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March 26, 2015 - ABJ Extra
U.S. Honey Certification Program Joins Sen. Bob Casey
in Calling for Honey Standard of Identity
Washington, D.C. – The True Source Honey CertificationTM Program (www.TrueSourceHoney.com) commends Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) for his action last week calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish a federal standard of identity for honey, and echoes his plea for such a standard to be executed quickly to help protect U.S. beekeepers and honey producers from the continuing threat of illicitly sourced honey and false honey products.
While many of Americans’ most basic food staples – from butter and milk to mayonnaise and maple syrup – have federal definitions to protect consumers from fraudulent products, honey still does not have such a federal standard, despite repeated requests for almost a decade by U.S. beekeepers and others. Late last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent a report to the FDA, as required by the 2014 Farm Bill, which summarizes comments received on the issue of creating a federal standard; according to the American Beekeeping Federation, 90% of the comments supported the establishment of a federal standard.
“We believe that setting a federal definition for honey could support enforcement and compliance efforts in the face of continuing efforts by some bad actors to trade in illegally sourced and sometimes mislabeled honey or imitation honey,” said True Source Honey Executive Director Gordon Marks. Marks noted that some illegally traded honey is found to contain added syrups or sweetener extenders.
As recently as January 2015, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that agents had just seized almost half a million pounds of illegally imported Chinese honey valued at $2.45 million destined for U.S. consumers. Customs officials have been working for years to crack down on illegal trade in Chinese honey, activity that True Source Honey estimates is costing U.S. taxpayers up to $100 million a year in lost duties and is threatening the U.S. honey industry – from beekeeper to packer – by undercutting fair market prices and damaging honey's reputation for quality and safety.
“A federal standard of identity would protect producers and consumers across the nation from substandard or falsely labeled honey,” Casey states in his letter to FDA.
A federal standard would be a helpful enforcement tool, but would not replace the need for a honey source-certification program, Marks said. The True Source Certification Program is an industry-supported, voluntary program that has been applauded by U.S. beekeepers and honey industry leadership because it provides traceability from hive to table, helping ensure the food safety and security of the honey used in North America. Companies that are True Source Certified now represent about one-third of honey sold in North America.
The True Source Certified™ logo on honey packages ensures that the source of the honey has been independently certified through a third-party audit system. Further information, including a search function to check honey products, can be found at www.TrueSourceHoney.com.
The text to Sen. Casey’s letter can be found here.
True Source Honey, LLC is an effort by a number of honey companies and importers to protect consumers and customers from illegally sourced honey; and to highlight and support legal, transparent and ethical sourcing. The initiative seeks to help maintain the reputation of honey as a high-quality, highly valued food and further sustain the U.S. honey sector. Visit www.TrueSourceHoney.com. Follow us on Facebook.
March 24, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Manganese Is Harmful to Honey Bees
Redistributed industrial metal is present at levels harmful to bees
Washington University in St. Louis
Asked to name one way people have changed the environment, many people would probably say "global warming." But that's really just the start of it.
People burn fossil fuels, but they also mine and manufacture. It's who we are: Homo fabricus: man the maker. And as a side effect of our ingenuity and craft we have taken many metals originally buried safely in Earth's depths and strewn them about the surface.
Does it matter? Yehuda Ben-Shahar and Eirik Sovik, biologists at Washington University in St. Louis, together with colleagues from Andrew Barron's lab at Macquarie University in Australia, have publishd a study of honey bees in the online issue of Biology Letters March 25 that suggests we answer this question too glibly.
The scientists looked at the effect of low levels of manganese, a common industrial pollutant, on the behavior of honey bees. At levels considered safe for human food, the metal seemed to addle bees: they advanced through age-related work assignments faster than normal, yet completed fewer foraging trips than their sisters who were not exposed to manganese.
"We've known for a long time that high doses of manganese kill neurons that produce dopamine, causing a Parkinsonian-like disease in people," said Ben-Shahar. "In insects, as well, high levels of manganese kill dopaminergic neurons, reducing levels of dopamine in the brain.
