt federal work on protecting wildlife from pesticides. They were released over a year after a draft biological opinion that was scuttled by the Trump administration found that the loss of pollinators from the insecticide chlorpyrifos would put hundreds of endangered species on a path to extinction. The so-called “refinements” will make it easier for the EPA to claim that pesticides […]

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22
Mar

Study Finds that Commonly Occurring Levels of Neonicotinoid Insecticide Harm White-tailed Deer

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2019) A two-year study, published March 14,  finds that field-relevant contamination with the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid causes reduced body weight and metabolism in white-tailed deer, and – in fawns – mortality. Remarkably, researchers uncovered imidacloprid levels in free-ranging deer a full 3.5 times higher, on average, than the levels in the animals treated in their experiment. These new findings add to the mounting evidence of the hazards posed by current patterns of neonicotinoid use, while evidence of benefits remains sparse. The study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, includes two years of data on the physiological and behavioral outcomes of imidacloprid contamination in 80 white-tailed deer housed in a South Dakota State University captive research facility. Notably, researchers were unable to entirely control imidacloprid levels in untreated deer, most likely due to background contamination from corn- and soy-based feed, and surrounding vegetation infiltrated by runoff from nearby agricultural fields. This background contamination altered, but did not compromise, the analysis. Researchers found that imidacloprid levels detected in the spleens of treated and control animals were significantly predictive of reduced thyroid hormone levels, shorter jawbones, lower activity levels, and higher fawn mortality. Lead authors Elise Berheim, Jonathan Jenks, PhD, […]

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12
Feb

Study Predicts Demise of Insects within Decades if Pesticide Dependence Continues

(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2019) A new systematic review of insect population studies worldwide reports on “the dreadful state of insect biodiversity in the world, as almost half of the species are rapidly declining and a third are being threatened with extinction.” The study concludes with the dire prediction that insects as a whole will go extinct in the next few decades if patterns of intensive agriculture, in particular pesticide use, continue. The review, published in Biological Conservation, analyzes 73 insect population studies conducted within the past 40 years, filtered to include only those that quantitatively assess all insect species within a taxa over a span of 10 or more years. Researchers Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, PhD and Kris A.G. Wyckhuys, PhD uncover the disturbing truth behind this mass of data: one in every three insect species monitored worldwide is threatened with extinction. Even more concerning is the finding that 41% of insect species worldwide are in decline, outpacing the more well-publicized vertebrate declines by 200%. Only a few species are expanding in range or occupying vacant niches – not nearly enough to compensate for the massive losses. In 8% of the studies in the review, citizen science data is analyzed in […]

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04
Feb

Take Action: Help Protect Endangered Bumblebees

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2019)  Although the rusty patched bumblebee was placed on the endangered species list in 2017, the Trump Administration has failed to put in place legally required safeguards for the species. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) must designate locations where additional protections could help restore the endangered bumblebee’s population. Tell Your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators to Urge U.S. Department of Interior Acting Secretary David Bernhardt to protect the endangered rusty patched bumblebee as required by law. DOI’s failure to comply with requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is consistent with the Trump Administration’s continued disregard for ongoing pollinator declines and environmental protections in general. Under ESA, DOI is required to determine “critical habitat” that contains physical and biological requirements a listed species needs in order to recover. That area must be designated within one year of placing a species on the endangered list, using best available scientific data. The Trump Administration’s DOI has failed to do so under either former Director Ryan Zinke or Acting Director David Bernhardt. Without determining critical habitat, the administration is in violation of the ESA, and the survival of a critical endangered species is threatened. The rusty patched bumblebee has a […]

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17
Jan

Interior Department Sued Over Failure to Protect Endangered Bumblebee

(Beyond Pesticides, January 17, 2019) Although the rusty patched bumblebee was placed on the endangered species list in 2017, the Trump Administration has failed to put in place legally required safeguards for the species. As a result, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is suing the Administration’s Department of the Interior (DOI) for failing to designate locations where additional protections could help restore the endangered bumblebee’s population. Advocates say DOI’s failure to comply with requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is consistent with the Trump Administration’s continued disregard for ongoing pollinator declines and environmental protections in general. Under ESA, DOI is required to determine “critical habitat” that contains physical and biological requirements a listed species needs in order to recover. That area must be designated within one year of placing a species on the endangered list, using best available scientific data. But the Trump Administration’s DOI, under both former Director Ryan Zinke and Acting Director David Bernhardt, has failed to do so, in violation of ESA. NRDC’s legal director Rebecca Riley notes that this lack of follow-through “leaves this highly endangered bee’s habitat at risk of destruction and decreases the species’ chance for survival.” The rusty patched bumblebee has […]

