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December 16, 2014 - ABJ Extra

Should the Agricultural Use of Neonicotinoids Be Banned?

by Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC-Davis Dept. of Entomology and Nematology

A team of entomology graduate students from the University of California, Davis, successfully argued at the Entomological Society of America's recent student debates that a ban on the insecticides in agriculture “will not improve pollinator health or restore populations, based on current science. Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests. Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM tool.”

UC Davis won the debate, defeating Auburn University, Alabama, and then went on to win the overall ESA student debate championship for the second consecutive year.

“Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests,” team captain Mohammad-Amir Aghaee said at the onset. “Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM (integrated pest management) tool.” The team also argued successfully that neonicotinoids (also known as neonics) are not all “created equal.”

The insecticide, chemically similar to nicotine, is implicated in the mass die-off of pollinators.  The European Union recently adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the nenicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that by January 2016, it will ban the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides and the use of crops improved through biotechnology throughout the 150 million acres managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System.

ESA officials chose the debate topic and assigned UC Davis to debate the “con” side and Auburn University, the “pro” side. The Auburn team argued that neonicotinoids are causing the death of bees essential for pollinating our food crops, and that the use of neonicotinoids should end. The debates took place at the ESA's 62nd annual meeting, held in Portland, Ore.

The UC Davis team included graduate students Mohammad-Amir Aghaee, Margaret "Rei" Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., and Daniel Klittich. Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, served as their advisor.

The Auburn roster included captain Olufemi Ajayi, Adekunle Adesanya, Julian Golec, Matt Burrows, Scott Clem and alternate Zi Ye. Associate professor David Held served as their advisor.

ESA sponsors the lively, cross-examination-style student debates as an educational and entertaining component of its annual  meetings. The teams are given eight months to prepare. Team members must be enrolled in an entomology degree program (bachelor, masters or doctorate).   Each debate spans 45 minutes and includes a seven-minute statement by each team; cross-examinations; rebuttals; and questions from the judges and audience.

The UC Davis team cited three main points:
•    Pesticides are IMPORTANT tools used in modern agriculture
•    Neonicotinoids were registered as reduced risk pesticide to replace the organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethroids
•    Banning neonicotinoids would increase of use of pesticides that have known non-target effects

The UC Davis team agreed that acute and chronic studies "have shown that neonics are toxic to honey bees and bumble bees (Blacquiere et al. 2012)" but argued that “all neonics are not created equal (Brown et al. 2014). They cited “inconsistent results with field-realistic doses (Cresswell et al. 2012)" and noted that “many other factors have been documented as contributing to pollinator decline (Epstein et al. 2012).”

It's not just insecticides that are killing bees, the UC Davis entomologists said. They listed the varroa mite (Varroa destructor), considered by U.S. beekeepers as Public Enemy No. 1; vectored pathogens, acaricides, antibiotics and fungicides directly added to the colony; pathogens such as American foulbrood and Nosema bombi); inadequate honey bee nutrition; insufficient food substitute: habitat fragmentation; and land-use changes and the increasing demand for pollination changes.

The UC Davis entomologists recommended that

•    Regulatory agencies need to have more thorough registration guidelines that incorporate bee toxicity data for all pesticides (Hopwood et al. 2012). This would encompass chronic toxicity, sublethal effects and synergistic effects.
•    Better management practices be mandated that follow IPM principles that protect bees on crops (Epstein et al. 2012). This would include banning certain application strategies, using less toxic neonicotinoids, and encompass the essential education and communication.

In its summary statement, the UC Davis team said: “There is NO definitive scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are the primary cause of pollinator declines. Neonicotinoids are important reduced risk pesticides for management of some of our most damaging pests. Neonicotinoids should be better regulated, not banned." They concluded: “Given the current state of knowledge, banning neonicotinoids is a premature and disproportionate response to a complex issue. This requires holistic scientific inquiry and interpretation, and cooperation among stakeholders. Any changes must be based on science rather than opinion, current trends, or fear.”

