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  • Not just pesticides…

    From the World of Bees 22 Jan.  Editor Fran Bach

    “A chemical that is thought to be safe and is, therefore, widely used on crops — such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits — to boost the performance of pesticides, makes honey bee larvae significantly more susceptible to a deadly virus, according to researchers at Penn State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “In the lab, we found that the commonly used organosilicone adjuvant, Sylgard 309, negatively impacts the health of honey bee larvae by increasing their susceptibility to a common bee pathogen, the Black Queen Cell Virus,” said Julia Fine, graduate student in entomology, Penn State. “These results mirror the symptoms observed in hives following almond pollination, when bees are exposed to organosilicone adjuvant residues in pollen, and viral pathogen prevalence is known to increase. In recent years, beekeepers have reported missing, dead and dying brood in their hives following almond pollination, and exposure to agrochemicals, like adjuvants, applied during bloom, has been suggested as a cause.”

    According to Chris Mullin, professor of entomology, Penn State, adjuvants in general greatly improve the efficacy of pesticides by enhancing their toxicities.

    “Organosilicone adjuvants are the most potent adjuvants available to growers,” he said. “Based on the California Department of Pesticide Regulation data for agrochemical applications to almonds, there has been increasing use of organosilicone adjuvants during crop blooming periods, when two-thirds of the U.S. honey bee colonies are present.” Fine noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies organosilicone adjuvants as biologically inert, meaning they do not cause a reaction in living things.

    “As a result,” she said, “there are no federally regulated restrictions on their use.”

    To conduct their study, the researchers reared honey bee larvae under controlled conditions in the laboratory. During the initial stages of larval development, they exposed the larvae to a low chronic dose of Sylgard 309 in their diets. They also exposed some of the larvae to viral pathogens in their diets on the first day of the experiment.

    “We found that bees exposed to the organosilicone adjuvant had higher levels of Black Queen Cell Virus,” said Fine. “Not only that, when they were exposed to the virus and the organosilicone adjuvant simultaneously, the effect on their mortality was synergistic rather than additive, meaning that the mortality was higher from the simultaneous application of adjuvant and virus than from exposure to either the organosilicone adjuvant or the viral pathogen alone, even if those two mortalities were added together,” said Fine. “This suggests that the adjuvant is enhancing the damaging effects of the virus.”

    The researchers also found that a particular gene involved in immunity — called 18-wheeler — had reduced expression in bees treated with the adjuvant and the virus, compared to bees in the control groups.

    “Taken together, these findings suggest that exposure to organosilicone adjuvants negatively influences immunity in honey bee larvae, resulting in enhanced pathogenicity and mortality,” said Fine.

    The results appeared Jan. 16 in Scientific Reports.

    Mullin noted that the team’s results suggest that recent honey bee declines in the United States may, in part, be due to the increased use of organosilicone adjuvants.

    “Billions of pounds of formulation and tank adjuvants, including organosilicone adjuvants, are released into U.S. environments each year, making them an important component of the chemical landscape to which bees are exposed,” he said. “We now know that at least Sylgard 309, when combined at a field-relevant concentration with Black Queen Cell Virus, causes synergistic mortality in honey bee larvae.”

    Read more…

     

  • Early August update

    Summer is well on the way now.  Summer mason bees are about, collecting pollen from various summer flowers like Oregano.  These bees are a lot smaller than spring mason bees, but are often the same blue-black colour.

    In July, I took all my nests down from various sites and have placed them inside net bags and under cover.  I opened one of the nests, and cocoons are fully developed.

    More recently I have been busy creating more video clips for a number of products, so that it is easy to see how the product works.  When they are on the web site, I will place the links on this blog.

    In the meantime, a lot of mason bee keepers have emailed me some great photo-stories.  I will be posting these over the next couple of weeks.

