What can children interested in nutrition do to promote awareness about honeybees? Is your child also interested in honey bee hive nutrition? Honeybees should be on everyone's worry list, and not because of the risk of a nasty sting, an expert on the health of those beneficial insects said here last week at the 246th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. You also can view the archived video on ustream of last week's live press conference on what's happening to the honeybees. See, "The real reason to worry about bees."
Honey bees should be on everyone's worry list, and not because of the risk of a nasty sting, an expert on the health of those beneficial insects. Despite years of intensive research, scientists do not understand the cause, nor can they provide remedies, for what is killing honey bees.
Set aside the fact that the honeybee's cousins — hornets, wasps and yellow jackets — actually account for most stings, said Richard Fell, Ph.D. Despite years of intensive research, scientists do not understand the cause, nor can they provide remedies, for what is killing honeybees.
Honeybees pollinate fruit
"Some estimates put the value of honeybees in pollinating fruit, vegetable and other crops at almost $15 billion annually," Fell said in the September 10, 2013 news release, The real reason to worry about bees. "Without bees to spread pollen from the male parts of plants to the female parts, fruit may not form. That would severely impact consumers, affecting the price of some of the healthiest and most desirable foods."
So even if you're vegan, you don't have to eat honey, but your family members need to know that fruit is pollinated by honeybees. Vegetables also are pollinated by honeybees.
Farmers use honeybees to pollinate more than 100 different fruit and vegetable crops around the country in an approach known as "managed pollination." It involves placing bee hives in fields when crops are ready for pollination
"The biggest impacts from decreased hive numbers will be felt by farmers producing crops with high pollination requirements, such as almonds. Consumers may see a lowered availability of certain fruits and vegetables and some higher costs," explained Fell in the September 10, 2013 news release "The real reason to worry about bees."
He discussed the ongoing decline in honeybee populations in the U.S. and some other countries — a condition sometimes termed colony collapse disorder (CCD). Although honeybees have been doing better in recent years, something continues to kill about 1 in every 3 honeybees each year. He spoke at a symposium on the topic.
Misinformation abounds about the bee colony decline
"There is a good bit of misinformation in the popular press about CCD and colony decline, especially with regard to pesticides," Fell said in the news release. He is an emeritus professor of entomology at Virginia Tech, and an authority on colony decline in bees.
"I think it is important to emphasize that we do not understand the causes of colony decline and CCD and that there are probably a number of factors involved," he explained in the news release. "Also, the factors that trigger a decline may be different in different areas of the country and at different times of year."
Some of the leading theories about the cause of CCD include the use of certain pesticides, parasites, diseases and overall hive nutrition
Beekeeper and other organizations are pushing to stop the sale of certain neonicotinoids, insecticides that some regard as the main culprit of CCD. However, Fell said that would be premature. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently reviewed the situation and concluded that there is no scientific evidence that the neonicotinoids are causing serious problems with bee colonies. You can read the entire abstract of the study. Just scroll down the page to the abstract titled, "Honey bee colony health, bee decline, and pesticides."
Some of the topics in the abstract include the topic, "Is planting corn killing bees?" Kevin Neal, Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana explained that in the spring of 2012 the Office of Indiana State Chemist (OISC) investigated several incidents wherein beekeepers believed they were suffering losses to bee hives during planting season for corn.
Dead and dying bees were gathered. Analysis in the OISC residue lab significant levels of clothianidin were found in the bees, pollen, and also in and around the hives. Clothianidin is the active ingredient in a seed treatment process for corn and it appears that the dust from the planting corn was exposing bees to this insecticide. Results of the investigations by OISC investigators were presented at this press conference.
Another topic to check out at the site is "Pesticide residues in bee hives: What levels are of concern?"
Honeybees are not the only species of bee that can be used in managed pollination. If colonies continue declining, Fell believes that there will be an increase in the use of other species, including the bumble bee and alfalfa leafcutter bee. There are, however, measured declines in these species' populations as well. In addition, they are not as easily managed for pollination as the honeybee.
"The major advantages of using honeybees are ease of movement, both in and out of orchards or fields, as well as the ability to manage colonies for higher populations. Honeybee colonies can be moved from one crop to another in a single season, something that cannot be done easily with bumble bees or solitary bee species such as the alfalfa leafcutter bee," explained Fell. "If we can gain a better understanding of the factors causing honeybee decline, we may be able to apply this knowledge to protecting other species."
Also check out the abstract on "Pollinators, pesticides, and pathogens: Linking honey bee colony health to chemical exposures" given by Troy D Anderson, Department of Entomology and Fralin Life Science Institute, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia. And see the section on "Large-scale field study examining potential impacts on honey bees of exposure to clothianidin seed-treated canola," by G Christopher Cutler.
A press conference on this topic was held Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 at 10 a.m. in the American Chemical Society (ACS) Press Center, Room 211, in the Indiana Convention Center. There also was live audio and video of the event at the ustream site during that press conference. See the video, See, "The real reason to worry about bees."
Fell cited funding from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the National Honey Board, the Virginia Agricultural Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.