Tag-Archive for » CCD «

Tuesday, September 07th, 2010 | Author:

More evidence. I’m happy to elevate these articles to higher readership. -DNR


Aug 27, 2010

Insecticide implicated in bee decline
Honeybees, bumblebees and many other insects are being slowly poisoned to death by persistent insecticides used to protect agricultural crops. Small doses of the toxic chemicals accumulate over time, meaning that there is no safe level of exposure. That’s the conclusion from recent research looking at the long-term effects of a commonly used class of insecticides.

As they buzz from flower to flower, bees, moths and hoverflies carry out a vital job. Around one third of agricultural crops are pollinated by these busy insects, a service that is worth £440 m a year to the UK economy alone.

But in recent years these valuable pollinators have been struggling, with populations plummeting worldwide. Honeybees in particular have been suffering, with colony collapse disorder (CCD) – a phenomenon where the bees desert the hive – becoming more common in Europe and North America.

Controversy has swirled around the issue, and everything from mobile phones to GM crops have been blamed. Now new studies indicate that insecticides are playing a significant role.

The most recent studies have exposed a variety of insects to varying doses of neonicotinoid insecticides over long time periods – 12 months or more. Neonicotinoid insecticides are widely used worldwide; they work by acting on the central nervous system of the insect. The chemicals have little affinity for vertebrate nervous systems, so they are much less toxic to mammals and birds.

The researchers found that the total dose of insecticide required to kill the insect was smaller if administered over a longer time period (Ecotoxicology (2009) 18:343–354). In the case of honeybees, up to 6000 times less insecticide was required to kill them if it was administered in multiple tiny doses over a long time period.

According to Henk Tennekes, a researcher at Experimental Toxicology Services (ETS) in the Netherlands, these findings make perfect sense. “Start by considering a high exposure level,” he said. “It may cause an early effect, such as cancer or mortality. At a much lower exposure level you may get a late effect. However, as it turns out, in the latter case you need much less of the stuff (in total) to produce the effect.” Tennekes describes the findings in a forthcoming paper in Toxicology.

So how do these insecticides achieve such a powerful long-term effect? The answer lies in the way that they work. Neonicotinoids bind irreversibly to receptors in the central nervous system of insects. “An insect has a limited amount of such receptors,” explained Jeroen van der Sluijs, a scientist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who has also worked on the problem. “The damage is cumulative: with every exposure more receptors are blocked until the damage is so big that the insect cannot function anymore and dies.”

Even small doses over a short time period can cause serious problems. At low doses insects have been observed to become disorientated and less co-ordinated in their movements, making them easier prey for predators. Sub-lethal effects such as this weaken the insect; they particularly jeopardize social insects, which depend on the entire colony being healthy for survival.

Right now it still isn’t possible to say if neonicotinoids are the sole cause of CCD in honeybees, but it seems likely that they play a significant role. “It explains the rapid increase in CCD since 2004, which coincides with the rapid growth in worldwide use of neonicotinoids – the most widely used class of insecticides,” said van der Sluijs.

Currently the insecticides are commonly used to coat seeds, regardless of whether there are many insect pests or not. They leach easily into soil and water and are taken up readily by plants, making the entire plant toxic to insects. And as the new research shows, even at very low levels they have the potential to cause huge damage to insect populations. “I think these insecticides need to be replaced by less long-lived alternatives that are less toxic to honeybees and less prone to leaching,” said Tennekes.

About the author

Kate Ravilious is a contributing editor to environmentalresearchweb.
Friday, April 09th, 2010 | Author:

March 30, 2010 -The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service, in conjunction with the Apiary Inspectors of America, is conducting a voluntary survey to determine the bee colony losses for the 2009/2010 winter.  This survey is not just for beekeepers with huge numbers of hives, even small-scale beekeepers are encouraged to participate.  The survey takes approximately two minutes, and is completely anonymous.

Bees on comb

Data collection efforts such as this may be crucial to understanding bee-related diseases that affect colonies, including colony collapse disorder. The scope of this problem may be poorly understood. According to Peter Borst, a former New York State apiary inspector, no one really knows how many beehives are out there. USDA estimates of 2.6 million bee colonies in the US are derived from national surveys and farm surveys that don’t count the thousands of small apiaries (fewer than five hives)

managed by hobby beekeepers. Based on Borst’s local knowledge, as many as 90% of the local beekeepers may have elected to not register with the state — which is where the national surveys start for the data.