The Auburn team, or the pro-team, opened the debate with “Neonicotinoids are causing the death of bees essential for pollinating our food crops. The use of neonicotinoids should end.”

Why? They outlined six key points:

1.    Critical time for pollinators in the United States
2.    Lethal and sub-lethal effects
3.    Prevalence and exposure
4.    Effects on other pollinators
5.    Risk-assessment
6.    Food Quality and Protection Act (FQPA) as a precedent

Expanding on the fact that this is “a critical time for pollinators in the United States,” the Auburn team pointed out:

•    Honey bees pollinate $15-20 billion dollars worth of crops in the U.S., and $200 billion worldwide
•    Approximately $3 billion worth of crop pollination services are provided by native bees
•    Colony Collapse Disorder likely has many contributing factors but many of those are enhanced by neonicotinoids
•    The declining honey bee population: the U.S. had 6 million bee colonies in 1947 and now it's down to 2.5 million

The Auburn team keyed in on lethal and sublethal effects of neonics:  synergistic interactions with other pesticides, including DMI (demethylation inhibitor) fungicides; increased susceptibility to pathogens (Nosema spp.); decrease in foraging success; decrease in overwintering queen survival; learning impairment consequences; and reproductive inhibition.

The Alabama-based team also called attention to prevalence and exposure to neonicotinoids. They discussed the neonicotinoid residues found on bee-pollinated crops and plants by various means of exposure: seed coating; foliar spray, soil drench, trunk injections; length of residue (soil vs. foliage and length of bee exposure); and single exposures resulting in season-long impacts. They also said the multiple means of exposure due to application can lead to multiple routes of exposure within bees: via pollen, nectar, guttation fluid and extrafloral nectaries.

In addition, the Auburn entomologists argued that new and novel modes of action and classes of insecticides are emerging. leading to alternative options, and that the banning of neonics in agriculture won't destroy agriculture. They also discussed the restriction of organophosphate use with the adoption of FQPA in 1996. If neonics were banned, they said, this could open the door “for stronger and more reliable risk assessment” and potentially, "the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) tactics."

In their concluding statement, the Auburn team said that current tools for risk assessment may not be adequate; and that limiting neonicotinoid use will not harm agriculture--"it will open the door for more sustainable agriculture and new insecticides." They emphasized that we must save our pollinators, especially in the United States. "The United States is a special case--globally there is an increase in bee colonies; however, the United States is at a critical point at which bee pollination services are being threatened irreversibly."

One of the several swaying arguments that led to UC Davis winning the debate was that not all neonics are created equal, and thus, they should not all be lumped together as "an equal" and all be banned.

The UC Davis team received a $500 cash award, a plaque and a perpetual trophy engraved with UC Davis. ESA president Frank Zalom, a distinguished professor and IPM specialist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, presented the awards. UC Davis team consultants included Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen and Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey, both of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and Dave Fujino, director of the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis.

Mussen, who retired in June after 38 years of service, met periodically with the UC Davis team at its practices. He’s frequently asked if neonics are the primary cause of CCD.  "Neonics are only one of the classes of pesticide residues that we frequently find in analyses of adult bees, beeswax and stored pollens.  We encounter CCD in colonies in which no neonicotinoid residues can be found, and we find colonies surviving year after year with measurable residues of neonicotinoids in the hives.  Obviously, neonicotinoids do not appear to be 'the primary' cause of CCD."

Prior to the meeting, each team submitted a draft summary of its position (600 words maximum), and no more than 15 references, to the Student Affairs Committee Chair. After the meeting, each team can revise its manuscript before it is submitted for publication to the ESA journal, American Entomologist.


December 15, 2014 - ABJ Extra

USDA Provides Greater Protection for Fruit, Vegetable
and Other Specialty Crop Growers

Free Basic Coverage Plans and Premium Discounts Available for
Underserved and Limited Income Farmers

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that greater protection is now available from the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that traditionally have been ineligible for federal crop insurance. The new options, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup, and energy crops.

