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Bees Colonies Are Back and Better Than Ever - 26 August 2014

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Tuesday 26th August 2014.
Sarah Mikesell - TheCropSite Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell
Senior Editor



Bees Colonies Are Back and Better Than Ever

Greetings from near Boone, Iowa! Yes, last week I was in England and this week, I’m headed to the US Farm Progress Show. As many of you read this, I’ll be immersed in the show – seeing and hearing about the latest technology in the industry (and hopefully not immersed in rain which is forecast!)

I drove across Illinois and part of Iowa to get to the show and I have to say that the corn and beans just look awesome.

Some good news… EU bees are back and are reported to be in their best health in years. New field data from nearly 400,000 bee colonies from 21 countries in Europe and the Mediterranean show that overwintering losses of honey bee colonies – a leading indicator of general bee health – are at their lowest level in years.

The non-profit research association COLOSS (prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes), which comprises more than 360 scientific professionals from 60 countries, published the new data, indicating the overall mortality rate of bees in the 2013/2014 winter was nine per cent – in Europe, losses below 10 per cent are considered to be normal. This compares with losses between 30 and 34 per cent in the UK and Belgium during the 2012/2013 winter season.

The coordinator of the COLOSS Working Group, Dr Romée van der Zee from the Dutch Centre for Bee Research, said, “The contributions of many factors which are correlated to colony losses seem to be very dependent on weather conditions. Colonies built their brood nests late because of the relatively cold spring in 2013. This may have decreased the number of reproductive cycles of the parasitic Varroa mite, producing fewer mites. Good weather in the summer then provided excellent foraging opportunities.”

“These results are also very telling since the data relate to a season during which neonicotinoid-based crop protection products were in common use throughout Europe. This offers further evidence that these important components in a farmer’s toolbox do not impact bee health under real-life field conditions,” says Dr Christian Maus, Global Pollinator Safety Manager at Bayer CropScience.

Restrictions on neonicotinoids came into force in Europe in December 2013 as a result of the European Commission's concerns that this group of crop protection products, which is used to control pests that damage field crops such as corn and oilseed rape, might pose a risk to bees.

A group of international scientists led by Professor Charles Godfray and Professor Angela McLean, University of Oxford, analyzed the natural science evidence base relevant to neonicotinoid insecticides and insect pollinators. They concluded that "there is poor geographical correlation between neonicotinoid use and honeybee decline".

In Australia and New Zealand, the bee industry is also reported to be in good shape. A parliamentary report on bee health published by the Primary Production Committee in New Zealand in July confirms, “There is currently no evidence of the disorder [Colony Collapse] in New Zealand, although these pesticides [neonicotinoids] are commonly used here as a seed dressing and as foliar sprays. We heard that when anecdotal evidence of losses is investigated, the causes seem to be mainly Varroa or starvation rather than pesticides.” The report notes that honey production is rising. 

Have a great week!


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This Week's Articles and Analysis

Worker Bees 'Know' When to Invest in Reproductive Future
When a colony of honeybees grows to about 4,000 members, it triggers an important first stage in its reproductive cycle: the building of a special type of comb used for rearing male reproductive, called drones.

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