The more beekeepers who participate, the more data the USDA has to work with, which may help researchers get closer to understanding a perplexing problem in our agricultural world. Dr. Jeff Pettis, Research Leader at the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, notes that last year they surveyed beekeepers who managed about half a million colonies.  Pettis hopes this year’s response to be even greater. 1

If you know a beekeeper with one hive or one hundred, share this information with them.  Good research requires good data.

Dear Beekeeper:

The Apiary Inspectors of America and the USDA-ARS Beltsville Bee Research Laboratory are seeking your help in tabulating the winter losses that occurred over the winter of 2009-2010. This continues the AIA/USDA survey efforts from the past 3 years which has been important in quantifying the losses of honey bees for government, media, and researchers.

This year’s survey is faster, easier and does not require your time on the phone. It is all web based and automatic, just fill and click.

Please take a few moments to fill out our winter loss survey at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/beeloss0910

This survey will be conducted until April 16th, 2010.

We would also appreciate it if you would forward this email to other beekeepers. The more responses the better.  If you have any questions or concerns please email beeloss@gmail.com, or  Honeybee.Survey@aphis.usda.gov.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Jeff Pettis; USDA-ARS Beltsville Bee Research Laboratory
Dennis vanEngelsdorp; Penn State University
Jerry Hayes; Florida Department of Agriculture
Dewey Caron; University of Delaware and Oregon State University

Category: CCD, News  | Tags: , , , ,  | One Comment
Sunday, May 24th, 2009 | Author:

Pesticides indicted in bee deaths

Agriculture officials have renewed their scrutiny of the world’s best-selling pest-killer as they try to solve the mysterious collapse of the nation’s hives.

By Julia Scott

May 18, 2009 – Gene Brandi will always rue the summer of 2007. That’s when the California beekeeper rented half his honeybees, or 1,000 hives, to a watermelon farmer in the San Joaquin Valley at pollination time. The following winter, 50 percent of Brandi’s bees were dead.Graphic: Fate of Imidacloprid “They pretty much disappeared,” says Brandi, who’s been keeping bees for 35 years.Since the advent in 2006 of colony collapse disorder, the mysterious ailment that continues to decimate hives across the country, Brandi has grown accustomed to seeing up to 40 percent of his bees vanish each year, simply leave the hive in search of food and never come back. But this was different. Instead of losing bees from all his colonies, Brandi watched the ones that skipped watermelon duty continue to thrive.

Brandi discovered the watermelon farmer had irrigated his plants with imidacloprid, the world’s best-selling insecticide created by Bayer CropScience Inc., one of the world’s leading producers of pesticides and genetically modified vegetable seeds, with annual sales of $8.6 billion. Blended with water and applied to the soil, imidacloprid creates a moist mixture the bees likely drank from on a hot day.

Stories like Brandi’s have become so common that the National Honeybee Advisory Board, which represents the two biggest beekeeper associations in the U.S., recently asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban the product. “We believe imidacloprid kills bees — specifically, that it causes bee colonies to collapse,” says Clint Walker, co-chairman of the board.

Beekeepers have singled out imidacloprid and its chemical cousin clothianidin, also produced by Bayer CropScience, as a cause of bee die-offs around the world for over a decade. More recently, the same products have been blamed by American beekeepers, who claim the product is a cause of colony collapse disorder, which has cost many commercial U.S. beekeepers at least a third of their bees since 2006, and threatens the reliability of the world’s food supply.

Scientists have started to turn their attention to both products, which are receiving new scrutiny in the U.S., due to a disclosure in December 2007 by Bayer CropScience itself. Bayer scientists found imidacloprid in the nectar and pollen of flowering trees and shrubs at concentrations high enough to kill a honeybee in minutes. The disclosure recently set in motion product reviews by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the EPA. The tests are scheduled to wrap up in 2014, though environmentalists, including the Sierra Club, are petitioning the EPA to speed up the work.

For over a decade, Bayer CropScience has been forced to defend the family of insecticides against calls for a ban by beekeepers and environmentalists. French beekeepers succeeded in having imidacloprid banned for use on several crops after a third of the country’s bees died following its use in 1999 — although the French bee population never quite rebounded, as Bayer is quick to point out. Germany banned the use of clothianidin and seven other insecticides in 2008 after tests implicated them in killing up to 60 percent of honeybees in southwest Germany.