"These new protections will help ensure that farm families growing crops for food, fiber or livestock consumption will be better able to withstand losses due to natural disasters," said Vilsack. "For years, commodity crop farmers have had the ability to purchase insurance to keep their crops protected, and it only makes sense that fruit and vegetable, and other specialty crop growers, should be able to purchase similar levels of protection. Ensuring these farmers can adequately protect themselves from factors beyond their control is also critical for consumers who enjoy these products and for communities whose economies depend on them."

Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price.

The expanded protection will be especially helpful to beginning and traditionally underserved producers, as well as farmers with limited resources, who will receive fee waivers and premium reductions for expanded coverage. More crops are now eligible for the program, including expanded aquaculture production practices, and sweet and biomass sorghum. For the first time, a range of crops used to produce bioenergy will be eligible as well.

"If America is to remain food secure and continue exporting food to the world, we need to do everything we can to help new farmers get started and succeed in agriculture," Vilsack said. "This program will help new and socially disadvantaged farmers affordably manage risk, making farming a much more attractive business proposition."

To help producers learn more about the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program and how it can help them, USDA, in partnership with Michigan State University and the University of Illinois, created an online resource. The Web tool, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/nap, allows producers to determine whether their crops are eligible for coverage. It also gives them an opportunity to explore a variety of options and levels to determine the best protection level for their operation.

If the application deadline for an eligible crop has already passed, producers will have until Jan. 14, 2015, to choose expanded coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. To learn more, visit the Farm Service Agency (FSA) website at www.fsa.usda.gov/nap or contact your local FSA office at offices.usda.gov. The Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers the program, also wants to hear from producers and other interested stakeholders who may have suggestions or recommendations on the program. Written comments will be accepted until Feb. 13, 2015 and can be submitted through www.regulations.gov.


December 12, 2014 - ABJ Extra

Helping Beekeepers in Ethiopia

 As you are interested in bees? This season we are asking you to support the poorest people in Ethiopia - to utilize beekeeping to alleviate their poverty. Bees for Development is the leading beekeeping charity working to address the dual concerns of poverty and environmental damage in the developing world, all with the help of honey bees.  We have recently established a Centre in Ethiopia to train the chronically poor.  The Centre has been a huge success raising annual incomes by (on average) 42%.  The typical annual income is $US 290, and beekeeping therefore really can improve their lives.

We are seeking funds to help more people. In addition to increasing income for poor families, BFD’s approach helps to ensure healthy honey bee populations and, through pollination, increases the yield of local crops too. You can help us also by forwarding this request to your beekeeping community.

Click here to donate on our campaign page

Thank you for your consideration, and with Seasons Greetings
Dr Nicola Bradbear
Bees for Development
1 Agincourt Street, Monmouth NP25 3DZ
United Kingdom Tel  +44 (0)1600 714848
The Bees for Development Trust UK Registered Charity 1078803
We help vulnerable communities in poor countries to achieve self-sufficiency through beekeeping.



December 11, 2014 - ABJ Extra

 "A Little Dab Will Do Ya"

Propolis Promotes Hair Growth in Mice

Hair loss can be devastating for the millions of men and women who experience it. Now scientists are reporting that propolis might contain clues for developing a potential new therapy. They found that propolis encouraged hair growth in mice. The study appears in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Ken Kobayashi and colleagues note that propolis is a resin-like material that honeybees use to seal small gaps in their hives. Not only does it work as a physical barrier, but it also contains active compounds that fight fungal and bacterial invasions. People from ancient times had noticed propolis' special properties and used it to treat tumors, inflammation and wounds. More recently, research has shown that the substance promotes the growth of certain cells involved in hair growth though no one had yet tested whether that in turn would result in new locks. Kobayashi's team wanted to find out.