"But in this study we were looking at low-level exposure and we saw the opposite effect. Instead of reducing dopamine levels, manganese increased them. Increases in dopamine and related neurotransmitters probably explain some of the abnormal behavior, " Ben-Shahar said.
Paradoxically, a trace amount of manganese is essential for life. All living organisms rely on the chemical properties of this metal to drive reactions in cells and to mop up the toxic byproducts of cellular life in the presence of oxygen.
"We evolved in an environment where there was little manganese, and so we developed ways to pump it into our cells," Ben-Shahar said. "But now environmental levels are quite different from those to which we are adapted and we don't really know what that means for human health."
"When we try to understand pathologies, we often look at extremes," he added. "We tend to ignore more modulatory changes like this one and assume we don't need to worry about them. But that may be a mistake. The bees, which vacuum up everything in the environment, might be serving as an early warning indicator of an environmental toxin."
A gene named Malvolio
Ben-Shahar didn't set out to discover the effect of manganese on bee behavior. Instead he was trying to study the link between responsiveness to sugar and the reward circuit in the brain. When a honey bee detects sugar, it reflexively extends its proboscis, a stereotyped behavior that can be experimentally manipulated and quantified.
The older the bee, the more responsive it is to sugar. In honey bee colonies tasks are divided according to age. For the first two to three weeks of adult life, bees typically take care of the brood in the hive. They then shift to foraging outside the hive for the remainder of their 5- to 7-week life.
In 1995 scientists screening for genes that affect sugar response in fruit flies discovered a gene that reduced it. They named it Malvolio, after a sour character in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night who is accused of wanting to outlaw cakes and ale.
Malvolio was later shown to encode a protein that pumps manganese across cell membranes, Ben-Shahar said. In 2004 he published results that showed that age-related transitions in honey bees are associated with increased expression of the Malvolio gene and higher levels of manganese in brain cells.
Ben-Shahar wondered why manganese changed feeding behavior. At high doses it affects a dopaminergic pathway in the brain that is associated with motor control. This is why manganese toxicity causes Parkinsonian-like symptoms, such as tremor and rigidity in humans.
But another dopaminergic pathway reinforces behaviors such as eating or sex. What if low levels of manganese modulated feeding through this pathway, he wondered. Perhaps manganese offered a handle, a tool, to manipulate the reward circuit and to better understand how it works.
Making life rewarding
To make the connection between diet and behavior, he needed to be able to quantify tiny amounts of neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit signals between neurons) in bee brains. He contacted co-author Andrew Barron of Macquarie University. Eirik Sovik, the first author on the paper, was then a doctoral student in Barron's lab and is now a postdoctoral research associate in Ben-Shahar's lab.
The two labs collaborated to study levels of these molecules in the brains of fruit flies and honey bees fed differing levels of manganese. They also tracked the bees by attaching radio-frequency tags to them when they were a day old (and "still soft, fluffy, and unable to sting you," said Sovik).
In both honey bees and fruit flies, exposure to manganese at levels considered safe for humans increased brain levels of dopamine and octopamine (a neurotransmitter important in insects). At the higher exposures it also altered the behavior of the bees, which became foragers sooner than normal, but made relatively few foraging trips, perhaps because they got lost or tired.
"Manganese is not the number one dangerous thing out there in the environment," Ben-Shahar said. "Nor do we know if it affects our brains the same way it does those of insects. Nobody has done the studies. But even if it has no impact on us, it clearly affects bees, and we depend on bees for most of the fruits and vegetable in our diets."
March 12, 2015 - ABJ Extra
No Bees, No Food Supply - MORGAN SPURLOCK INSIDE MAN
Investigates Honey Bee Disappearance
on Thurs. March 12th 9pm ET/PT
Hosted and produced by the Oscar®-nominated documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, Inside Man tells compelling stories from an insider’s perspective. With his inquisitive style and a sense of humor, Spurlock has tackled intriguing topics this season that include America’s trash epidemic, the future of zoos, dating in America, and medical tourism.
