Archive for January, 2010

Disease dooming native bumblebees

Published on January 13, 2010

By Lynda Mapes, The Seattle Times

They work in the cold when honeybees are still snug in their hives, and cloudy days don’t stop them either.

Bumblebees are workhorse pollinators, depended on to pollinate everything from cranberries and blueberries to hothouse tomatoes.

But native bumblebees are in trouble, victims of diseases some scientists say are spread by commercial bumblebees shipped around North America to pollinate crops.

While much attention has been given to the plight of European honeybees, dying in droves in so-called colony collapse disorder, the sharp decline of some species of native bumblebees has been largely overlooked.

The Xerces Society, based in Portland, several other environment groups and prominent entomologists joined together this week in supporting a citizen petition asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate the commercial bumblebee industry.

Groups ask U.S. to regulate shipping of commercial bumblebees

Published on

By Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post

Conservation groups said four species of native bumblebees are close to extinction and called on the federal government Tuesday to begin regulating the shipping of bees raised commercially as crop pollinators.

Researchers believe the precipitous declines in the species are being caused by diseases linked to the cultivation of a species of native bumblebee sold to farmers. The bees are used to increase fruit yield in a number of crops, including hothouse tomatoes and field-grown raspberries and blueberries.

During the past decade, wild bee species “went from being — some of them — very common to species that are now going extinct,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society.

In the Eastern United States, the yellow-banded and rusty-patched bumblebees have declined markedly. In Western states, populations of the Franklin’s and Western bumblebees have crashed, according to scientists. “We believe this is a disease that has been spread by commercial bumblebees because these [wild] species are closely related to one of the species moved to Europe [for rearing] and then moved back,” Black said.

Groups seek regulation of bumblebee shipments

Published on January 12, 2010

By Jeff Barnard, the Associated Press

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Conservation groups and scientists want federal agricultural authorities to start regulating shipments of commercially domesticated bumblebees — used to pollinate crops — to protect wild bumblebees from diseases threatening their survival.

The groups said Tuesday that four species of bumblebees once common in the United States have seen drastic declines — and the evidence points to diseases spreading out of greenhouses that use domesticated bumblebees.

”This is the tip of the iceberg,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, an insect conservation group based in Portland. ”Bumblebees need to be regulated or we may see other diseases spread to bumblebees and potentially other bees.”

Procedural issues lead to ban of Bayer pesticide

Published on January 1, 2010

By Rick Wills, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A federal judge banned the sale of a Bayer CropScience pesticide that environmental groups and commercial beekeepers say is potentially toxic to the nation’s threatened honeybee population.

Both Bayer CropScience, a North Carolina subsidiary of Bayer AG, and the Environmental Protection Agency have 60 days to appeal the decision of Manhattan U.S. District Judge Denise Cote.

The ban would make the sale of spirotetramat, known by the trade names Movento and Ultor, illegal in the United States after Jan. 15.