Imidacloprid and clothianidin are chloronicotinoids, a synthetic compound that combines nicotine, a powerful toxin, with chlorine to attack an insect’s nervous system. The chemical is applied to the seed of a plant, added to soil, or sprayed on a crop and spreads to every corner of the plant’s tissue, killing the pests that feed on it.Pennsylvania beekeeper John Macdonald has been keeping bees for over 30 years and recently became convinced that imidacloprid is linked to colony collapse disorder. It’s the only explanation he can find for why his bees, whose hives border farmland that uses the pesticide, started dropping dead a few years ago.

“There’s the pernicious toxic effect — it does everything nicotine does to our nervous system,” says Macdonald. “There’s the pathological effect, the interference with basic functions. They get lost, they get disoriented. They fall to the ground. They get paralyzed and their wings stick out. I can’t think of anything in the environment that’s changed other than farming, and virtually every farmer is using treated seeds now.”

Bayer CropScience spokesman Jack Boyne says his company’s pesticides are not to blame. “We do a lot of research on our products and we feel like we have a very good body of evidence to suggest that pesticides, including insecticides, are not the cause of colony collapse disorder,” he says. “Pesticides have been around for a lot of years now and honeybee collapse has only been a factor for the last few years.” (Imidacloprid has been approved for use in the U.S. since 1994 and clothianidin has been used since 2003.)

Scientists continue to investigate the causes of colony collapse disorder. Leading theories suggest a combination of factors that include parasitic mites, disease, malnutrition and environmental contaminants like pesticides, insecticides and fungicides. The current EPA review will provide further insight into the role of pesticides, as it will uncover whether honeybees sickened by exposure to imidacloprid spread it around by bringing contaminated nectar and pollen back to the hive.

EPA critics suggest that the agency allowed economic considerations to take precedence over the well-being of honeybees when it approved imidacloprid for sale in the U.S. 15 years ago. “I think the EPA and USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] have been covering up for Bayer, and now they’re scrambling to do something about it,” says Neil Carman, a plant biologist who advises the Sierra Club on pesticides and other issues. “This review should have been done 10 years ago. It’s been found to be more persistent in the environment than was reported by Bayer.”

Imidacloprid was approved with knowledge that the product, marketed as Gaucho, Confidor, Admire and others, was lethal to honeybees under certain circumstances. Today the EPA’s own literature calls it “very highly toxic” to honeybees and other beneficial insects. Its workaround was to slap a label on the product, warning farmers not to spray it on a plant when bees were foraging in the neighborhood.

In its 2007 studies, Bayer applied standard doses of imidacloprid to test trees, including apple, lime and dogwood. Its scientists found imidacloprid in nectar at concentrations of up to 4,000 parts per billion, a dose high enough to kill several bees at once. (Honeybees can withstand a dose of up to 185 ppb, the standard amount it would take to kill 50 percent of a test population.) What caught the attention of California agricultural officials was that the test trees contained the same amount of deadly imidacloprid as the citrus and almond groves regularly sprayed by farmers, and pollinated by bees. (California’s almond industry has increased its use of imidacloprid by a factor of 300 in the past five years.) Agricultural officials were also surprised to learn that the imidacloprid can persist in the leaves and blossoms of a plant for more than a year.

The Bayer results don’t surprise University of California at Davis professor Eric Mussen, a well-known entomologist and one of the country’s leading experts on colony collapse disorder. Mussen has seen a variety of unpublished studies with similar results, including one at U.C. Riverside that found imidacloprid in the nectar of a eucalyptus tree bloom at concentrations of 550 ppb a full year after it was applied.

“From some of the data on the trees, it appears as though there are situations where honeybees can get into truly toxic doses of the material,” says Mussen, who avoids spraying imidacloprid on his own demonstration fields at U.C. Davis. “This the first time that we’ve had something you put in a tree that could stay there for a long time.”

But Mussen isn’t convinced imidacloprid is a primary cause of the honeybee die-off. He explains that some bees settle on fields of sunflowers and canola treated with the chemical and then “fly right through to next year.” So imidacloprid is not the only story. “Could it be part of the story?” he asks. “I’m sure. I think any of the pesticides the bees bring back to the beehive is hurting the bees.”

Mussen adds that ongoing research into chronic exposure to insecticides will be crucial. It’s likely, he says, that exposure to even low doses acts like a one-two punch: It can weaken the bees until a parasite or pathogen moves in to finish them off.