Below is a description of Thursday’s episode
Honey, Bee-ware (Mar 12) – Spurlock gets to the heart of the mysterious disappearance of the honey bees by becoming a commercial beekeeper in order to explore the causes and devastating effects on our entire food system. Morgan also uncovers a web of international honey laundering schemes that have him questioning if we really know where our honey comes from?
CNN| Communications | New York
March 12, 2015 - ABJ Extra
EPA Okays Oxalic Acid for Varroa Mite Control
Registration Decision for the New Active Ingredient Oxalic Acid
This document announces the decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to register the new active ingredient oxalic acid for use against the Varroa mite, a parasite on honeybees. EPA has concluded that oxalic acid meets the regulatory standard under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). One product is registered under Section 3( c )(5) of FIFRA, "Oxalic Acid." The application for this registration was submitted by the United States Department of Agriculture. Due to the significant problems this parasite poses for honeybees, the EPA review of the application was conducted under a greatly expedited process.
1. Application for Registration
The Varroa mite, Varroa destructor, is a serious and devastating pest of honeybee colonies. Varroa mites are parasites that feed on developing bees (larvae and pupae; brood) leading to brood mortality and the reduction ofthe lifespan of workers that were parasitized during development. Varroa can affect hypopharyngeal gland development of nurse bees and decrease brood/royal jelly production affecting nutrition in developing brood and queens. Varroa also serves as a vector of numerous honeybee viruses. Thus, the health of a colony can be critically impacted by an infestation of V arroa, if the colony is not treated, it will likely die.
EPA has long been aware of the need for products to control Varroa mites. In numerous meetings and discussions with university researchers, beekeepers, and state-level policymakers, EPA learned that oxalic acid exhibits efficacy against V arroa mites and that it is currently registered in Europe and Canada.
Oxalic acid (CAS# 144-62-7) was previously registered as an antimicrobial pesticide and EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) issued a Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) in 1992. Although oxalic acid is no longer registered as a pesticide, OPP has data in-house that describes the human health effects of the compound, the environmental fate and ecotoxicology.
On November 14, 2014 EPA received the application for registration of oxalic acid from the USDA, Agriculturaa Research Service, Bee Research Lab (USDNARS/BRL). Under the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) the time frame for EPA to complete the review of the application for registration of a new active ingredient and make a decision is 24 months. The PRIA due date for the oxalic acid application is December 8, 2016.
In his June 20,2014 memorandum to Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, President Obama created a federal strategy to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators. The president highlighted specific instructions for the EPA to expedite review of registration applications for new products targeting pests harmful to pollinators. The expedited review and approval of the oxalic acid registration falls entirely in line with the Presidential direction set forth in the June 2014 memorandum.
EPA was able to expedite the evaluation of the application, in part due to a NAFT A "work share" agreement in which EPA's counterparts at Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) provided EPA risk assessors and risk managers with their data reviews. Oxalic acid was registered in Canada as an in-hive control of Varroa mites in 2010.
Oxalic acid dihydrate (the crystalline form) is a dicarboxylic acid, which is a relatively strong organic acid. Oxalic acid is ubiquitous in the environment being found naturally in many plants and vegetables, as well as in honey. It occurs naturally as the potassium or calcium salt in sap, notably in plants of the Oxalis and Rumex families. It is also a product of the metabolism of mold.
In the U.S., oxalic acid is marketed for a range of non-pesticidal uses. On the general consumer market, it is commonly known as wood bleach. As mentioned, oxalic acid was first registered as a pesticide (disinfectant/sanitizer) in 1957. When oxalic acid was evaluated for reregistration the Agency concluded in the RED that the pesticide uses of oxalic acid would not result in unreasonable adverse effects to human health or the environment and that all registered products containing oxalic acid were eligible for reregistration. The registrants of these products, however, decided to voluntarily cancel them in 1994.
The information on the evaluation of oxalic acid provided to EPA by PMRA included an updated review of the toxicity, dietary exposure, environmental fate and transport, and product chemistry data. A dietary assessment, and an occupational assessment for the proposed use were also forwarded by PMRA. EPA concurs with the conclusions and registration decision made by our Canadian colleagues.