When the researchers tested propolis on mice that had been shaved or waxed, the mice that received the treatment regrew their fur faster than those that didn't. The scientists also noticed that after the topical application, the number of special cells involved in the process of growing hair increased. Although they tried the material on mice that could grow fur rather than balding mice, the researchers note that hair loss conditions often result from abnormal inflammation. Propolis contains anti-inflammatory compounds, so they expect it could help treat balding conditions.

They add that further testing is needed to see if the beehive material affects human hair follicles.


December 10, 2014 - ABJ Extra

Holiday Entertaining with Honey!

Courtesy of the National Honey Board

We are in the midst of the holiday season and we want to make sure that honey is your secret weapon when entertaining friends and family! Honey’s versatility is endless and can span your entire holiday menu because its unique flavor complements both sweet and savory dishes.

When adding honey to appetizers, entrees, desserts or even drinks, honey has a multitude of functional benefits. Honey adds and locks in moisture, acts as a binder and thickener in marinades, sauces and glazes, as well as enhances the darkening and caramelization of foods.

So there you have it! Honey not only tastes delightful but also adds practical benefits to your recipes.

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season!

Glazed Pear Martini

    2 oz. - pear vodka
    1/2 oz. - Honey Simple Syrup
    1 oz. - limoncello
    2 oz. - pear juice
    1 - pear slice
    1 - lemon twist

Fill a shaker with ice and add the vodka, honey simple syrup, limoncello and pear juice. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and float a thin slice of pear on top of the drink.

 Honey Cups with Brie, Walnuts and Cranberries

    4 tbsps - honey
    1/2 lb - brie cheese
    1/2 cup - chopped walnuts
    6 tbsps - dehydrated cranberries
    1 tbsp - chipotle paste
    30 - phyllo pastry shells
    Salt and pepper
    3 - canned chipotle peppers , For the chipotle paste
    1/4 cup - chicken stock or water, For the chipotle paste

In a small saucepan, lightly heat the honey and mix it with the chipotle paste, salt and pepper. Add the walnuts and cranberries and stir. Remove saucepan from fire.
Cut the brie cheese into ½-inch cubes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the phyllo cups onto a baking sheet and fill them evenly with the cubed brie. Top them evenly with the honey mixture and bake them in the oven for 5 - 7 minutes or until the cheese melts. Serve them hot.

For the chipotle paste: Clean the chipotle peppers and remove all the seeds. Put them in a blender with the water or chicken stock. Blend until perfectly mixed. It can keep for weeks in the refrigerator and is a good base for preparing chipotle sauce or for flavoring other dishes.

Queen Bee Royale

    1-1/2 inch piece - honeycomb
    1 oz. - honey liqueur
    5 oz. - sparkling wine or champagne

Pour the honey liqueur into a champagne flute, add the honeycomb piece and fill with sparkling wine or champagne.





Honey-Brushed Pear Crostinis 

    8 tsps - honey
    8 - crostini breads
    2 - Red Anjou pears
    4 tbsps - bleu cheese, crumbled
    1 tbsp - fresh rosemary, finely diced

Brush each crostini bread with 1 teaspoon of honey. Next, cut pears into ½-inch slices (about 8). Place a pear slice on each honey-brushed crostini bread. Top with ½ tablespoon of bleu cheese. Garnish with a pinch of diced rosemary.

 Honey Hot Chocolate

    1/2 cup - honey
    1/2 cup - unsweetened cocoa
    1/2 cup - water
    1 teaspoon - vanilla extract
    3 cups - hot low-fat milk

In small saucepan, combine honey, cocoa powder and water; mix well. Cook over low heat 5 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Set aside until ready to serve. To serve, stir chocolate mixture into hot milk. Frozen Honey Hot Chocolate: Prepare syrup as directed. Stir in 3 cups cold milk; mix well. Pour into ice cube trays; cover with plastic wrap. Freeze at lease 6 hours or up to 1 week. Remove cubes to food processor container; process until mixture is smooth. Serve in chilled glasses with spoons.