Midwest bumble bees declined with increased farming over past century. New study revisits 2013 pesticide bee kill in Oregon. Bumpy flowers improve color for bees. Robot bees continue to be a thing.
(University of Wisconsin-Madison) As farmers cultivated more land and began to grow fewer types of crops over the last 150 years, most native bumble bee species became rarer in Midwestern states. Recent research reveals that these species declined while the average number of different crops grown in these states was cut in half and as modern agriculture began to focus on intensive production of corn and soybeans.
(Entomology Today) The largest documented pesticide die-off of bumble bees in North America, which killed as many as 100,000 Vosnesensky bumble bees in Oregon eight years ago, occurred during National Pollinator Week. Bad as it seemed at the time, the kill portends a more troubling long-term threat to bees from the insecticide, dinotefuran, and its family of widely used neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a retrospective analysis.
(Honolulu Civil Beat) Only a small portion of Hawaii’s edible native plants require pollination and staple crops like taro and breadfruit don’t need to be pollinated. For centuries native pollinators could focus on non-edible flowers without impacting food supply. “Since Europeans have shown up, the landscape of Hawaii has drastically changed and honey bees are now an integral part of that changed landscape.”
(Summit Daily) For the past four or five years, Jacqueline Staab has been coming to Summit County in Colorado on her own to research bees, and this year is the first she’s had Darwin along for the ride. The duo specializes in alpine bumble bees, making Summit County an attractive research destination.
(The Brandon Sun) The Bee City chairperson of Brandon, Manitoba, says, “I have had a couple people write to me to tell me they have not seen as many insects in the yard since spraying, including mosquitos, bees and other insects.” The latest insecticide to tackle the city’s mosquito problem is DeltaGard 20EW. DeltaGard has been tested on honey bees but not wild bees. DeltaGard is a contact insecticide; droplets have to drop onto the insect for it to actually work. The majority of bees, or any insect not out at night, reportedly don’t face death as readily as mosquitoes, which are night-dwelling creatures.
(Bee Informed) This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the survey, which relies on voluntary participation of beekeepers across the country during the month of April. It covered the one year period between April 2020 and April 2021. (Editor’s note: Apologies for not including these results in the Bee Report when they were released in late June.)
(Global News) The extreme heat spell Manitoba has experienced has meant struggles for a number of plants, which in turn means struggles for both wild and domestic bees — at a time of year when there’s usually an abundance of the fuzzy insects. “The problem we’re having right now with the extreme dryness is the plants are going into heat stress. The first thing a plant does when it goes into heat stress is it cuts back on all its expendable energy. The first thing that typically goes is the nectar production.”
(Progressive Farmer) For close to two decades, seed companies have been coating a growing number of compounds on nearly every corn seed planted in the country, and use in other row crops, such as soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice, is rising steadily. Yet details about their use, efficacy and fate in the environment are murky. The seed treatment industry operates with minimal federal oversight, due to a loophole in EPA’s governing law, leaving questions about the amount of pesticides applied via this route and how unused treated seed is discarded each year. In the meantime, a growing number of federal and academic studies are casting doubt on its necessity, particularly in soybean fields. Another body of research is finding most of the pesticides coated on the seeds aren't staying put, with alarming consequences for water quality and wildlife.
(Twitter, Adrian G Dyer @OzBeeUVBG) “What goes bump on the flower? Our new study in J Pollination Ecology shows bumpy flower cells reduce surface gloss and improve colour signal integrity for bees.” Original paper
(Twitter, Mario Vallejo-Marin @nicrodemo) “In this paper @jurene_kemp did a neat experiment using six Solanum species/varieties to study how pollen dispensing strategies change during evolutionary transitions in flower size.” Original paper
(Twitter, Natural History Museum, Digitising the NHM @NHM_Digitise) “We digitised >6700 UK bumblebees through a @NERC project, awarded to Museum & @imperialcollege scientists, investigating species responses to land-use change” Digitized collection
(The Nome Nugget) Bumble bees are the often-unseen heroes of the Arctic tundra, where they are essential for pollinating berries and other plants. Despite their importance, very little is known about the bumble bees present in the Bering Strait, though Scofield and Valdes hope to change that through preliminary research. The duo has spent almost three weeks driving across the Nome road system, collecting bees every few miles to study populations and develop a better understanding of what bees exist in the region, what plants they’re pollinating this time of year, and what sort of stressors and parasites might be present.
(Tennessean) Randy Purcell’s interest in bees began when he realized that his art would look better on beeswax bought directly from a beekeeper, as opposed to from an art store. “All the time we’re hearing about the death of bees and the human forms of destroying those colonies of bees in our world and how important they are to us. It always stayed in the back of my mind that that was one of the things I could do, was to paint bees to give homage to the guys — or, the gals, because it's all the females that do the work in the bee colony.”
(Wall Street Journal) Across the globe, startups are testing robots to pollinate everything from blueberries to almonds. And in Australia, one company is so confident in robots’ abilities that it will soon deploy a fleet of them to pollinate tomatoes in its greenhouses. Pollination robots could give future farmers a significant advantage, increasing yield compared with using insects, such as bees, and the human workers who are sometimes needed to help with certain crops. Scientists are also concerned that insect populations are declining because of habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change and other factors, which would make pollination robots even more important.
(RTL Today) “The extermination of bees is inevitable. In China, the flowers already have to be pollinated by hand.” This 14-year-old student is not a great optimist. However, he is proposing a solution: a robot that fertilizes the flowers instead of the pollinators. Beerobot has a trunk that sucks nectar with the help of a miniature pump. Its four wheels can be remotely controlled via an app. And the bee robot has eyes too: a webcam transmits a live video to the smartphone, which can be placed in VR glasses. The nectar collection and the resulting pollination can therefore be conveniently controlled remotely without unnecessarily sending workers to the field.
One More Thing…
“Turns out stick insect eggs look like tiny metal hand grenades!” From Dr Eleanor Slade @EleSlade via Twitter.
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