Assessment of Risk to Human Health
The use pattern for this compound is in beehives when honey supers are not present. Dietary exposure from the proposed use as an in-hive application will be indistinguishable from naturally occurring levels of oxalic acid. In fact, oxalic acid is a natural constituent of honey and is commonly found in the range of 1 mg/kg to 800 mg/kg. Moreover, EPA has established an exemption from the food tolerance requirement for oxalic acid under 40 CFR 180.910. Oxalic acid is ubiquitous in the environment and exposures from use in honeybee hives will be minimal, therefore the contribution to aggregate risk from this use will be insignificant relative to the total exposure from other sources.
Additionally, in 2005 EPA confirmed the safety of oxalic acid for its use in pesticide formulations, i.e., use as a calcium chelating hard water inhibitor in pesticides applied to growing crops and to raw agricultural commodities after harvest. Oxalic acid may be used in pesticide formulations up to 2 lbs per acre ( 40 CFR § 180.910). In assessing this use, EPA determined that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm to any population subgroup would result from aggregate exposure to oxalic acid. By contrast, the maximum application for oxalic acid in honeybee hives is 50 mL of 2.8% oxalic acid sugar solution which is far lower than 2 lbs of 98-1 00% oxalic acid per acre.
In evaluating the risk to applicators, EPA notes that oxalic acid is corrosive to the eyes and skin and has been placed in Toxicity Category I, indicating the highest degree of toxicity. It is also highly irritating and damaging to the respiratory system if inhaled. Thus, the product label will carry the "Danger" signal word. In addition to the standard beekeeping suit (veil, long-sleeved shirt, long pants and gloves) as personal protective equipment, a respirator and goggles are required.
Assessment of Ecological Risk
Although no data have been submitted directly to EPA to assess the likelihood of adverse effects on non-target organisms from the proposed use of oxalic acid to control Varroa mites on adult bees, the Agency believes that the likelihood of non-target exposure is low given that the compound is proposed for use in the honeybee colony; environmental exposure would occur primarily through accidental spillage or leakage during application. Following the entire label and preventing accidental spillage will minimize environmental exposures.
Oxalic acid is a naturally occurring compound that degrades rapidly in the environment. It readily dissolves in water because it has a high solubility. It occurs as the oxalate ion at environmentally relevant pHs where high mobility of the ion in soil is expected to occur (as with most anions).
While there are data to demonstrate that oxalic acid can be acutely toxic to adult bees, the proposed treatment rates have been established based on research demonstrating that oxalic acid will provide effective control of mites while minimizing adverse effects to adult bees. There is evidence to suggest oxalic acid is toxic to brood. However, based on the available information, the Agency does not have any evidence that the proposed use of oxalic acid will be detrimental to the colony especially given that the use of oxalic acid is intended to reduce mite loads that could otherwise be far more detrimental to individual bee and colony survival. Given the in-hive use of the product, and the absence of exposure to non-target organisms other than the honey bee, the Agency has determined that the proposed in-hive use of oxalic acid will have no effect (NE) on federally listed threatened or endangered species and will not modify their habitat.
Based on limited exposure, the chemical's natural occurrence and the likelihood for relatively rapid transformation under environmental conditions, the proposed use of oxalic acid is not expected to pose a significant risk to the environment.
The Varroa mite is a devastating pest of honeybees, vectoring disease and severely impacting the health of colonies throughout the U.S. treatment, commonly less than 3 mites per 100 bees. If an infested colony is not treated, it will likely die.
The scope of this nationwide problem is evidenced by the number and the extent of applications submitted by State Lead Agencies to EPA requesting the use of unregistered pesticide products to combat this parasite. From 1999 -2014, EPA has issued FIFRA Section 18 Emergency Exemptions to State Lead Agencies to provide their beekeepers with use of these unregistered products, some of which contain unregistered active ingredients. Unfortunately, the Varroa mite has quickly developed resistance to most approved pesticide tools. Over these 16 years, the number of Section 18s issued totals 723. In some years over 40 states submitted Section 18 requests. The nationwide scope of these exemptions exceeds anything ever authorized for any other pest, agricultural or otherwise.
