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back to article US bumblebees in 'alarming' decline

US researchers have announced that numbers of four species of Stateside bumblebees have declined to the point of extinction, and have fingered a pathogen genus thought to be responsible for a similar collapse in honeybee populations worldwide as a contributory cause. A team led by Sydney Cameron of the University of Illinois …

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Title

Cameron concluded: "This is a wake-up call that bumblebee species are declining not only in Europe, not only in Asia, but also in North America."

A wake-up call that's a bit late! Colony Collapse Disorder has been common knowledge for the last four years (to my layman's knowledge) and Verroa mite is endemic in Europe.

I feel a similar wake-up call will be given about man-made global warming when the polar ice caps are the size of ice cubes.

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Anonymous Coward

As the last bees die out....

Human meet extinction.

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Unhappy

Must be that GM food striking back!

Wikileaks US diplo e-mails reviewed on Sunday highlighted the heavy handed techniques of the U.S. in pushing Franken seeds.

In fact a Filipino hustler, sponsored by the U.S.A., has just left the shores of Indochina after singing the (paid) praises of America's attempt to make all rice taste as bad as Texas rice. This guy was used as there is so much resentment of U.S. conglomerates trying to usurp local farming success stories.

Guess bee's don't like the taste of the chemical combinations. China has suffered too, but given the cost of farm labour, people laden with brushes and ladders are making out like bees quite successfully.

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That's nice.

Now prove this has anything to do with honeybees and quit that silly business of forming a plural with an apostrophe.

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I'd rather have GM than pesticides

The problem with pesticides is they end up covering more than the just the crop, target indescriminately and find their way easier into the water table. Imbedding the chemical into the crop ensures only organisms that feed on the crop are effected which reduces the collateral damage.

It is a real shame that the mere mention of the word 'genetic' leads to such wrong-headedness that these dangerous substances are still allowed to be sprayed all over our beautiful planet.

So what if the rice don't taste so nice - there are more important issues at stake.

And don't give me that hippy crap that 'well should we use neither of them' - with our current population and it's growth rate it simply isn't possible to grow enough food to feed every human being on the planet without some technological intervention. Ok we don't do a great job of doing that at the moment and we really could do without eating meat but in the real world we need a practical solution and not an idealogical one.

Every field study to date has shown that GM crops, if used properley, produce bigger, better yields. Considerate wildlife management in farming areas and more efficient farming techniques also help reduce the damage we do to the planet when growing food.

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Anonymous Coward

Pesticides are quite likely to be a relevant factor as well

There are a few indications that neonicotinoid-based pesticides are a factor (see http://www.grist.org/article/food-2010-12-10-leaked-documents-show-epa-allowed-bee-toxic-pesticide-?fbb=r8af72ae4&refid=0 and http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/06/pesticides-bee-decline-green-groups?CMP=twt_iph, for example), which have been used heavily in corn plantations. Whether you think that pressure may have been exerted by those associated with corn-syrup in the US to allow the use of a pesticide that would have directly harmful effects on business rivals depends on your affinity for tinfoil hats, but it's an interesting sort of a question to ask...

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Pesticides

There's more on this from Buglife:

http://www.buglife.org.uk/News/USleakreignitespesticidefears

The leaked EPA document that they cite makes interesting reading for those who possess the appropriate headgear.

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Black Helicopters

And where was Wikileaks on this?

Oh sure, they can post thousands of memos on the US Govt, but when it comes to a *real* conspiracy and terrorist act, they are strangely silent?

Do you think that its a coincidence that the Bees are dying? Of course not. Its an ingenious plot against the West to damage the food sources of the West.

Call me a nut case, but there was mention of plots against the west's food supply.

Assange is an anarchist and has known Anti-American sentiment. Maybe this attack worked too well and the CCD hit a larger target than anticipated. So how come he didn't release any documents on CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder )

So one has to ask... who's funding Wikileaks?

[Hint: Picture a shadowy figure saying ... 'Good bye Hans Brix... Oh so wronely, so wronley...']

