Tag Archives: bees

Time For Action on Clothianidin Pesticide

I’ve posted in the past about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in bees, but I haven’t paid much attention to the topic lately because I haven’t seen much going on. That said, it’s clearly still a problem when you take a look at the losses beekeepers are suffering in their colonies. That’s why beekeepers are petitioning the EPA to suspend the use of Clothianidin, a pesticide which is suspected to be at least a partial cause of CCD.

The trouble is that it’s really hard to say if Clothianindin is the problem or no, as testing on it may have been poorly designed. That said, some beekeepers say they have greater losses than usual when they bring their bees to crops treated with Clothianindin. Obviously, that’s suspicious to them.

The worst part is that the EPA is already aware of problems with Clothianindin. It’s less risky to agricultural workers, fish and wildlife than other pesticides, but they don’t feel the situation merits a ban at this time.  It has, however, been banned in some European countries.

While it’s likely that Clothianindin is not the only cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, it looks as though it’s probably a factor, and that’s worth considering. If you want to do something to help, there are a few things you can do.

You can get involved with groups such as the Pesticide Action Network. They have suggested actions you can take, such as contacting Congress.

You can also make sure your property is friendly to bees. Have a variety of flowers available to them, and don’t use pesticides in your own yard. Native plants are best for bees, but you can always grow a garden for your family while attracting bees. It may not sound like much, but it’s one of the best things you can do directly for the bees in your area.

Bee Swarm!

I seem to be having interesting weekends right now. Last weekend we had snow, this weekend temperatures into the 90s F, plus we had a swarm of bees hanging out on a tree branch.

I kept a close eye on the situation because welcome though they are, I didn’t want the bees thinking the eaves of my house are an appropriate place to build their hive, as happened last week to one of my neighbors. The bees made it from there inside the main part of the house and obviously that’s not where you want bees.

swarm of beesI was going to call Vector Control this morning to see if they’d come move the bees, and if that didn’t work, start seeking out local beekeepers. I’d far rather they be moved alive into a suitable home, as bees have enough trouble with Colony Collapse Disorder; they don’t need pest control killing them. But, as is common for honeybee swarms, they moved on about 24 hours after they arrived.

The kids were fascinated, and I gave various of our neighbors permission to come over and show their kids the swarm. Swarming bees are supposed to be relatively gentle after all, with no hive to protect. It’s a good lesson for the kids to be able to get so close and to see such interesting behavior from the bees.

The hardest part was keeping the kids out of the backyard the rest of the time. The bees arrived sometime on Saturday, so pretty much all weekend the backyard was off limits to play. I didn’t want them to accidentally agitate the bees, after all. My youngest took that pretty hard, as she always wants to go out and play.

It’s a bit difficult for the bees to find a good place for a hive that isn’t someone’s home around here. The neighborhood is too young for there to be many large trees, and it being southern California there aren’t many that just grow on their own either. I’m really hoping they found a good place.

My one wish is that I had gotten to see them leave, as it would have been nice to know the direction, in case a neighbor ends up with them. Be nice to warn them before the bees get comfortable and make sure they know there are better options than calling pest control. We think we missed the departure by minutes, as we kept checking on them all yesterday afternoon, and saw a few stragglers still on the branch, and a few more headed over the fence.

My son took a picture of the swarm at rest to school today for show and tell. Great adventure for a kindergartner, after all. Bees tend to inspire such fear and awe in young children.

Make Your Yard a Bee Friendly Space

Bees have been having trouble for a few years now, suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder, a disorder which has a name, but the cause is not yet understood. Possible causes include pesticides, varroa mites and poor nutrition due to a lack of variety in the plants they’re pollinating. You can do your part by making your yard a friendly place for bees.

This can be hard when you have kids and you worry about bee stings. So long as you teach your kids to leave the bees alone, and no one has a life threatening allergy to them, bee stings should not be a huge issue. Bee stings aren’t dangerous to most kids, just painful. If they’re dangerous to someone you love, then clearly you don’t need to encourage them to visit your yard.

Wild bees are a huge benefit to any backyard gardener. They pollinate most plants you’re likely to be growing. If you have other plants for them to enjoy, you should get them in greater numbers.

Plant Local Species

Local plants grow the best and are usually quite attractive to bees. You may want to consider species that produce a lot of flowers for the bees to enjoy. Having only a few blossoms isn’t going to bring out a lot of bees.

