Researchers created a non-invasive tool to sample environmental contaminates in honeybee hives.
Bees are good bioindicators of environmental contamination because they get coated with everything in their surroundings, including pollutants. Because they have a wide flight range and sample from a range of spaces, they can pick up build-up from the air, water, ground and trees. They also spread the nectar they collect to other bees and throughout the hive.
Researchers have used honeybee hives to understand the environmental contamination in their area in the past, but the process was often harmful. It involved capturing bees and extracting whatever they had ingested or transported on the surface of their bodies. Sampling could also be done with pollen reserves, larvae and honey. Not only was this often very difficult and time-consuming, it also often disrupted the normal functioning of hives, according to a PHYS.ORG article.
Professor José Manuel Flores, from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cordoba, collaborated with researchers at the University of Almeria to put a new device into operation. APIStrip (Absorb Pesticide In-Hive Strip) is a non-invasive polystyrene strip that is placed in a hive and can absorb a variety of pesticides and other pollutants for testing. This device will allow researchers to continue to use honeybees as sample collectors and improve environmental health without jeopardizing the safety of honeybee colonies.
When the general public thinks about bees, one image comes to mind: the honeybee.
If UI Professor Emeritus Steve Hendrix’s presentation, titled “Wild Bees of Iowa: Hidden Diversity in the Service of Conservation” had a central message, it was that nearly 20,000 other bee species exist and provide often under-recognized ecosystem services.
Hendrix gave the presentation at 34th Bur Oak Land Trust Prairie Preview on Thursday night to a crowd of nearly 300. He said, “All plants need pollinators some of the time, and at least some plants need pollinators all of the time.” Indeed, pollinators provide 225 billion dollars in pollination services. While honeybees receive the majority of public praise, wild bees, which are often small, solitary creatures with short life spans, do 90 percent of the pollinating on U.S. farms. Additionally, according to Hendrix’s research findings, honeybees are less effective pollinators than wild bees.
While the number of bees in the U.S. is declining, one of Hendrix’s studies provided a glimmer of hope for bees in North America. Hendrix and his colleagues compared populations of bees on large prairies with those in smaller, urban gardens and parks. Surprisingly, regardless of the area of land the bees had to roam, there was no difference in bee diversity, species richness, or abundance. The main predictor for healthy bee populations was the presence of a extremely diverse plant life.
Hendrix rounded out his presentation with a look to the future for wild bees. He emphasized once more the importance of the insects, which are largely credited with providing food security for humans. He said, “There’s going to be changes in the distribution of bees.” Due to global warming, many bee species that were previously found in southern states are making their way to Iowa. Hendrix added, “The big bees are going to be the losers in this climate change world we’re living in…it’s going to be the rare bees that are affected most.” Hendrix said that there has been limited research about what this will mean for ecosystems and human health, but encouraged all those in the audience to continue fighting to conserve habitat for bees in Iowa.
Exhibits from more than 40 environmentally-focused and conservation organizations filled the foyer and ballroom. (Jenna Ladd/CGRER)
The Bur Oak Land Trust is a local non-profit that accepts land donations from landowners looking to permanently protect natural areas. (Jenna Ladd/CGRER)
Nearly 300 people attended the event on Thursday night at the Clarion Highlander hotel in Iowa City. (Jenna Ladd/CGRER)
Dick Schwab, long-time Iowa conservationist, introduces the keynote speaker, Dr. Hendrix. (Jenna Ladd/CGRER)
The event is hosted by the Bur Oak Land Trust, an Iowa City organization that accepts land donations from residents seeking to place natural areas into public conservation trusts. The Prairie Preview XXXIV will feature a presentation from University of Iowa professor emeritus Dr. Steve Hendrix. Hendrix’s presentation, titled “Wild Bees of Iowa: Hidden Diversity in the Service of Conservation” will discuss the economics and biology of pollinators, declines in honey bees and wild bee populations, the value of restoration for wild bees and the future of wild bees, among other topics. Hendrix will also provide basic information about wild bees that live in Iowa. His presentation will be based on his original research along with the work of others in the field.
Hendrix said his presentation “is important from the perspective of ecological services that wild bees provide. They are responsible for the successful reproduction of prairies and they provide the pollination needed for fruits and vegetables that keep us healthy.”
More than 40 environmental organizations and agencies will also be present at the Prairie Preview XXXIV sharing information and providing resources to attendees. The event is free, open to the public and will take place at the Clarion Highlander Hotel and Conference Center at 2525 N Dodge St, Iowa City, Iowa 52245 on March 9th, 2017. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event begins at 7:30 p.m.
This Prairie Preview, which usually attracts crowds of over 200 people, is sponsored by the Iowa Living Roadway Trust, Iowa Native Plant Society, City of Coralville, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Fiddlehead Gardens LLC, Forever Green, Friends of Hickory Hill Park, HBK Engineering, Legacy GreenBuilders, Project GREEN, Veenstra & Kimm, Inc., and Lon and Barbara Drake.
Glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup, was classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015. Following that declaration, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chemist Narong Chamkasem and University of Iowa chemist John Vargo began testing for residue in Iowa’s honey. Their research found Glyphosate levels in honey as high as 653 parts per billion (ppb), which is ten times the level of Glyphosate residue limit of 50 ppb in the European Union. Most of Iowa’s honey had between 23 ppb and 123 ppb of residue, whereas previous testing only found a maximum of 107 ppb Glyphosate in honey. The report stated, “According to recent reports, there has been a dramatic increase in the usage of these herbicides, which are of risk to both human health and the environment.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not yet established a tolerance for the weed killer in honey. In a statement, EPA said, “EPA is evaluating the necessity of establishing tolerances for inadvertent residues of pesticides in honey. EPA has examined the glyphosate residue levels found in honey and has determined that glyphosate residues at those levels do not raise a concern for consumers.”
The Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides filed a lawsuit against one of Iowa’s top honey producers, Sioux Honey Association Cooperative for the prevalence of Glyphosate in their products. The honey, called Sue Bee Honey is labeled as “pure,” “100% natural,” and “All natural.” Prosecutors contend that such language is false advertising given the amount of pesticide residue found in Sue Bee Honey during the FDA’s study.
Darren Cox, president of the American Honey Association, said, “It’s a chemical intrusion, a chemical trespass into our product.” He added, “We have really no way of controlling it. I don’t see an area for us to put our bees. We can’t put them in the middle of the desert. They need to be able to forage in ag areas. There are no ag areas free of this product.”
Jay Feldman is Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Sioux Honey Association Cooperative. He said, “Until U.S. regulatory agencies prohibit Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate from selling pesticides that end up in the food supply, we need to protect consumers by demanding truth and transparency in labeling.”
Dorchester County officials aerially sprayed a pesticide called naled early Sunday morning, resulting in the death of millions of honeybees and other pollinators. Due to concern regarding four travel-related cases of Zika reported in the county, the chemical was sprayed over 15 square miles in order to eradicate mosquitoes that may further spread the virus. Naled has been used in the United States for over 50 years but has a contested reputation nationwide. The pesticide was banned in the European Union in 2012 after it was deemed to have a “potential and unacceptable risk” to human health and the environment. Conversely, naled has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1959 and is sprayed over 16 million acres of U.S. land each year.
The scene painted by beekeeper Juanita Stanely was bleak. “On Saturday, it was total energy, millions of bees foraging, pollinating, making honey for winter,” she said in an interview with CNN on Monday, “Today, it stinks of death. Maggots and other insects are feeding on the honey and the baby bees who are still in the hives. It’s heartbreaking.”
Stanley, co-owner of Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply, said that she lost 46 hives and nearly 3 million bees on Sunday with no warning. She explained, “…when they sprayed by trucks; they told me in advance, and we talked about it so I could protect my bees. But nobody called me about the aerial spraying; nobody told me at all.” The pesticide application was the first aerial spray in the area in over 14 years. Dorchester County Administrator Jason Ward said that attempts were made to notify the public about the aerial spraying through an alert on its website posted two days before spraying. He added that county officials also reached out to beekeepers that were on the local mosquito control registry, but that one country employee failed to follow notification procedure.”He made a mistake in terms of going down his list, and failed to call,” Ward said.
Had she been warned, Stanley said that she would have told officials to do their spraying at night.” ‘Do it at night when bees are done foraging,’ I would have told them,” she said, tears filling her eyes, “But they sprayed at 8 a.m. Sunday, and all of my bees were out, doing their work by then.” Though county officials have publicly apologized, they maintain that the pesticide was used as directed. “We followed that recommendation,” said Ward, “which is also the policy laid out by the state, using a pesticide the state has approved for use.”
Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a bee researcher at the University of Maryland, said that there are ways to eradicate infected mosquitoes without killing invaluable pollinators. He said the issue reaches beyond honey bees, “If you’re killing honeybees, you’re killing a lot of other non-honeybee pollinators, too, and those populations could take a long time to recover.”
Iowa ranks third in the nation for the rate of honeybee dying off according to a report by researchers from 10 different institutions.
The report found 61.4 percent of honeybees in Iowa died between 2014 and 2015. Oklahoma led the nation with a 63.4 percent die-off rate while Illinois was in second at 62.4 percent. The research was a collaboration of the Bee Informed Partnership, the Apiary Inspectors of America, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The study received valid responses from 6,128 beekeepers who managed 398,247 colonies in October 2014. This accounts for just 14.5 percent of the country’s estimated 2.74 million managed honey bee colonies. Approximately two-thirds (67.2 percent) of respondents reported winter colony loss rates greater than the average rate of 18.7 percent.
“What we’re seeing with this bee problem is just a loud signal that there’s some bad things happening with our agro-ecosystems,” study co-author Keith Delaplane (University of Georgia) said in an interview with The Guardian. “We just happen to notice it with the honeybee because they are so easy to count.”
The results from this report are preliminary and the researchers expect these rates to fluctuate. A more detailed report is being prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal at a later date. Funding for the research was provided by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.