As the EPA begins its pesticide studies this year, skeptics wonder whether the agency can conduct an unbiased review. Back in 2003, they point out, the EPA reported that clothianidin was “highly toxic to honeybees on an acute contact basis,” and suggested that chronic exposure could lead to effects on the larvae and reproductive effects on the queen. Although the EPA asked Bayer for further studies of its effects on honeybees, it nevertheless authorized the chemical for market.

“If the EPA had sufficient concern about harm to bees that they would insist on other studies, it seemed unwise to approve it anyway and ask for research after the fact,” says Aaron Colangelo, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The EPA’s job is to make a decision about whether a chemical is safe or not.”

Colangelo envisions a similar scenario in coming years. The EPA has announced it will review clothianidin and other chemicals in the same family, but not until 2012. In the meantime, there’s nothing stopping the agency from approving the insecticides for use on new crops based on existing policies. In the end, Colangelo has little confidence the federal agency will bring a hammer down on the agribusiness giant. The EPA, he explains, often keeps its test results confidential for proprietary reasons at a company’s request. As a consequence, it’s unclear where gaps or discrepancies occur until a company makes a disclosure similar to Bayer’s.

“They’re not making decisions about whether the pesticide can be put on the market based on impacts to bees, no matter how much evidence of harm there is,” Colangelo says. “The EPA will just approve it anyway and put a warning label on the product.”

Halting the sale of pesticides, though, would be no mean task. Over 120 countries use imidacloprid under the Bayer label on more than 140 crop varieties, as well as on termites, flea collars and home garden landscaping. And the product’s patent expired a few years ago, paving the way for it to be sold as a generic insecticide by dozens of smaller corporations. In California alone, imidacloprid is the central ingredient in 247 separate products sold by 50 different companies.

In a statement, the EPA says that before banning a pesticide, it “must find that an ‘imminent hazard’ exists. The federal courts have ruled that to make this finding, EPA must conclude, among other things, that there is a substantial likelihood that imminent, serious harm will be experienced from use of the pesticide.” The EPA did not clarify what is meant by “imminent hazard” and why the death of honeybees does not qualify.

As Mussen points out, though, a few million dead honeybees may be the cost of doing business. “If they didn’t register products that were toxic to honeybees, there wouldn’t be a lot of products on the market that were available for pest control.”

All the more reason to start taking the world’s most ubiquitous insecticide off the market and invent a safer one, argues Walker, of the National Honeybee Advisory Board. “It’s on every golf course, it’s on every lawn. It’s not just an agricultural product. There’s really not one part of our lives it’s not touching.”

Tuesday, May 05th, 2009 | Author:


Please contact your Senators and ask them to sign on to a letter by Senator Boxer in support of vital research on agricultural pollinators. Please read below for additional information. The deadline for Senators to sign on to this letter is Wednesday, May 6.

Find the contact information for your Senator’s office

Thank you,
Scott Hoffman Black
Executive Director, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

Providing funding for research into the causes and remedies of honey bee and native bee declines is a critical step in pollinator conservation.Infection of endothelial cells of the ventricle of the bee by N. cerana Please take a moment to call or write your Senator, let them know how important pollinators are, and ask them to 1) support this appropriation and 2) contact Senator Boxer’s office to sign on to this important letter.

Senator Boxer has written a letter requesting that the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee allocate $20 million in Fiscal Year 2010 for pollinator research projects as authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. These funds will increase the resilience and security of our farming systems by supporting vital research into Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in managed honeybees and to promote the health of honey bees and native pollinators through habitat conservation and best management practices.

As you may know, the 2008 Farm Bill includes language authorizing $100 million over five years to further our scientific understanding of the essential agricultural services pollinators provide our nation. The letter only seeks to fully fund critical provisions that were recently signed into law through legislative consensus.

Managed and native pollinators, such as honey bees, bumble bees, and other native bees, are needed for the production of over $18 billion (and possibly as much as $27 billion) per year in agricultural products in the U.S. These animals are required for 35 percent of the world’s crop production. Yet, total pollinator spending at USDA in the 2008 Fiscal Year accounted for merely 0.01 percent of the agency’s budget. Without pollinators, our current yields of alfalfa, almonds, apples, cherries, cranberries, blueberries, kiwifruit, strawberries, melons, squash, peppers, peaches, pears, plums, carrot, onion, and other seed crops, would not be possible.

