Bees aid early detection of fireblight in orchards

The bees leave fireblight bacteria in the tube.
Bees from the orchard leave any fireblight bacteria in the tube through which they enter their hive © Rudolf Moosbeckhofer, AGES

Fireblight is a bacterial disease caused by the species Erwinia amylovora that affects fruit trees including apple and pear. It also affects other members of the rose family, including roses, crabapples and hawthorn. The disease can quickly spread through a plant, killing it within a few months, and can devastate entire orchards within a season. Fireblight is difficult to control; there are no chemicals that are effective once the disease has taken hold, and the spread can mainly only be slowed by pruning infected branches. Early detection of fireblight is therefore essential. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have devised a method to detect the disease, not on the fruit trees but on the bees that pollinate them. Continue reading

European Union Vote To Restrict Neonicotinoid Insecticide Use

Do you think the EU is right to ban neonicotinoids? Photo of a honeybee via Flickr (Brad Smith, CC-BY-NC-2.0)
Do you think the EU is right to ban neonicotinoids? Photo of a honeybee via Flickr (Brad Smith, CC-BY-NC-2.0)

After a European Commission vote yesterday (Monday 29th April 2013), Europe will enforce the world’s first continent-wide ban on neonicotinoid insecticides after concerns about their non-target impact on bee pollinators.

The vote by the 27 European Union member states on whether to suspend the use of neonicotinoid insecticides was supported by 15 nations. The UK did not support the ban.

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A Sting In The Tale- EFSA Assesses The Risks of Neonicotinoids To Bees

Bumblebee Bombus terrestris foraging © Kintaiyo (License CC-BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Bumblebee Bombus terrestris foraging © Kintaiyo (License CC-BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Bees represent a proportion of the insects that contribute to the pollination of crops, and the potential impact of observed declines in bees on crop yields, as well as their importance as pollinators of wild flowers, has resulted in significant attention and controversy in determining the causes of bee declines. No single factor has been found to explain the decline in pollinators, and it is thought to be due to a range of interacting effects such as climate change, bee pests and diseases, pesticide use, and habitat loss. More recently, some studies have implicated neonicotinoid insecticides in the pollinator decline, although to date evidence from different studies is conflicting and the topic remains highly debated.

In April 2012 the European Commission demanded a re-examination of the risks posed by the neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid and clothianidin, primarily produced by Bayer CropScience, and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam. A report published on Wednesday by scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessed the risks posed to honeybees by these three neonicotinoids.

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