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16
Jan

Western Monarchs Experience Catastrophic Declines Over the Last Year

(Beyond Pesticides, January 16, 2019) Preliminary counts in California indicate the western monarch butterfly population dropped 86% from 2017 to 2018. The survey is a result of an annual effort by volunteer citizen scientists, organized by the nonprofit organization Xerces Society. If the trend from the initial sample (97 sites) holds true, the population of overwintering butterflies is estimated to be less than 30,000 – 0.05% of its historical size. Full and vetted results will be published in late January. To get an accurate count of monarch populations, volunteers follow a monitoring guide, which recommends beginning a count on a still, cool, and dry morning so that monarchs are still clustered together. Volunteers count a small cluster of monarchs and then extrapolate that number to arrive at a total for the larger cluster they’re observing. Citizen science has been crucial to understanding the decline of monarchs and insects worldwide. As covered by The New York Times, the current “Insect Apocalypse” has largely been documented by volunteers. The dismal numbers recorded this year are potentially disastrous, as the predicted extinction threshold for overwintering western monarchs is a population of 30,000. However this threshold, based on population densities needed for thermoregulation and mating […]

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15
Jan

Petition Challenges Lack of Protection for Endangered Species from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2019)  A petition submitted on January 7 by the Center for Biological Diversity calls on the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to initiate rulemaking to proscribe nearly all pesticide use in areas that are deemed critical habitat for endangered species. It asks these federal agencies to use the authority they have under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) to protect wildlife from the threats represented by pesticides — which threats both agencies have long recognized. The language of the ESA says its purpose is “to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved.” In its press release on the petition, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) notes that it comes “after decades of intransigence by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has refused to comply with the legal mandates of the Endangered Species Act to protect the nation’s most imperiled species from highly toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos and atrazine that are known to harm wildlife.” CBD environmental health director Lori Ann Burd said, “Pesticides pose a devastating danger to endangered wildlife, from coast to coast. If the EPA isn’t going to […]

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04
Jan

Settlement Bans Some Bee-Toxic Pesticides, Requires Public Comment Period on Testing All Pesticide Product Ingredients and Regulating Pesticide-Treated Seeds

(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2019) First, the good news: plaintiffs in a 2013 lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can allow themselves a small victory dance. In that suit, plaintiffs made a number of claims related to EPA’s failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides, its poor oversight of the bee-killing pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam, and its practice of “conditional registration,” as well as labeling deficiencies. The parties in the suit negotiated a settlement, as directed by a federal judge (see below), that was signed in October 2018 and portends some positive movement in curtailing the use of some toxic pesticides [12 products, each of which contains chlothianidin or thiamathoxam as an active ingredient] that harm pollinators in particular, as well as other organisms and the environment. It also establishes a public process for EPA to consider requiring whole formulations of pesticide products during registration, and redefining EPA’s interpretation of law that allows seeds treated with bee-toxic pesticides to escape regulation as a pesticide. The suit was brought by a number of individual beekeepers and several organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Sierra Club, and Center for Environmental Health, and named as defendants Steven Bradbury, then-director of the […]

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19
Dec

Analysis: Wins and Losses in the Farm Bill—Time for a Green New Deal

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2018) As the dust still settles on the final Farm Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives last week, it is clear that neither the substance nor the process on a range of issues meet the urgent need to address key sustainability issues that put the future in peril. We must not allow this Farm Bill to be the final word on a number of critical environmental and public health issues facing the nation and world. That is why it is absolutely critical that we get to work immediately, with the new Congress, to set a new course that transforms the institutions of government that are holding back the urgently needed transition to a green economy. On the Farm Bill, our victories were mostly measured in terms of what we were able to remove from the legislation—not the standard of achievement that we need to face critical environmental threats. The good. Our major victory in the Farm Bill does not move us forward, but simply protects the status quo of our democracy—protecting the power of states and local government to adopt pesticide restrictions that are more stringent than the federal government. With your help […]

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05
Dec

EPA Denies Petition to Stop Cyanide Use that Is Killing Wildlife

(Beyond Pesticides, December 5, 2018)  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied a petition seeking to ban M-44s — cyanide-spraying apparatuses used to kill coyotes, foxes, and wild dogs that may prey on livestock. Submitted to the EPA in August 2017 by the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, the Humane Society of the U.S., Natural Resources Defense Council, Predator Defense, the Sierra Club, and a number of other conservation, wildlife, and environmental organizations, the petition sought cancellation of the registration of cyanide capsules used in M-44s and a functional ban on their use in the “lower 48” states because of their danger to non-target wildlife, domestic pets, and people. In its letter of denial, EPA noted that it “is currently reviewing these products using the Registration Review process and sees no reason, and the Petition provides none, to start a parallel process using Special Review proceedings to look at the same issues.” Although the word “pesticide” generally conjures thoughts of a chemical meant to kill insect “pests,” whether sprayed on crops, coated onto seeds, or in the kit bag of an “exterminator” whose business it is to rout out some infestation in a home or building, these two compounds […]