Arising in 2006, the as yet unexplained phenomenon termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) diminished our nation’s already dwindling honey bee colonies, and highlighted our relative ignorance of the complex systems that support animal pollinated food production. It is vitally important to conduct research to better understand and solve this problem. Randy Oliver teaches beekeepers how to use microscope to find Nosema

Studies in other developed nations have well documented a diminished presence of honey bees and other vital pollinators in interdependent agricultural and ecological systems, but much information is lacking in the U.S. A major conclusion of a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2007 found that for most North American pollinator species, long-term population data are lacking and knowledge of their basic ecology is incomplete.

Funding for pollinator research will protect the health, future, safety, and sustainability of our nation’s most nutritional food crops. These funds will ensure that we base our sustainable future in agriculture on a more comprehensive understanding of the science that supports it.

Thank you for your help in this effort.

Read more about the 2008 Farm Bill Benefits to Crop Pollinators >>
Read more about the Xerces Society Agricultural Pollinator Conservation Program >>
Browse the Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation resources >>
Browse the Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation publications >>

The Xerces Society is an international, nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. For over three decades, the Society has been at the forefront of invertebrate conservation, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs.

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 | Author:


Honeybee colony collapse is a sanitary and ecological worldwide problem. The features of this syndrome are an unexplained disappearance of adult bees, a lack of brood attention, reduced colony strength, and heavy winter mortality without any previous evident pathological disturbances. To date there has not been a consensus about its origins. This report describes the clinical features of two professional bee-keepers affecting by this syndrome. Anamnesis, clinical examination and analyses support that the depopulation in both cases was due to the infection by Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia), an emerging pathogen of Apis mellifera. No other significant pathogens or pesticides (neonicotinoids) were detected and the bees had not been foraging in corn or sunflower crops. The treatment with fumagillin avoided the loss of surviving weak colonies. This is the first case report of honeybee colony collapse due to N. ceranae in professional apiaries in field conditions reported worldwide.

E-mail mhiges@jccm.es; Tel. (+34) 949 25 00 26; Fax (+34) 949 25 01 76.

MY NOTES: Some beekeepers don’t recommend using it, affects cold weather bees. http://www.beesource.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-225700.html

And there’s discussions about how to apply it: http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?p=42097o None the less, it should be noted for the record.

Plus, Dr. Eric Mussen, UC Davis, chimes in about it http://www.projectapism.org/content/view/13/27/

And, is Nosema locustae “the only protozoan registered as a pesticide active ingredient” and what research has been done with honey bees and Nosema locustae? “Nosema locustae is a naturally-occurring microbe that infects and kills grasshoppers and Mormon crickets when these pests ingest bait that contains Nosema


Fumagillin in Environmental Microbiology Reports

Monday, March 16th, 2009 | Author:

What does LD50 mean? What about TLV?

LD50 stands for Lethal Dose 50. It is the amount of a material that, when administered to a population of animals or insects at the stated level, will be lethal for 50% of the population tested. For example and LD50 of 0.015 ?g / bee means that 15 trillionths of a kilogram will kill 50% of the bees that are exposed. The LD50 is established during safety testing conducted during product development. (return to What Has Been Found)

TLV, or Threshold Limit Value, on the other hand, is an occupational exposure level frequently printed on the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) or label of a product. It is the maximum level to which a person can be safely exposed to that product when in use in accordance with the personnel protective equipment described on the label. The level is the amount believed a worker can be exposed day after day for a working lifetime without adverse health effects. The TLV does not relate to the amount that can be safely ingested as TLV values are typical inhalation or skin exposure related.

MORE GREAT DETAILS about CCD and pesticides: http://montcobee1.farming.officelive.com/CCDUpdate.aspx

Sunday, March 15th, 2009 | Author:
So interesting to see how the conversation about CCD has evolved in the press. This article is a keeper, full of instructive detail, copied here for posterity.- DNR

Mysterious Bee Deaths Strike Central Valley


By Steve Pastis

February 21, 2007 – San Joaquin Valley – A mysterious ailment is killing off bees in Tulare County and across the country. Given the name “Colony Collapse Disorder,” the new disease has wiped out bee colonies in 21 states so far.

