pollinators

As the climate changes, new efforts arise to diversify what’s grown in the Corn Belt

A growing number of farmers, researchers and nonprofits are working to transform the Midwestern corn and soybean belt into a more diverse cropping region, including a new USDA-funded project at Purdue University designed to study how to help growers diversify their farms. (No paywall) 

Lawsuit challenges EPA over pesticide-coated seeds

Renewing a fight that began five years ago, two environmental groups have sued the EPA to force it to regulate pesticide-coated seeds in the name of protecting bees and other pollinators. Seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides are used on 80 percent of corn land and 40 percent of soybean land, although researchers question their value against late-emerging crop pests.

Europe’s butterflies are vanishing along with small farms

Across Europe, butterfly populations are undergoing huge declines, with grassland butterfly abundance dropping by 39 percent between 1990 and 2017. Spain's Catalonia region offers an extreme example of this continent-wide wave of biodiversity loss: Over the past 25 years, populations of the most common grassland species have declined here by 71 percent, reports FERN's latest story, produced with National Geographic. (No paywall)

Colony collapse toll is highest in four years for U.S. honeybees

Honeybee keepers reported the loss of 105,240 colonies to colony collapse disorder during the early months of this year, a 76 percent increase from last year and the highest total since 2016, said the USDA on Monday.

Bee colony loss rate is second-highest ever

Beekeepers lost 44 percent of their colonies in the year ending on April 1, the second-highest rate since surveys began in 2006, said the Bee Informed Partnership on Monday. The high annual rate was driven by severe losses last summer among commercial beekeepers, who lost one-third of their …

EPA approves sulfoxaflor as crop insecticide after studying impact on bees

Four years after an adverse ruling by a federal appeals court, the EPA approved the insecticide sulfoxaflor for use on a wide variety of crops, saying the chemical posed less of a risk to honeybees than previously thought. The law firm that won the 2015 ruling said the EPA decision "to remove restrictions on yet another bee-killing pesticide is nothing short of reckless."

Looming crisis for almond industry, as bee census records highest winter losses yet

There would be no almond industry without honeybees, and honeybees are struggling mightily to keep pace with the booming almond business, as FERN’s latest story, published with HuffPost, explains. The latest bit of bad news for bees came Wednesday, with the release of an annual survey of beekeepers that recorded winter losses of nearly 38 percent, the highest winter loss rate since the survey began 13 years ago.(No paywall)

A dearth of data spurs debate over ‘insect apocalypse’

In recent months, the media have been abuzz about a series of studies that describe a looming "insect apocalypse," a steady loss of bugs that would eventually put all life on earth at risk. Now Mongabay, an online magazine that covers environmental science and conservation issues, has launched a four-part series that will examine the science behind these studies to determine whether the conclusions are premature. 

Colony collapse surges among honeybees

After a sharp drop in 2017, colony collapse disorder hit more U.S. honeybee operators this year, said USDA on Wednesday. The annual Honey Bee Colonies report said 77,800 colonies were lost to the disorder during the first quarter of this year, a 15-percent increase from 2017 for operations with five or more colonies. January through March is traditionally the period with the highest losses.

Honeybees, and beekeepers, have a tough winter

Beekeepers lost three of every 10 of their managed honeybee colonies to harsh weather this past winter, the highest winter mortality rate in five years, according to a nationwide survey released on Wednesday.

EU bans outdoor use of neonicotinoids on crops

The member nations of the EU voted for a near-total ban of neonicotinoid insecticides, over the objections of farmers and pesticide manufacturers. Known as neonics, the chemicals are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world and have been linked by scientific studies to the decline in honeybees and other pollinators, said BBC News.

Report touts upside, refutes downside of hedgerows

A two-year study by University of California researchers says that hedgerows, the strips of vegetation along the edges of fields, take up so little space that they are not a shelter for rodents or a source of food-borne pathogens.

Building a backup for the embattled honeybee

With the honeybee under siege, by pesticides, parasites and disease, The Wonderful Company—the world's largest almond grower—hired a scientist to build it a replacement pollinator, according to FERN's latest story, published with Scientific American.

House bill would suspend use of neonicotinoid insecticides

Two Democratic lawmakers unveiled legislation to suspend the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, with the goal of reducing high mortality rates of honeybees and other pollinating species.

Neonics found year-round in Great Lakes tributaries

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey found neonicotinoid insecticides in 74 percent of the water samples they analyzed from 10 major tributaries of the Great Lakes. The insecticides were "detected in every month sampled and five of the six target neonicotinoids were detected." Environmental Health News says the study "suggests the Great Lakes' fish, birds and entire ecosystems might be at risk" from the insecticides that are believed to be a factor in high mortality rates of honeybees.

Lithium chloride may be tool against honeybee parasite

German researchers report that lithium chloride “is highly effective” in killing Varroa mites, a parasite commonly listed as one of the major reasons for high mortality among the pollinating insects.

Industrial tequila farms are bad for agave-loving bats

With industrial tequila farms switching to cloned agave plants, the bats that pollinate them are disappearing. “You can't have tequila without agave, the spiky desert plant used as its base,” says NPR. “And it's hard to have agave without bats — because a few species of these winged creatures are the plant's primary pollinators. Agave co-evolved with bats over thousands of years. As a result, it's one of the very few plants that pollinates at night.”

Researchers experiment with windbreaks as an aid for pollinators

At the University of Nebraska, researchers are experimenting with the agricultural landscape to see if modifications such as windbreaks or cover crops will limit pesticide drift and help bees avoid harmful exposure to the chemicals. Farmers generally plant corn and soybean seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides, which can be rubbed off of the seed during planting and land on plants visited by foraging bees, says Harvest Public Media.

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