    Have a great summer! Margriet

    On the left is a photo of newly emerged  males.  On the right, note the paper wasp nest hanging on the inside of a Beediverse Royal house.  These wasps do not create a paper cover for their nests. This wasp nest never seems to get larger than about 50 individuals.  What a perfect place for a predatory wasp.  Food at their doorstep!  When you see them in your bee house- remove them.  Thank you for the photos Margaret.
  • Its late June 2012

    It is the 3rd week of June and Osmia lignaria the early spring mason bees, and of course Osmia californica have stopped flying.  They have left their offspring behind, and hopefully few parasites and predators will get to the developing larvae by next spring.

    I have received a lot of interesting emails with photos that I want to share with you.

    People are sending more detailed notes of their observations – all very interesting.

    I have had relatively good news from the majority of mason bee producers.  It seems there was enough reasonable good weather for good production along the west coast of NA.  Of course, raccoons, flickers and ants have taken their toll.  But overall, production will be adequate for replenishing their nests next year.

    People are trying out different types of nests, bee attractants and different ways of setting out bees and protecting them from the weather.

    I find this bee attractant very interesting although I have not heard whether it has been properly tested by scientists (as yet).

    Here in BC rain and cool weather has been a large part of June.  I am curious whether, there has been enough warmth for bee larvae to feed and develop into adult bees.  In the fall when I open nests and examine the contents, I will be looking for the proportion of pollen lumps.  If the percent pollen lumps is greater than  5%, it usually indicates  cold  and damp weather.  Bee larvae have died of starvation because they were too cold to feed.

  • Early April

    We have been busy shipping mason bee cocoons and mason bee homes to our customers.  There is always lots to do.  Over Easter we visited our family on the Sunshine Coast.  I was alerted to a store sign about Mason bees.  I drove to the Sunshine Coast Nursery and took a photo of their great sign.  The photos is slightly out of focus, but here is what it says

    MASON BEES ARE
    SUPER GOOD
    BRING THEM TO
    YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
    What a great sign to let people know that mason bees are being sold at this store.
     I hope everyone is enjoying our wonderful spring weather.  Margriet
  • Late January

    Ahhg… time flies when you are having fun!  I thought about the blog a lot over the past couple of weeks, but have had no chance to get it.  First a new flu bug got hold of me and that was no fun.  Soon after year-end  was a must.  But now things are moving along nicely and I have a bit more time for blogging.  I picked up some interesting stories and photos from friends over the last couple of weeks.  In the next bit, I will share them with you.  I hope you like them.  Margriet

  • Harvesting cocoons now

    I have not harvested my cocoons yet, but when I opened one for a photo op, I noticed the beginning of moisture condensing onto trays.  My trays are stored outside and under cover to keep them dry.  But under fall conditions, when moisture content in the air is high and temperatures go down, any water vapour in the air that is inside nesting tunnels condenses onto trays. This happens each fall, when there is lots of moisture in the air and temperatures start to drop. |Under these conditions, molds start growing onto the surfaces of cocoons.  |These molds do not harm the bees that are inside each cocoon, but moldy cocoons are a little more messy to clean.  

    For easier harvesting and cleaning, harvest cocoons before we get too far into the wet fall, this mold growth can be prevented.  If you find mold present wash cocoons in a 0.5% bleach bath.

    In other words, harvest your cocoons as soon as you can.

  • Spring is just around the corner in Vancouver!

    A few days ago on March 20th, I drove into Vancouver and Stanley Park to see if spring had arrived in the city. Trees still don’t have their leaves, but some bushes and flowering trees are out.  These flowering trees and bushes are critical for insects to survive the cooler early spring weather.
    At first sight, this is a very uninteresting side-walk,
    one that is purely functional.  This was the case
    until I drove by .  I had to have another look.
    On closer inspection, this hedge was a Pieris japonica hedge.
    The scent was awesome.  It seems that trimming the hedge
    stimulates more flower production.
    Pieris japonica, flowers in full bloom.
    A Vancouver residential street.  No leaves were visible on these trees.
    Blooming heather plants in a rockery.
    Blooming cherry blossoms.
    Stanley Park, Vancouver BC
    Stanley Park, Vancouver BC.  North shore mountains in background.

     

    Stanley park, Vancouver BC.  No leaves on these giants yet!
    Grass was green and crocuses were out.