The loss of bees in the Central Valley is expected to have a negative impact on crops such as avocados, cherries, plums, alfalfa seeds, pomegranates and kiwi. The bee shortage may hit almonds the hardest during the time of year when half of the country’s commercial bees are brought into the state to help launch what should become a $1.4 billion dollar harvest. Even more bees will be needed over the next few years as California almond production is expected to expand to more than 750,000 acres by the year 2010.

“I’ve lost over 2,000 bees over the last two months,” said David Bradshaw, owner of Bradshaw Honey Farms in Visalia. He had about 4,200 bees but is now down to less than 2,000.

Recently, he was visited by research teams from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Montana. The teams took samples to study and dissect more…

Friday, March 13th, 2009 | Author:

UPDATE 3/14/09 – The Greenwich Post newspaper reported in 2008 that McNitt’s honey testing “found no trace of another insecticide called Imidacloprid“… Jim McNitt commented on my first post, however, that Eliza just won again this year two top Life Science prizes at the 2009 Connecticut Science Fair for her continued research on pesticides in honey (read his blog). Most notably, he writes that she in fact did find imidacloprid in her testing. “This year, Eliza used HPLC to examine pollen, beeswax,Eliza McNitt 2009 Photo by Frank LaBanca beebread and dead bees gathered from the Arboretum hive for traces of imidacloprid… Her work confirmed the presence of high levels of imidacloprid both in the hive and on the extremities of the Arboretum honey bees.” So, what’s the story behind the story, here? Why did the newspaper report the contrary? Did last year’s research methods differ from this year’s? Was there a sudden spike in imidacloprid usage near the Arboretum study location in the past year? Stamford, CT is a place of wealth and immaculate lawns. It would be nice to see a survey of the gardeners and home owners about what products they put on the lawns. Do they use any of those recently banned in Canada? Would the local garden supply shops provide stats on sales of certain products for local research purposes? Mr. McNitt says’s he’ll send me the link to her research PDF for us to post here. I can’t wait. Thanks for keeping us posted. [his response and link is here : McNitt 2008 Research.pdf] (Photo by Frank LaBanca)

  • What are the possibilities of other high school students around the country sending samples to Greenwich High School Paperfor testing?
  • Could there be a continuing research program set up there?
  • What are the costs to the school for conducting the tests?
  • Is it complicated to test using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) technology?

Looks to me like future students at Greenwich High could expand on McNitt’s research and follow in her award-winning footsteps. They have a great research location, ability to survey properties within a 4 mile radius of the hives and perhaps even discover and map the places where the bees are picking up imidacloprid, down to the product name. The next test in the Greenwich High School CCD Research Program should be of the water supply, an often overlooked source of contamination – bees drink water and use it to cool the hive! Science teacher Andy Bramante may need some TA’s, too. ;) – DNR

Jim McNitt Website Screenshot



3/13/09 – Just yesterday I posted some 2008 news about this young woman, and today I see she’s more scientist researcher than film maker! If there’s any high school that would have its own advanced Spectroscopy and Chromatography technology, it would be Greenwich High School. Lucky girl. I’m waiting for Eliza to send me the link to her research (use comment)… Congratulations! You deserve a full ride to college. (Stick with the hard sciences ;) ) -DNR

Mar 12, 2008
Greenwich High student wins science competition


Eliza McNitt, a Greenwich High School junior, captured top honors at the 45th Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium for an original research project that traced the migration of pesticides through the production of southwestern Connecticut honey.

In addition to a $1,000 scholarship and letter of recognition from Gov. M. Jodi Rell, McNitt will represent Connecticut at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at Orlando, FL, in May. The symposium program is sponsored by the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force in an effort to encourage original scientific research at the high school level. Courtney Fogwell, a GHS senior, was selected as a National Symposium alternate for her project analyzing the environmental impact of artificial-turf playing fields.

Eliza and Courtney were among 13 state finalists who made oral presentations before an audience of more than 300 fellow science students, parents, teachers, and jurors at the University of Connecticut in Storrs on March 10. Both students were mentored by GHS science teacher Andrew Bramante.

“While extensive work has been done on the presence of residual insecticides on fruits and vegetables, there has been little significant scientific research on residual pesticides in honey,” Mr. Bramante said in a release. “Eliza came to me with her project on the first day of class. I almost fell off my stool when I heard it.”

Eliza says that the topic was indirectly inspired by her grandfather, a chemical engineer, who is fastidious about washing and peeling fresh produce.