Concluding that these efforts were in the public interest, EPA assembled the necessary data, reached out to our NAFTA partner, Canada, and worked closely with USDA to put together the oxalic acid registration submission. As directed by President Obama through his June 20, 2014 memorandum, and in acknowledgement of the critical need to make every possible control tool available, EPA has expedited the review process and this registration decision.
Application Methods and Labeling
Oxalic acid will be labeled for application by three different methods:
1. By Solution to Package Bees (Oxalic acid in sugar solution is applied as a spray to the package)
2. By Solution to Beehives (Oxalic acid in sugar solution is trickled between frames and other spaces)
3. Vapor Treatment of Beehives (Oxalic acid dihydrate is heated and the vapor sublimates in the hive)
The solution method and the vaporized applications are made in the late fall to early spring, when little brood is present. Additionally, honey supers are not present when applications to the hive are made. Packaged bees (small artificial swarms of broodless bees used for repopulating hives/colonies) can be treated any time before shipping or after receiving the bees before introducing them to the entire population (i.e., when brood are not present). Treatment of package bees is intended to reduce the rate at which Varroa are spread around the country. Researchers at Penn State and individual beekeepers have reported directly to EPA staff that packaged bees shipped around the country contain high levels.of Varroa mites. An effective tool, such as oxalic acid, used to spray package bees before shipping or before "hiving" will limit the proliferation of Varroa in the U.S.
With the solution-method of application, oxalic acid dihydrate is dissolved into a 1:1 sugar:water solution~ which is directly applied to the space between frames of infested colonies. The bees can tolerate the concentration of oxalic acid in the applied solution, but the Varroa mites cannot. With the vaporization method of application, oxalic acid dihydrate crystals are heated using a specialized application device until they liquefy and vaporize. Oxalic acid vapor fills the hive and all the bees and hive interior surfaces are covered with a very thin layer of oxalic acid dihydrate crystals during sublimation. While bees tolerate these fine crystals, they are toxic to the Varroa mites.
Efficacy and Mode of Action
Oxalic acid is shown to be a tool with high potential benefit for control of Varroa mite in honeybee colonies. Evaluated data demonstrated that Oxalic Acid Dihydrate can provide 90-99% control ofVarroa mites in honeybee colonies when either the sugar solution treatment or vaporization application methods are used in the late fall to early spring, and for treating packaged bees to ensure that a beekeeper is not introducing phoretic mites into healthy hives. At this time, the mode of action of oxalic acid is not entirely understood. Most researchers, however, state that the mode of action is unknown and it has not been classified by the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee.
Since Varroa populations have quickly developed resistance to registered chemicals, the Agency required the following language on the label that advises pesticide users to manage applications effectively to minimize the likelihood of developing resistance to oxalic acid or any chemical used in hives to control Varroa mites.
Any Varroa mite population has the potential to become resistant to acaricides. Resistance development is affected by both the frequency of application and rate/dose of application. Continued reliance on a single class of miticide or single miticide with the same mode of action will select for resistant individuals which may dominate the mite population in subsequent generations. In order to prevent resistance development and to maintain the usefulness of individual acaricides it is important to adopt appropriate resistance management strategies.
To delay resistance:
• When possible, rotate the use of miticides to reduce selection pressure as compared to repeatedly using the same product, mode or action or chemical class. If multiple applications are required, use a different mode of action each time before returning to a previously-used one.
• Base miticide use on Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This includes proper pest identification, monitoring for locality specific economic threshold and economic injury levels, record keeping, and utilizing all available control practices (cultural, biological and chemical).
• Maximize efficacy by following all label instructions including dosage and timing of application.
On February 4, 2015 EPA published a Notice of Receipt (NOR) in the Federal Register of an application for the registration of oxalic acid and announced a public comment period of 30 days, a statutory requirement. During the 30 day comment period for the NOR, the Agency published the proposed regulatory decision for the unconditional registration of oxalic acid and announced a public comment period of 15 days, both comment periods closed on the same day, March 6, 2015. Comments from both the NOR and the proposed decision are summarized below and have been considered in formulating the Agency's final regulatory decision for oxalic acid.