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WTF?

No sense of humor?

Obviously too many of Assange's followers didn't see "Team America". Who could forget the gratuitous puppet sex and the bad North Korean accent of the Kim Il Jong puppet.

C'mon the bees issue by itself isn't IT. But tying it to Wikileaks makes it so.

FTITCTAJ

Really CCD is a very serious and bad thing. You could probably trace it back to the bee farmers who raise and breed bees for crop farmers. In breeding, over breeding even in bees can have side effects like being susceptible to CCD and then transfer it to 'wild' bees and their hives.

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IT Angle

Yawn

Bees have been evolving to resist parasites since before Max Bygraves was a lad (some time in the late mesozoic).

If bees can't do the job, the harvesting machines which drive among the trees can surely be adapted to puff each one with pollen.

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Nope

You're assuming that evolution has a desired goal here, namely that current levels of pollenization are going to continue. There's no reason to assume that.

Sure, bees have evolved in the past but maybe here they won't. Maybe trees will adapt, but maybe flowering plants will be massively reduced in numbers and as a consequence we will too. The planet as a whole would go on, no doubt, but that's not much consolation when you eat your last apple.

A 95% drop in fish stock is considered a complete collapse. So a 96% reduction in bees really isn't good.

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FAIL

Another title

"If bees can't do the job, the harvesting machines which drive among the trees can surely be adapted to puff each one with pollen."

Oh dear. It's good to see an obvious expert, like Mike Shepherd, commenting on this.

Tell me Mike. When harvesting - what are the machines supposed to "puff" pollen onto?

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Pollen

If you waste your time pollenating when harvesting, you'll soon learn where you're going wrong.

The machines are not dismantled after a harvest. They can be used at other times. The essential nature is that they can make their way among the crops.

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Are you mad...?

So you have an International Harvester tractor driving down a row of flowering plants vacuuming pollen off of the stamen of the source and and depositing it on the pistil of the target.

...Except that plants that pollinate through insect contact have heavier, stickier pollen than air-pollinating plants, so your vacuum will have to be strong enough to pick up the pollen (against its natural resistance to being picked up by breezes) without damaging it and deposit it without damaging the receptor.

...And do this on some number of flowers per plant, which implies either extended stops by every tomato vine in your south forty while your very expensive-to-run combine is crawling down the furrows, or multiple, remotely- or autonomously-aimed, arms doing the pollination without damaging any of your plants.

Somehow, I don't think that you quite have the simple solution that you think you do.

_______________________________

As to the possible outcome of insect die-offs, I recommend "Dust" by Charles Pellegrino (http://www.sfsite.com/05b/dust33.htm). Tag line: "Good news -- The bugs are gone. Bad news -- We're next!"

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Oh so that's what they're blaming it on?

I wonder if this ties in with some recent reports about Monsanto. Makes sense when considering the information currently available. Of course the government will want to blame it on some unrelated fungi, afterall if your wife was guilty of murder you'd try and protect her with a cover story, wouldn't you?

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... the government will want to blame it on ...

A study which benefited greatly through access to US Army resources did indeed "implicate co-infection by [Iridovirus] and Nosema with honey bee colony decline"

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0013181

The authors also claim that "a survey of bee samples from across the USA revealed traces of pesticides in many bee samples, but none were shown to correlate with CCD."

The survey referenced did note that, "Attempts to correlate global bee declines or CCD with increased pesticide exposures alone have not been successful to date." However it continued, "It seems to us that it is far too early to attempt to link or to dismiss pesticide impacts with CCD."

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0009754

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Shome mishtake shurely?

According to my reference books here, tomatoes are predominantly self-pollinated and don't rely on any form of bee, honey, bumble or otherwise.

For futher reference: http://gardening.wsu.edu/library/vege016/vege016.htm

Not saying the article is necessarily wrong but when one spots an obvious and easily avoided mistake, that doesn't exactly increase confidence in the rest of the article

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An obvious mistake?