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03
Dec

Take Action: Protect Biodiversity – Reinstate the Ban of Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Wildlife Refuges

(Beyond Pesticides, December 3, 2018) In August 2018, the Trump administration announced a reversal of a 2014 U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) decision to ban neonicotinoid insecticides on National Wildlife Refuges. The administration’s action threatens not only pollinators, but contributes to the attack on biodiversity worldwide.  Tell Congress to protect biodiversity by insisting that the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in wildlife refuges be reinstated. In 2014, FWS announced that all National Wildlife Refuges would join in the phase-out of neonics (while also phasing out genetically engineered crops) by January 2016. FWS “determined that prophylactic use, such as a seed treatment, of the neonicotinoid pesticides that can distribute systemically in a plant and can potentially affect a broad spectrum of non-target species is not consistent with Service policy. We make this decision based on a precautionary approach to our wildlife management practices and not on agricultural practices.” This move was not only intended to protect honey bees that have suffered average losses above 30% since 2006, but also the federally threatened and endangered pollinators that live in National Wildlife Refuges. However, it is not just pollinators who are affected. Recent research has found dramatic drops in overall insect abundance, leading entomologists to speak of an “insect apocalypse.” Various studies have found reductions of up to […]

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15
Nov

Neonicotinoids Found to Change Frog Behavior

(Beyond Pesticides, November 15, 2018) Neonicotinoids are widely known for their link to declining pollinator populations, but new research finds that the ill effects of these chemicals also extends to amphibian populations. In a study published late last month, scientists from the National Wildlife Research Center in Ottawa, Canada found that chronic exposure to real-world levels of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid limits the ability of juvenile wood frogs to escape a predator attack. This research adds additional evidence that neonicotinoids are harming aquatic food chains, and reinforces calls for U.S. regulators to follow the science and adequately restrict these toxic pesticides. Researchers investigated the impact of neonicotinoids on the post-tadpole life stage of wood frogs, which has been identified as critical to sustaining viable populations of the species. Rather than determine acute impacts that assess how lethal a pesticide is, scientists opted to observe how wood frog behavior changes as a result of chronic, real-world exposure scenarios. In particular, scientists sought to figure out whether exposure resulted in an altered behavioral response to the presence of a predator. As tadpoles, wood frogs were chronically exposed to real world levels of imidacloprid (1, 10, and 100 micrograms/liter), while others were left unexposed […]

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14
Nov

Monarch Population Loss Tallied at 80% since 2005

(Beyond Pesticides, November 14, 2018) Monarch butterflies are in the midst of a staggering decades-long population decline that has rapidly accelerated since 2005, research published by an international team of scientists and the University of Florida last month indicates. According to data meticulously collected by researchers, monarchs making their way to central Florida after emerging from their breeding grounds in Mexico have declined by 80% over the last decade and a half. This is roughly the same time frame at which beekeepers began to see precipitous declines in managed honey bee colonies. Researchers point to industrial development and increasing pesticide use as factors that have accelerated the decline of this iconic species. “A broad pattern is that 95 percent of corn and soybean products grown in the U.S. are Roundup Ready crops that resist glyphosate,” said study coauthor Earnest Williams, PhD, of New York’s Hamilton College in a press release. “That has a national impact. What’s really needed are patches of native vegetation and nectar sources without pesticides. It’s not just for monarchs but all pollinators.” Beginning in 1985, renowned monarch expert Lincoln Brower, PhD and his team monitored monarch populations at a pesticide-free cattle pasture south of Gainesville, FL. […]

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01
Nov

Bumblebees Shown to Suffer Reproductive Failure after Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2018) A new study offers fresh evidence that wild bumblebee pollinators are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides, finding that exposure to these compounds interferes with mating success and population stability. Researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, measuring real-world harms of neonicotinoids, indicate that the impacts they found to bumblebee “reproducers,” namely queen and drone (male) bees, does not bode well for the array of plant species that relies on them. Though advocates warn that destabilizing managed pollinators could threaten U.S. food production and exports, with food prices increasing as cost of bringing pollinators to farms increases, the study’s authors and advocates insist that the impacts of such widespread poisoning of wild bees could be felt well beyond agriculture. Researchers in the lab compare behavioral and psychological responses of virgin queens, workers, and male Bombus impatiens from multiple colonies to field-realistic doses of the neonicotinoid clothianidin. While every bee was given a replenishing supply of pollen based on body weight and energy demands, four distinct concentrations of diluted analytical-grade (pure) clothianidin (including a control with no pesticide added) were mixed into a nectar-like solution and fed to the bumblebees orally for 5 […]

