How bees can be a friend to smallholders

By Karoline Kingston

Bee with pollen on its legs drinking nectar from a flower

In an unprecedented study, honey bees have been found to be the world’s most important single species pollinator in natural ecosystems. Working alongside wild bees, they are also said to be responsible for every one in three bites of food. For the smallholder farmer, befriending bees – both honey and wild – could mean more efficient, high quality pollination of crops, as well as pollinating wild plants for cattle and other livestock to graze on. The sale of honey could also provide a vital additional source of income. But the bees need human help in return; the global bee population is in decline due to the use of harmful pesticides, climate change and habitat loss. Finding a productive partnership between these small creatures and smallholders could benefit both sides. Continue reading

EU ban on bee-killing insecticides

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Bee species are particularly affected by the use of insecticides within the agriculture sector (© Pexels)

The world’s most widely used group of insecticides will be banned from all fields within the next six months by the European Union. The use of neonicotinoids will be prevented in any manner with the aim of protecting important insect pollinators such as honeybees which are known to be vital for global crop pollination.

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Buzzing activity around pollinator health

By Anu Veijalainen, CABI. Reblogged from CABI Hand-picked blog.

Yesterday I cherished the start of spring in England by attending an event devoted to pollinators and pollination at the University of Reading. Most presentations at this meeting organised by the Royal Entomological Society were understandably about bees, but we also heard a few talks highlighting the importance of other pollinator groups.

For about five years now the media has been broadcasting alarming news about declining bee populations especially in Europe and North America. While the amounting evidence points to neonicotinoid insecticides being a major cause for the decline, I learnt yesterday that the situation is actually rather complex, other stressors are also involved, and scientists are still eagerly trying to form a complete understanding of the issue.

European Honey Bee Touching Down
Photo by Autan, under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

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Four new bee species described in Australia – many more remain unidentified

by Miroslav Djuric, DVM, CABI. Reblogged from CABI’s Hand Picked blog.

One of the new species of Australian bee, Euhesma albamala
One of the new species of Australian bee, Euhesma albamala. Copyright: K. Hogendoorn, M. Stevens, R. Leijs, CC BY 4.0 license

Bee specialists from South Australia have described four new native bees. Three of these bee species have been described as  having narrow faces and very long mouths, allowing them to feed on slender flowers found on the emu bush, a hardy native of the Australian desert environment, and to collect the nectar through a narrow constriction at the base of the emu bush flowers. Based on the authors’ description, the way these bees have adapted to feed on emu bush flowers is an excellent example of evolution. The fourth species belongs to a different group and has a more commonly observed round-shaped head.

The four new species belong to the genus Euhesma. Their description is based on evaluation of DNA ‘barcoding’ and morphological comparison of the bees with museum specimens.

The study was led by K. Hogendoorn of the University of Adelaide and was carried out in collaboration with specialists from the South Australian Museum. The results of the study are published in the journal ZooKeys.

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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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