Nearly 250 comments were received in support of the Agency's proposed decision to unconditionally register oxalic acid for use in honeybee hives to control Varroa mites. Six comments were submitted opposing the Agency's decision, however there were no compelling arguments or scientific evidence provided in these comments which influence the Agency's decision. One comment stated all chemicals are toxic and harmful to the environment (no evidence or data were submitted), one comment was from a hobbyist beekeeper who himself does not use chemicals in his hives and believes no one should, and four additional comments stated their opposition but provided no scientific evidence or regulatory basis opposing the Agency's decision.
In cooperation with our regulatory partners in Canada, the evaluation of the application for registration of oxalic acid was completed as a work share. Considering the assessed risk to human health and the environment, the Agency concludes that oxalic acid meets the regulatory standard under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). There are no outstanding data requirements for oxalic acid. Therefore, the EPA is granting the unconditional registration of oxalic under Section 3(c)(5) of FIFRA .
March 10, 2015 - ABJ Extra
New Research Finds Queen Bee Microbiomes are
Starkly Distinct From Worker Bees
(David R. Tarpy photo)
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University researcher and collaborators have published the first comprehensive analysis of the gut bacteria found in queen bees.
Despite the important role of gut microbial communities -- also known the "microbiome" -- in protecting against disease, as well as the central role of the queen bees in the proper function and health of the hive, similar analyses of honey bees have previously only been performed on worker bees.
Apis mellifera -- or the western honey bee -- contributes significantly to agriculture, including pollinating one out of every three mouthfuls of food globally. Understanding the role of microbes in the productivity of queen bees and health of bee colonies may provide critical insights into the decline of bees in recent years, with colony losses as high as 40 percent over winter.
The research, "Characterization of the honey bee microbiome throughout the queen-rearing process," appears online and will appear in print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Also contributing to the study were researchers at Wellesley College and North Carolina State University.
"This might be a case in which 'mother does not know best,'" said Irene L.G. Newton, assistant professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology at IU Bloomington, who is corresponding author on the study. "In many animals, transmission of the microbiome is maternal. In the case of the honey bee, we found that the microbiome in queen bees did not reflect those of worker bees -- not even the progeny of the queen or her attendants. In fact, queen bees lack many of the bacterial groups that are considered to be core to worker microbiomes."
The study's results are the opposite of microbiome development in many mammals, including humans, in which infants' microbiomes are influenced by their mothers. Babies delivered through natural birth possess microbiomes similar to those found in their mother's birth canal, for example, while babies born through cesarean section harbor gut bacteria that resemble bacteria found on the skin.
Honey bees, in contrast, acquire their gut bacteria from both the surrounding environment and the social context -- a phenomenon known as horizontal transmission.
In a healthy colony, worker bees typically acquire their gut bacteria through interaction with microbes inside the hive, including fecal matter from adult bees. But the most likely route of microbiome transmission in queen bees is the "royal jelly," protein-rich food source produced by worker bees and responsible for the development of queen bees during the larval stage. Unlike other bees, queens continue to feast on royal jelly through maturity, eschewing the honey and "bee bread" consumed by workers.
The queen's royal isolation from the dirt and grime of everyday life in the colony may account for the difference in her microbiome.
"In some ways, the development of the queen microbiome mirrors that of workers, with larval queens' associated bacteria resembling those found in worker larvae," Newton said. "But, by the time they mature, queens have developed a microbial signature distinct from the rest of the colony."
Newton's study tracked the development of the queen microbiome at every point in the commercial rearing process -- from the larval stage to their emergence as adults capable of reproduction. The scientists also tracked worker populations interacting with the queens at each point in their development, including the queens' introduction to new colonies, a common practice in commercial beekeeping. At the end of the process, DNA collected from the honey bees' guts were sequenced and analyzed.