Bees love heather, thyme, clover, lavender, marigolds, sunflowers, roses, blackberries and many more. Ask at your local garden center if you need help finding bee friendly plants. They’ll know what’s available in your area.

Bees love to have a variety of flowers to pollinate, so don’t limit yourself to just a few.

Don’t Use Chemical Pesticides

Pesticides are one of the possible causes of Colony Collapse Disorder. At the very least, spraying a pesticide when there are bees around is likely to kill those particular bees. It may also be a problem if the pesticide residue is on the flowers the bees are pollinating.

Provide Water

Just like other creatures, bees need water. It’s the perfect reason to put a small, decorative fountain in your yard. They don’t use much water, and they’re very friendly to bees and other creatures.

If you have standing water such as in a birdfeeder, make sure to change it out regularly. Standing water is an attractant to mosquitos, which lay their eggs in the water.

These things are all very simple to do, and can make a big difference in how many bees come to your yard. Treat them well and you’re helping them to grow strong colonies. Bees are a species that is vital to the cycle of food production, so helping the bees helps us all.

Suggested Reading

Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded

My Husband’s Amazing Experience with Bees

My husband had a really surprising encounter with bees this weekend, just about surreal.

He was mowing the lawn when he realized that he was in the middle of a migrating bee swarm. He was using a week whacker at the time, and says the buzzing was louder than the whacker.

Fortuntately, the swarm was migrating and so not hostile at all. It took he thinks about three seconds for them all to pass him, with so many bees that he said it was like looking through fog. He doesn’t think any even bumped into him. He was just an obstacle to be avoided.

He describes the experience as scary but also spiritual. After all, how often do you have thousands of bees come that close to you?

I really wish I could have gotten a picture, but who goes out with a camera to watch someone mow the lawn? But it would have been a really amazing shot.

Is the Solution to Colony Collapse Disorder Getting Near?

It’s been a while since I’ve written about colony collapse disorder. It’s still out there, still a very scary thing, but I hadn’t seen much interesting news on it. But today I came across two stories on it and the work being done to solve it.

For those unfamiliar with colony collapse disorder, it’s a condition where bee colonies suddenly die off. The bees generally do not die at the colony itself, making it difficult to find out what’s wrong. Given how important bees are, it’s a topic worth paying attention to.

The first is from Science Daily. They quote a study published in Society for Applied Microbiology: Environmental Microbiology Reports that treating two bee colonies for Nosema ceranae allowed the depleted colonies to recover. They found no other pathogens in those colonies to account for their initial collapse.

The second is from Scientific American. It’s a much longer report, and indicates that it is more likely that a wide range of conditions have come together to cause colony collapse disorder. This part, from page 2 of the article I found particularly interesting:

One of us (vanEngelsdorp) performed autopsies on Hackenberg’s remaining insects and found symptoms never observed before, such as scar tissue in the internal organs. Initial tests also detected some of the usual suspects in bee disease. In the gut contents we found spores of nosema, single-celled fungal parasites that can cause bee dysentery. The spore counts in these and in subsequent samples, however, were not high enough to explain the losses. Molecular analysis of Hackenberg’s bees, performed by the other of us (Cox-Foster), also revealed surprising levels of viral infections of various known types. But no single pathogen found in the insects could explain the scale of the disappearance.

In other words, the bees were all sick, but each colony seemed to suffer from a different combination of diseases. We hypothesized that something had compromised the bees’ immune system, making them susceptible to any number of infections that healthy colonies would normally fend off.

Considering how much farming has changed in recent years, that hypothesis doesn’t sound at all unreasonable to me. So much of what is done in farming now really isn’t tested well enough in my opinion, especially in combination with all the other new factors.

Pesticides plus GMO plus different fertilizers… then there’s the notion on page 3 that poor nutrition due to a lack of variety in the wildflowers that bees can pollinate. Makes me regret my weed-filled lawn rather less.

As individuals there are certain things we can do. Organic gardening and planting a range of local wildflowers should be the obvious things on the list. Same for talking with our wallets – buying more organic and from producers we trust.

And any time you see a chance to encourage others to do likewise, or if you see a chance to be politically active on environmental topics, do so. This is one of many areas we need to improve our treatment of the environment for our own sakes as well as for the rest of the planet.