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25
Oct

Bees’ Medicine Chest Should Include Sunflower Pollen, Study Finds

(Beyond Pesticides, October 25, 2018) A study published last month in Scientific Reports finds that eating sunflower pollen significantly reduces protozoan infection in bumblebees. Studying ecosystem services and what she calls “floral rewards,” evolutionary ecologist Lynn Adler, Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst says sunflowers may provide a long sought after solution for improving bees’ immune system response to both disease and parasites. The researchers studied the protozoan Crithidia bombi, a common parasitic infection of bumble bees, known to impair learning and foraging, shorten lifespan and destabilize colony hierarchies by impacting queen bee behavior. From the outset of the study, Dr. Adler says, “the more sunflowers were grown at the farm, the lower the Crithidia load for the bees at that farm.” Knowing pollinators eat pollen as a source of protein and healthy fats, Dr. Adler hypothesized that both pollen and nectar might have medicinal effects against disease and parasites. However, her experiment did not show consistent results with nectar. After bees in the lab were starved for 4-6 hours, researchers fed individual worker bees from small colonies a drop of fructose fluid containing 6,000 Crithidia cells, being the approximate concentration bees may encounter in the wild while foraging. After […]

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12
Sep

Amsterdam Leads Bee Recovery Efforts by Banning Bee-Toxic Pesticides, Improving Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, September 12, 2018) The city of Amsterdam, Netherlands is leading global bee recovery efforts by increasing its diversity of wild pollinator species, according to reporting and an analysis by NBC News. A new map published by the city identified 21 bee species not found in an earlier 1998 survey recorded by Amsterdam officials. The increase has been attributed to a range of pollinator-protective measures, including a ban on bee-toxic pesticides and the planting of native flowers, prioritized by the city government since the turn of the century. Local communities throughout the world can look to Amsterdam for policies and practices that will safeguard their own unique pollinator populations. The NBC News report notes several initiatives undertaken by the Amsterdam government. Many of these measures come out of a $38.5 million fund aimed at broadly improving environmental sustainability. “Insects are very important because they’re the start of the food chain,” said Geert Timmermans, an Amsterdam ecologist to NBC News. “When it goes well with the insects, it also goes well with the birds and mammals.” Insect and bee hotels are often installed in conjunction with the development of green roofs, which are encouraged for all new buildings. And parks […]

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29
Aug

Ocean Mammals Genetically Vulnerable to Certain Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2018) As pesticides drain from agricultural fields, they can poison waterways and coastal areas and harm wildlife. Now, a study finds that a gene that helps terrestrial mammals break down certain toxic chemicals appears to be faulty in marine mammals — potentially leaving manatees, dolphins and other warm-blooded aquatic life more sensitive to toxic pesticides, especially organophosphates. As marine mammals evolved to make water their primary habitat, they lost the ability to make a protein that has the effect of defending humans and other land-dwelling mammals from the neurotoxic effects of certain pesticides. The gene, PON1, carries instructions for making a protein that interacts with fatty acids ingested with food. But that protein has taken on another role in recent decades: breaking down toxic chemicals found in a popular class of pesticides – organophosphates. An inspection of the genetic instructions of 53 land mammal species in the study, “Ancient convergent losses of Paraoxonase 1 yield potential risks for modern marine mammals,” found the gene intact. But in six marine mammal species, Paraoxonase 1 (PON1) was riddled with mutations that made it useless. The gene became defunct about 64 million to 21 million years ago, possibly due to dietary or behavioral changes related to […]

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27
Aug

Pesticides Contribute to Bird Declines, Threatening Forests, Crops, and Ecological Balance

(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2018) Beyond the visual and audial charms of some bird species, insect-eating birds play a significant role in controlling pests that can ruin crops or ravage forests. A meta-study by Martin Nyffeler, Ph.D. of the University of Basel in Switzerland finds that globally, birds annually consume 400-plus million metric tons of various insects, including moths, aphids, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other arthropods (invertebrate organisms with exoskeletons, paired and jointed appendages, and segmented bodies, such as insects, crustaceans, and spiders). This research reviews 103 studies that examine the volume of insects consumed by various birds in seven of the world’s major biomes. In consuming such volumes of insects that can inflict damage on crops, trees, and other plants on which organisms may feed or otherwise depend, birds provide significant services to ecosystems, to denizens of habitats, and to human food system and economic interests; they also keep local ecosystems in balance. Threats to birds — and thus, to those ecosystem services — include those from pesticide use. Of the 10,700 known bird species distributed across the planet, more than 6,000 are primarily insectivorous. The study indicates that forest-dwelling birds consume the majority of insects (approximately 300 million metric […]

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