Sequencing was performed at the Indiana Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics in Bloomington, Ind., as well as in Massachusetts. The field research, including honey bee collection, was conducted at the North Carolina State University Lake Wheeler Honey Bee Research Facility in Raleigh, N.C.
The study's discovery that queen bees' microbiome remains unaffected by workers' interaction with the queen, and by the movement of queens to different colonies, suggests that modern beekeeping practices -- in which queen bees are regularly removed from their home colonies and introduced into new hives -- may not detrimentally affect the health of the colony.
"Because the queen microbiome does not reflect the workers within a specific colony, the physical movement of queens from one colony environment to another does not seem to have any major effects on either the queen gut or worker gut communities," she said. "The research provides no evidence that beekeepers who regularly replace their queens from outside genetic sources harm their colonies by disrupting the gut microfauna of a particular colony. In many ways, these conclusions are very reassuring for the commercial-production apiculture industry."
In addition to Newton, authors on the study are David R. Tarpy of the W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology at North Carolina State University and Heather R. Mattila of the Department of Biological Sciences at Wellesley College.
This work was supported by a grant from the National Honey Board, as well as support from the Knafel Endowed Chair in the Natural Sciences at Wellesley College.
March 4, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Representatives Blumenauer and Conyers Reintroduce
Legislation to Protect Pollinators, Prevent Mass Bee Die-Offs
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC – Today, Representative Earl Blumenauer and Representative John Conyers announced the reintroduction of the Saving America's Pollinators Act. The legislation requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to take swift action to prevent mass bee die-offs and protect the health of honey bees and other critical pollinators by suspending the use of certain bee-toxic insecticides, known as neonicotinoids. It also requires the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Administrator of the EPA, to monitor the health of native bee populations and to identify and publicly report the likely causes of bee kills.
Recent research provides convincing evidence of a link between neonicotinoids and poor bee health. Bee populations have declined steadily since 2006, and the continued decline will have serious implications to our food supply.
“Honey bees and native bees jointly provide U.S. agriculture an estimated $18 to $27 billion in pollination service annually, and one out of every three bites of food people eat is from a crop pollinated by bees,” said Representative Blumenauer. “It is imperative that we take a step back to make sure we understand all the factors involved in bee population decline and move swiftly to protect our pollinators.”
The crops pollinated by bees include apples, avocados, cranberries, cherries, broccoli, peaches, carrots, grapes, soybeans, sugar beets and onions. However, these crops and numerous others are threatened by the dramatic decline of pollinator populations throughout the country. Over the past decade, documented incidents of honey bee colony collapse disorder (CCD) and other forms of excess bee mortality have been at a record high with some beekeepers repeatedly losing 100 percent of their operations.
“The EPA plans to wait until 2018 before reviewing the registration of neonicotinoids,” said Representative Conyers. “But America’s bees cannot wait three more years. Neither can the thousands of farmers that rely on pollinators. Our honeybees are critical to ecological sustainability and to our economy. I am urging all of my colleagues to please protect our pollinators and support the Saving America’s Pollinators Act.”
With the introduction of the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, Congress will follow the example of local communities like Eugene, OR, Spokane, WA and Seattle, WA that have already adopted measures to ban the use of neonicotinoids on municipal lands. The federal government has also taken action to discontinue the use of neonicotinoids on national wildlife refuge system lands. This is a small step in the right direction, but greater action needs to be taken to protect bee populations at the federal level.
“The Saving America’s Pollinators Act remains the gold standard when it comes to legislation designed to protect bees and other pollinators from exposure to toxic insecticides,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety. “We rely on bees and other pollinators for so much of our food and it’s in everyone’s best interest to do all we can to protect them. EPA has remained tone deaf to the influx of damning scientific evidence identifying neonicotinoids as a primary culprit in poor pollinator health and it is high time that the U.S. take action, just as other countries have, to suspend their use.
“It is time for the Environmental Protection Agency to take a stronger stance on pollinator protection.” said Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society. “We hope that the reintroduction of this bill further encourages EPA to work with its partners to better manage the possible risks to bees posed by pesticides, including neonics.”