American bumble bee considered for Endangered Species protection. eBird data could help track bee health. The importance of pollinators to Florida farms. U.S. says 23 endangered species are extinct.

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Conservation

How are blue orchard mason bees doing in Oregon?

(Oregon State University Extension Service) “The blue orchard bee (Osmia lignaria) is a native solitary bee that many Oregonians rear in their backyards and small orchards... We are looking for your help to establish baseline on the health of stocks of these bees, which ultimately will help track the health of these bees over time.”

4th murder hornet nest destroyed in northwestern Washington

(Bellingham Herald) The Washington State Department of Agriculture announced that it has destroyed another nest built by Asian giant hornets – commonly referred to as “murder hornets” – in Whatcom County. This is the fourth nest destroyed overall and the third so far this year.

Weather and wildfires may threaten painted lady butterflies’ migration

(Washington Post) The butterflies, which fly to Mexico for the winter, may see less food and a more difficult journey.

U.S. says ivory-billed woodpecker and more than 20 other endangered species have gone extinct

(NPR) It’s a rare move for wildlife officials to give up hope on a plant or animal, but government scientists say they’ve exhausted efforts to find 23 species. And they warn climate change, on top of other pressures, could make such disappearances more common as a warming planet adds to the dangers facing imperiled plants and wildlife.

Diversity matters: Species richness keeps ecosystems running

(Phys.org, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum) To examine whether the degree of environmental heterogeneity influences the positive effect of biodiversity on ecosystem functions, researchers analyzed data from 13 natural and man-made ecosystems on Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. “The data show that the positive effect of biodiversity on ecosystem functions is about 20 percent higher in a heterogeneous environment. This means that, if the global trend towards land-use intensification continues, the positive effect of biodiversity on ecosystem functions could be diminished.”


Economics

The importance of insect pollinators for Florida agriculture

(Twitter, John J. Ternest HoneybeeBlueberries @TernestJ) “Our systematic review of the literature and FL ag found 47 crops where pollinators are required or beneficial, 7 with pollinator contributions worth > $50M/year, and important contributions to ag production in nearly all FL counties!” Original paper

Living ‘bee fences’ protect farmers from elephants, and vice versa

(Scientific American) A string of hives between posts can fend off the pachyderms better than other deterrents, research shows. An elephant can eat a farm’s entire harvest in one day, seriously threatening a family’s income and food security. And although elephants are typically peaceful, they can endanger humans if in the search for food the animals end up raiding sheds or trampling homes. To protect their livelihoods, some farmers have taken to shooting elephants. In an attempt at a nonlethal solution, nearly 10,000 beehive fences are now built into sites in 20 African and Asian countries.


Policy/Law

American bumble bee takes step toward Endangered Species Act protection

(Center for Biological Diversity) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the American bumble bee, whose populations have plummeted by nearly 90%, may warrant Endangered Species Act protection. The announcement kicks off a one-year status assessment of the species.

Proposed rule by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the American bumble bee

(Federal Register, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) “... we find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the American bumble bee as an endangered or threatened species may be warranted. The petitioners also present information suggesting the following may be threats to the American bumble bee: Habitat destruction from agricultural intensification, livestock grazing, and pesticide use; loss of genetic diversity; climate change; and competition from nonnative honeybees. We will fully evaluate these potential threats during our status review, pursuant to the Act’s requirement to review the best scientific and commercial information available when making our 12-month finding.”

More support needed for pollination services in agriculture

(ScienceDaily, University of Göttingen) The global decline of pollinators threatens the reproductive success of 90% of all wild plants globally and the yield of 85% of the world’s most important crops. Pollinators – mainly bees and other insects – contribute to 35% of the world's food production. The service provided by pollinators is particularly important for securing food produced by the more than two billion small farmers worldwide. An agroecologist points out that yields could be increased if pollinators were encouraged.


Science

eBird data can help track bee health

(Cornell Chronicle) A two-year, $500,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation will allow a team of data scientists and ecologists to use eBird data to explore a new way to track pollinator health and biodiversity. The project is bringing together data from the eBird database with existing pollinator data (primarily about native bees, but also beetles, butterflies, flies and other insects). By comparing these massive data sets, combined with land-use data, the team will identify which bird species could be used as reliable indicators of pollinator communities and the services they provide.

Honey bee viruses are highly prevalent but at low intensities in wild pollinators

(Twitter, Margarita Lopez-U @mmlopezu) “We surveyed five honey bee pathogens [including DWV] in honey bees, bumble bees, and squash bees. We found DWV in 70% of all the samples that we screened. Two other viruses [IAPV and KBV] were also detected in squash bees... However, when we quantified viral titers in each species, we found that, unlike #honeybees, both bumble bees and squash bees show very low titers of DWV. This suggests that these wild species may not be good hosts for this virus.” Original paper

Plant compound may protect bees from deadly virus that makes them lose their way home

(ScienceDaily, Cell Press) Around the world, honey bees are dying in large numbers. This die-off is in part because of a deadly virus that can kill bees or impair their ability to return to the hives after foraging. But researchers now show that a cheap and naturally occurring chemical compound could prevent or reverse the effects of the virus in bees. Bees that were fed the compound before becoming infected were nine times more likely to survive the virus after five days; by monitoring hives in real time, the researchers also showed that bees that were fed the compound were more likely to return to the hive at the end of a foraging day.

The exquisite wax palace of the honey bees

(The Wire) If the weaver ant nest is a marvel because the adult ants somehow persuade their larvae to donate silk to build a communal nest, and the underground nests of fire ants and harvester ants are amazing because they build exquisitely functional nests in the darkness of the underground, the honey bee nest is a masterpiece because of its engineering sophistication and mathematical precision. The complex structures and decisions of insect societies arise from what has come to be called swarm intelligence. And the concept of stigmergy has become the organizing principle to understand how simple, apparently uncoordinated activities of individual insects can build up to complex patterns.


Society/Culture

400-year-old score based on bees inspires new Scottish exhibition

(The Scotsman) A 400-year-old musical score based on the sound of bees in the hive has inspired part of the first major U.K. exhibition by a leading Australian artist. The choral piece was written by Elizabethan polymath Charles Butler, a pioneer in English beekeeping. His four-part vocal harmony mimics a sound known as piping, which queen bees make during certain periods of their development.


One More Thing…

From cartoonist Michael de Adder @deAdder, via Twitter.