BY MICHAEL GRESHKO
A NEW FOSSIL find has set paleontologists abuzz: Ancient nests confirm that bees were alive and well in Patagonia 100 million years ago, marking the oldest fossil evidence for modern bees.
The nests, described recently in the journal PLOS ONE, consist of tunnels studded with grape-shaped alcoves, where the ancient bees’ larvae could mature undisturbed. The only group of living insects that builds nests in this particular way is the family Halictidae, a global and highly diverse bee group also known as the sweat bees. Some modern halictid bees build underground nests that look almost exactly like the newfound fossil burrows.
Since it’s unlikely that some unknown animal happened to construct the same nest architecture, researchers are confident that halictid bees built the fossil nests, which were preserved in rocks that formed between 100 and 105 million years ago. The nests are at least several million years older than the next-oldest bee nests, which formed around 94 to 97 million years old, and much older than the oldest definite body fossil of a bee, which is probably no more than 72 million years old.
Credit: University of Sussex & American Bee Journal
Home owners love pristine gardens. They fight aphids and other plant pests with copious amounts of chemical concoctions. A quick spritz here, a backpack sprayer there. What consequences do such home owner treatments have? Quite a lot, it turns out. Bees living in suburban habitats are still exposed to significant levels of pesticides despite the EU ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops, new research from University of Sussex scientists shows.
While the introduction of new EU restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid chemicals five years ago has reduced exposure of bees living in farmland, the study found that overall more than half of all pollen and nectar samples collected from bee nests in Sussex, Hertfordshire and Scotland between 2013 and 2015 were contaminated.
The study is the first of its kind to highlight the risk to bees in urban areas posed by garden use of pesticides.
The scientists at the University of Sussex urge gardeners and home owners to ditch their bug sprays immediately. Let natural predators such as ladybirds or lacewings handle pests; or use physical methods such as hand-removal of pests, netting or sticky traps for control.
Dr. Beth Nicholls, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Evolution, Behaviour and Environment at the University of Sussex and the study's lead author, said: "Our findings suggest that the EU's recent decision to extend the neonicotinoid moratorium to include all field crops is likely to have a positive effect on bees, relieving some of the stress on our already struggling pollinator populations. However, given that bees in suburban gardens appear to remain at risk post-moratorium, further work is needed to understand the sources of neonicotinoid exposure in these areas and to find ways to reduce it. Our study indicates that limiting the public sale and use of neonicotinoid-based bug sprays, which are currently unaffected by the moratorium, is needed if we are to protect bee populations living in and around our towns and cities."
In 2013 the European Commission instated an EU-wide moratorium on the use of three types of neonicotinoid (thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid) on bee-attractive flowering crops such as oilseed rape. The ban will be expanded to include all field crops from 2019.
The study, with colleagues at Stirling University and Rothamsted Research, found that neonicotinoid exposure for rural bumblebees declined after the ban's implementation in 2015 but the risk to bumblebees in suburban gardens remained largely the same.
As well as bug sprays, contaminated ornamental plants sold in garden centers play a key role in spreading neonicotinoids through suburban areas. A previous study by the University of Sussex revealed that 70% of bee-friendly plants sold at a range of garden centers and plant nurseries had traces of neonicotinoids.
For nectar samples collected from rural bumblebee colonies, concentrations of the pesticide thiacloprid, an active ingredient in many bug sprays sold in garden centers and not included in the EU restriction, significantly increased between 2013 and 2015, replacing the banned chemicals.
Researchers were also concerned to find bee food was often contaminated with imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid which is very rarely used against crop pests any more. Its continued presence raises concerns about the persistence of chemicals in agro-environments even after their application has stopped. The researchers believe that the continued contamination could also be due to pet flea treatments, which still often contain this chemical. The long-term treatments that keep cats and dogs tick free for six weeks often contain neonics as the active ingredient.
The study found many bee populations are still subject to pesticide levels that previous studies have shown could lead to slower colony growth and the production of fewer new queens, as well as detrimental impacts on foraging and navigation, immunity and worker mortality.
Professor Dave Goulson, professor of biology at the University of Sussex, said: "Who knows what Brexit will mean for the future of this country but one thing it desperately needs to include is the continuation of the EU's ban on neonicotinoids. Gardeners can do their bit; for there is no need for pesticides in gardens. I grow lots of fruits, vegetables and flowers in my garden without chemicals - there is just no need."
Api Life Var is a combination of Thymol, eucalyptus, and menthol. When applying this product, use appropriate safety methods, including nitrile gloves, goggles and long sleeved top and long pants. Do not use this product during the honey flow. Temperatures should be between 64F and 95F. Each packet contains enough wafer for 2 treatments.
It's February already, and here in Nevada, that means it's time for Beekeeping classes, ordering packages or nucs, taking inventory of your equipment, and thinking ahead to what may be necessary for your girls this summer.
Some things we should be thinking about, get lost in all the excitement of setting up your first (or hundredth) hive(s)! One example is this; Today I received an email from someone who gets regular visits from bears in the Spring, and they were wondering about what they would need to keep the bears away from the hive(s). Great question! And I have an answer!
Last year our bee club had a representative from the Nevada Department of Wildlife come in and discuss bear fencing, and what we would need to keep them out. She gave us handouts, which I will get to you in PDF form once I digitize it!
These are the components you will need:
1) Energizer (Solar, AC, or DC)
2) Grounding system
5) Voltage meter
And, these are the minimum fence specs for deterring bears:
Stored Joules - 0.7
Voltage - 7,000
Fence Height - 4 feet
Number of wires for stand alone fencing - 5
This is not as complicated as it may seem, you will probably be able to find what you need at Cabela's or Sportsman's, and the sales people will work with you to find what you need (just take these specs with you).
As an aside, the bears are typically after the protein the bees and larvae provide (especially going into winter), and know that the smell of honey will lead them to that meal. Although, I'm sure the honey is a nice treat!
We hope this was helpful, and if you have questions, just shoot us an email and we'll do our best to get you an answer!
ELEPHANTS ARE VERY SCARED OF BEES. THAT COULD SAVE THEIR LIVES
By Karen Weintraub
Elephants are afraid of bees. Let that sink in for a second. The largest animal on land is so terrified of a tiny insect that it will flap its ears, stir up dust and make noises when it hears the buzz of a beehive.
Click Here to read more!
Video of Giant Asian Hornet, a honey bee predator, and how the native Asian honey bee, Apis cerana successfully defends against it. CLICK HERE
The Beekeeper just had a visit from Heather Reich of the Nevada Dept. of Wildlife. She was updating us on the latest bear news for our area.
At this time of year, the bears need to eat 25,000 to 35,000 calories per day, this is called hyperphasia. Heather says that because the last frosts/freezes killed most of the berries at the higher elevations, we need to be watchful down here in the valley areas, for the next couple of months, as the bears will be coming down to find food. When they are in this hyperphasia state, all they can think about is finding food to put weight on for winter, and your hive could be just the ticket for a hungry bear!
If you do not have your hives fenced, you may want to consider it now. Heather left us with pamphlets with the specifications for fencing, or you can go to the NDOW website: www.ndow.org