“If there are insecticides on an apple,” Eliza said. “It made me wonder if they could also be present in honey.”

She found an ideal controlled research environment at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, Bartlett Arboretum Mapwhich maintains an apiary in the middle of its 30 acre property. James Kaechele, arboretum education director and beekeeping specialist Andrew Cote´ made honey samples available along with detailed records of pesticide applications.

Eliza tested the arboretum honey using advanced Spectroscopy and Chromatography technology that had been donated to the GHS science program.

“I was incredibly fortunate to able to perform my own analysis,” she says. “GHS has equipment that you can’t even find in most colleges.”

Her tests revealed the presence of a component of the pesticide Neem Oil — which is widely used in organic farming. Neem Oil is made from the fruits and seeds of Neem, an evergreen tree common in India, and is not thought to be harmful to mammals, birds or bees.

The fact that Eliza found no trace of another insecticide called Imidacloprid may have implications in the search for a cause of the mysterious syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in which worker bees abruptly disappear. CCD is considered a serious threat to the pollination of food crops in the United States and Europe.

“Imidacloprid is under investigation as a contributing factor in CCD,” she said. “The fact that it is not present in the Arboretum honey could suggest that it is killing or disorienting worker bees so they cannot return to the hive.”

The topic will be something she’ll tackle in her next GHS science project. [see McNitt's followup here]

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 | Author:

My recent visions include creating a Live Hive ™. A Live Hive ™ is a high-tech monitored beehive complete with internal, infra-red micro video cameras, chip-tagged bees, microphones to monitor hive audio, external camera to monitor comings and goings, temperature sensors, solar panel – all data fed live to schools around the world via the Internet – LIVE 24hrs. It’s a Real World Beehive Show. We need our young to observe bees, for the sake of their own survival. We can now computer-record thousands of hours of high quality audio without a problem, enabling us to observe the change in frequencies within the hive, which I believe is key to understanding honeybee health and intention. (UPDATE: oops… This cool hive webcam seems to have had my idea already!) Here’s a cool example technology below (not German).

Beehive Temperature Data Logger

Furthermore, undergraduate UNC student, Andrew Pierce, et al found that the queen doesn’t decide hive actions herself, but rather “older workers gave signals to the queen and to the rest of the colony that it was time to swarm and leave the hive. Later, they were able to observe inside the swarm itself and see workers give the queen a signal, known as ‘piping’ that tells her to fly.” (read: University of North Carolina at Charlotte) How did they do this?

Today I discovered a gem of an article published four years ago in Der Spiegel magazine from Germany (below) that lifts my hopes that my Live Hive ™ concept will become reality sooner.

In an experiment that’s the first of its kind worldwide, they are creating precise movement profiles for their winged subjects. To this end, tiny transponders have been attached to the backs of thousands of bees. Each radio chip costs one euro and is attached to the bee with a dab of shellac. The chip weighs only 2.4 milligrams, about one-thirtieth of the maximum load a bee can carry, and therefore doesn’t present much of a impediment to the insect.”

The gear exists on the consumer market, we just need to buy the parts off the shelf and deploy the Live Hive ™ in concert with thousands of observing students of all ages to give researchers feedback and notes to accelerate our open knowledge. Google’s computer array should be suitable drive space. Wikipedia that! Pollinatethis!

Finally, Richard C. Hoagland unearthed an interesting nugget about hive sounds in a beekeeper’s recording of a hive noise he heard twice, last back in 2006 – Hoagland played the sound on Art Bell’s radio show (part 9) during a show about Colony Collapse Disorder (along with a bunch more about torsion field energy, and theories that bees build “small cell” comb for the sake of frequency resonance improvement at smaller, natural sizes than with larger, human-prompted foundation size cells… He mentions nothing about mite survival rates in large vs small cell… I appreciated Bell’s critical interviewing.) Sort of funny to hear this guy Hoagland reading from BWrangler’s website on Art Bell’s radio show. Need to learn more about torsion field physics and hexagons. Dr. Adrian Wenner’s work on bee communication is noteworthy for this project, too… Has someone already created the Live Hive? Who wants to fund it for me?


Big Brother in the Beehive

By Hilmar Schmundt

Bees become increasingly intelligent as they age. They suffer from occupational diseases and travel astronomical distances to produce a jar of honey. Using state-of-the-art monitoring technology, researchers from the German city of Würzburg are revolutionizing our image of mankind’s third most-important working animal.

