Archives for posts with tag: Colony collapse disorder

The stories I’ve been reading…

But first a gratuitous wheat shot, because I can’t resist those amber waves of grain:

wheat

1. It was reported last week that Monsanto’s Roundup-ready (glyphosate-resistant) wheat was uncovered in Oregon.  The catch?  Monsanto field-tested the wheat nearly 10 years ago but never released it for commercial use.  Roundup-ready corn and soybeans, which are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, are widely grown in the US. However, these crops are generally processed or used as animal feed, whereas wheat is consumed directly by humans. There is global alarm over genetically modified (GM) foods in our diets and prolonged exposure to these foreign genes. Monsanto dropped the GM wheat project over producers’ trade concerns. As a result of this finding in Oregon, Japan has suspended wheat imports from the Pacific Northwest. Japan is the top importer of US wheat. So far there is no evidence that GM wheat has entered the food supply, but one has wonder if the presence of GM wheat on one Oregon farm is a unique occurrence.

Update: Monsanto is being sued by farmers in the Pacific Northwest over loss of business due to the GM wheat scare.

2. Scientific American reports another contributing factor of honeybee colony collapse may be the alterations to domesticated honeybee diets.  Of course the natural food source of the honeybee is its honey, but when we harvest it for human use the bees are given sugary syrups instead.  Most researchers agree that pesticide use is the predominate cause of colony collapse, but poor nutrition certainly adds to the bees’ stress, I would think.

What have you been reading?

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Honeybees play a crucial role in agriculture, and I’m not only referring to the honey that we use for baked goods and at tea time.  Sorry, Pooh Bear. Pollination of many fruit and vegetable crops is facilitated by honeybees when gathering nectar from flowers of these plants.  Only following successful pollination and fertilization of said flowers can fruits and vegetables begin to grow.  Therefore, bee population and health is directly tied to our supply of many fruits and vegetables you see in gardens, farmers markets and in grocery stores:

common crops pollinated by bees

In 2006, beekeepers and scientists became aware of a phenomenon in which honeybees appeared to abandon their hives.  In most cases, the queen was still alive and no dead bee bodies were found inside.  The name for this condition is just as mysterious: colony collapse disorder (CCD).  Prior to 2006, a beekeeper could expect to lose 1 out of 10 hives during typical winter.  Due to CCD, losses have tripled and could potentially reach 50%.

The cause(s) of CCD have not been proven, but may be related to pathogens, pests (Varroa mites are frequently associated with CCD), poor nutrition, mismanagement of hives, environmental stress (drought) and agricultural chemicals.  Recently, one class of insecticide has been “accused” of being the cause of CCD: neonicotinoids, which have been used since the 1990s on a wide variety of vegetable and field crops as a soil, seed or foliar treatment.  The evidence is mounting against neonicotinoids, causing the European Commission instituted a 2-year ban on these insecticides earlier this month.  However, many researchers are questioning the effectiveness of the ban as CCD is widely thought to have more than one causal agent.  More research is definitely required to alleviate bee shortages and secure the future of our favorite pollinators and crops.

PS – Penn State entomologists have been leading the way in pollinator research.  Talking CCD on BBC News Hour (go to 17:50).