It only takes a quick search to find that, "in crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and blue berries, bumble bees' pollination results in higher production as well as larger and higher quality fruits."

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&as_q=bees+pollination+tomato+commercial&as_epq=financial+benefit&as_oq=&as_eq=&tbs=&num=30&lr=&as_filetype=&ft=i&as_sitesearch=&as_qdr=all&as_rights=&as_occt=any&cr=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&safe=images

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Flame

Half a truth is worth even less

While tomatoes can self-pollinate, bumble bees greatly speed up the process-- the vibration of their wings helps disperse the pollen. My neighbor grew hot-house tomatoes for decades and always kept hives of bumble bees.

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Joke

To quote Homer Simpson.

Oh no, no bees! Now who will sting me and walk all over my sandwiches.

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Being contrary

I'm not science and consequently probably wrong, but I got the sense that there were more bumblebees around last year than there had been in a the previous few summers. I was concerned that I barely saw a honey-bee all summer, but bumblebees seemed unusually abundant.

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Evolution

The point about evolution is that in a natural state of things, the pathogen would arise in a certain area, killing colonies within a certain radius. It may spread beyond this area but at a limited rate. Those colonies on the edge of the infected zone may slowly develop resistance, those that do will survive and eventually take over.

Unfortunately modern industrialized farms use pollination contractors who transport their hives all over the land. This means the pathogen is spread very rapidly over the entire area and the colonies have no chance to develop resistance, or evolve.

Very sad state of affairs.

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MrT
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Terminator

No more bumblebees

Home run for the Decepticons, then... the Playmobil reconstruction has got to feature Optimus Prime weeping in the background.

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d

there's cause and effect issues too. Like perhaps the wider prevailance of a virus or mite is not a cause of the collapse, but an an effect of the bees being weaker - the cause being something else.

I am suprised that it's not more straight forward to identify the cause if it's happening in many different countries if they have different pesticides, genetically modified crops, etc. But I don't really know what I am talking about so I am ignorant guessing.

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Still dying, eh?

This has been going on for years (along with comments that wank about genetically-modified foods while failing to actually name any supporting research).

I hope the other species prove more resilient, and it's a good thing there are so many. If not, I guess we'll either succumb to famine or quit fussing and figure out how to accomplish the same task artificially, much as somebody already figured out how to maintain unnaturally high levels of productivity without exhausting the soil--and to all you greenies: sorry, guys, but having as much food as we do right now is already only sustainable with the aid of heavy machinery and a massive chemical industry, so get over it and enjoy your easily affordable anhydrous-ammonia-powered grain products like everybody else.

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You do realise

that when the bees die out, we die out

2012

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Probably not

Firstly, it is very unlikely that a pathogen will cause complete extinction of bees. Much more likely it's the bee equivalent of the Black Death. Some bee colonies will survive the infection. The epidemic will run its course and (newly resistant) wild bee populations will bounce back.

The situation with the honeybee is more worrying, because it's a domesticated insect. Its evolution has been guided by mankind for milennia, towards large colony size and docility. In the process, a lot of genetic diversity may have been lost. There's a similar risk with cows. There aren't any Aurochs left. The cow is extinct as a wild species.

Secondly in the nightmare scenario that I'm wrong, many crops don't depend on bees. Wheat, Rice, Maize, Sorghum are all (wind-pollinated) grasses. There are self-fertile varieties of many flowering crops, and I'm sure that we could breed more self-fertile varieties if there were an urgent need to do so. I'd expect humans and their crop plants to survive. (I'm not trying to downplay the consequences. It would be a mass extinction event for many flowering plants and every animal species that depended exclusively on those plants.)

Is there any evidence that the pathogen in question arose because of human activities, rather than by random mutation? If not, aren't we just looking at a natural chaotic process called evolution?

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Jobs Horns

Human......

Human - meet empty landscape.

Human - meet mass extinction.

I know - Monsanto can genetically engineer POLLEN - but only for their own GM plants.

The Rise of the Franken Food in the form of global serial monoculture.

Riddles of cancer anyone?

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