A snowstorm is raging outside the beehive. Inside, number 6085 is making herself comfortable at a cozy 25° Celsius (77° Fahrenheit) and with an extra serving of sweet nectar.

6085 is a sprightly senior who spends her summers working outside. But for now she is a homebody, spending her time in a world almost entirely of her own making. Her fellow bees expend almost half of their energy making sure their hive is cozy and warm in the winter and pleasantly cool in the summer. The community strictly monitors family planning and carefully controls the intelligence of its offspring. 6085 lives largely sheltered from natural calamities that plague other creatures. Hunger and infirmity are a problem that haven’t plagued bees for over a million years.

“These living conditions sound like something out of a science fiction novel,” says neurobiologist Jürgen Tautz. The white-haired, 55-year-old sits in his office on the second floor of a converted house on the edge of an orchard within sight of the University of Würzburg campus. To convince his skeptical audience that number 6085 truly exists, he proposes an expedition into the exotic world of the bees. Tautz walks down a flight of stairs into his laboratory, where three experimental Plexiglas beehives have been constructed. The beehives even have names, written on paper labels — “Maja,” “Willi” and “Flip.” About a thousand honey bees are crowded into each beehive, including the worker bee identified as number 6085. The Plexiglas window to the hive is warm to the touch, especially near its center, where the royal household crowds around the queen with her long abdomen, making sure she is kept warm, well-fed and clean.

“Bees have achieved many of the things that remain the stuff of dreams for humans,” says Tautz, bright-eyed and speaking with a hint of a local dialect. “We can learn a great deal from them.”

Old bees are the smart ones

A tiny microchip enables scientists to track the habits of bees.

CREDIT: DDP / Fiola Bock / Beegroup Wuerzburg

CAPTION: A tiny microchip enables scientists to track the habits of bees.

The members of his 20-member research team routinely astonish the professional world with their articles in such highly-regarded professional journals as Science, Nature and Zoology. Peter Fluri, the director of the Swiss Center for Bee Research in Bern, is impressed by Tautz’s work. “The results coming out of Würzburg are remarkable,” he says, “and their significance extends well beyond the world of bee biology.”The “Beegroup” laboratory routinely dismantles theories previously regarded as scientific certainty. Until recently, for example, zoologists believed that during the famous tail dance, only those bees directly surrounding the ceremony are quickly informed about a source of nectar. However, the Würzburg researchers discovered that the dance is in fact a refined form of more…

Monday, March 09th, 2009 | Author:

This blog gets a fair amount of traffic, and this commentary on “colony collapse disorder” from a well-known pollination broker in California deserves attention. Also interesting is to read what he had to say about the idea of “beekeepers receiving government subsidies” almost 10 years ago in 1999. This topic is current again in the news.




Joe Traynor

The following is distilled from the reams of disparate dispatches from the CCD front. I have tried to condense this mass of information into a coherent whole. None of what follows is original — all has been expressed in one form or another by others.

When CCD first came on the stage in 2006-2007, a number of possible causes entered the stage at, or close to, the same time:

Drought in many areas
Difficulty in controlling varroa mites
Nosema ceranae (believed to be widespread since at least 2006)
Decreased bee pasture + increased corn acreage
Chemical buildup in comb
Neonicotinoid pesticides

A good argument can be made for any one of these as the main, or sole cause of CCD; a better argument for a combination of two or more. If only one of the above had occurred, it would have been much simpler to either designate or eliminate it as the cause of CCD.

Based on field reports, CCD can devastate a given apiary in a short period of time, sweeping from one end to the other, leaving previously populous colonies with only a handful of bees and a queen. Since rapid decline of an organism (consider, as many have, a honey bee colony to be an individual organism) is typical of a pathogen, current thinking is that a pathogen, either N. ceranae or a virus (or a combination of both) is the basic cause of CCD.

If a virus causes CCD, is it a new “super” virus, or one of the known bee viruses – Kashmir, DWV, APV et al. — or perhaps a mutation of a known virus to a more virulent form? We don’t know, but assuming that a virus causes CCD allows us to speculate on remedial measures.

Consider other CCD-like problems in humans and plants:

Main Vector
W.Nile virus

In each of the above instances, the Target can withstand the Vector in the absence of the Pathogen – mosquitoes are a minor concern to us if they don’t harbor a pathogen; without a READ THE REST…