Danger of starving bee colonies

NBU Warning August 2015 (http://www.bee-craft.com/nbu-warning-august-2015/)

The following warning was issued by the National Bee Unit on 13 August 2015:

In many areas of the UK nectar flows have ceased and reports are coming in from Regional and Seasonal Bee Inspectors of starving bee colonies, where the beekeeper is not aware that the bees are severely short of food, or the colony(s) have already starved to death. It is also apparent that Wasps are becoming populous in many areas and they too are desperate for nutrition so Beekeepers should be mindful of the need to protect hives from Wasp invasion particularly where feeding is taking place in the apiary.

Colonies particularly at Risk are:

• Bee Colonies where supers of honey have been removed this season and no feeding has taken place.
• Splits / Artificial Swarms and Nucleus colonies made up this year.
• Swarms collected this year where little or no supplementary feeding has taken place.

Immediate action:

• Firstly – Check all colonies feed levels by ‘hefting the hive’ – Check the weight of the colony by lifting below the floor on both sides of the hive to see how much it weighs (Photograph attached – Hefting a Hive). Where the hive is light, liquid feed should be applied directly above the bees. Remove any supers from above the brood box which are empty or have few bees in them. This will help the bees get to the food quickly.
• Feed can be sugar and water mixed at 2:1 ratio or one of the proprietary ready mixed syrups available from Beekeeping Equipment Suppliers.
• Fondant can be used in an emergency if nothing else is available – but liquid feed will be more appropriate at this time of the season.
• Large starving colonies of bees will take 1 gallon (Approx 5 Litres) of syrup very quickly – smaller colonies ½ gallon (Approx 2.5 Litres) may be sufficient to keep them going, but after feeding heft hives again and check the weight – if in doubt feed some more in a few days time.

Further information and Guidance:

Further information on supplementary feeding can be found on Beebase – Best Practice Guideline Number 7 – ‘Emergency Feeding’


Common Types of Bumblebees

7 Common Types of Bumblebees

Pesticides: Neonicotinoid-laced Nectar

Bees ‘prefer’ neonicotinoid-laced nectar

Bees may be doomed to consume nectar contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides, according to new behavioural studies carried out by UK researchers. In contrast to previous research, behavioural studies suggested the insects do not avoid feeding on neonicotinoid-treated plants, and may even be choosing to do so, ingesting far higher amounts of the pesticides than most toxicity studies account for.

Systemic pesticides of the neonicotinoid family were once hailed as a green alternative, as the coating of seeds is more targeted than the blanket spraying of earlier products, and tests seemed to suggest that their acute toxicity to useful insects like bees is low. But since the emergence of ‘colony collapse disorder’ in 2006-07, researchers have revisited neonicotinoids, and uncovered evidence that they may be linked to declining bee populations. Several studies have shown that sub-lethal effects on insect brains can interfere with the insects’ ability to navigate and communicate, which are vital for the survival of colonies in the long term.

Bees may prefer to feed on nectar contaminated with neonicotinoids, so their exposure could be higher than previously assumed © Jon Carruthers

Two years ago, these concerns led to an EU ban on the use of certain neonicotinoids on flowering crops. The ban runs until December this year, and the European Commission will have to decide soon whether to renew it. A key argument of those who originally opposed the ban, including the UK government, was that bees in their natural environment would choose not to feed on the nectar from neonicotinoid-treated plants. This view was backed up by a UK study in 2013, but new research combining behavioural observations and neuroscience has cast doubt on this conclusion.

Food security catastrophe as honeybee numbers fall

UK faces food security catastrophe as honeybee numbers fall, scientists warn

Crop pollination via honeybees sinks to second lowest in Europe as study calls for greater protection of wild pollinators
A honeybee
Europe has 13 million less honeybee colonies than would be needed to properly pollinate all its crops, research shows. Photograph: Judi Bottoni/AP

The UK faces a food security catastrophe because of its very low numbers of honeybee colonies, which provide an essential service in pollinating many crops, scientists warned on Wednesday.

New research reveals that honeybees provide just a quarter of the pollination needed in the UK, the second lowest level among 41 European countries. Furthermore, the controversial rise of biofuels in Europe is driving up the need for pollination five times faster than the rise in honeybee numbers. The research suggests an increasing reliance on wild pollinators, such as bumblebees and hoverflies, whose diversity is in decline.

“We face a catastrophe in future years unless we act now,” said Professor Simon Potts, at the University of Reading, who led the research. “Wild pollinators need greater protection. They are the unsung heroes of the countryside, providing a critical link in the food chain for humans and doing work for free that would otherwise cost British farmers £1.8bn to replace.”

The study, published in the journal PLoS One, found that Europe has 13 million less managed honeybee colonies than would be needed to properly pollinate all its crops, equivalent to 7 billion individual bees. Across the continent, honeybees provided just two-thirds of the pollination but the situation in the UK was particularly stark, with only Moldova having a bigger bee deficit. Many major agricultural nations, including France, Italy and Germany, had too few honeybees to provide all the pollination services.

Potts warned that an increasing reliance on wild pollinators was particularly dangerous given that their health is not being monitored and that too little is being done to protect them. “We need a proper strategy across Europe to conserve wild bees and pollinators through habitat protection, agricultural policy and farming methods, or we risk big financial losses to the farming sector and a potential food security crisis,” he said.

The poor situation in the UK is partly due to a big decline in honeybees in recent decades. More recently, cereal crops that are wind-pollinated have increasingly been replaced by biofuel crops like oil seed rape which require insect pollination to give full yields. Elsewhere in Europe, biofuel demand has increased sunflower production, another crop that needs insect pollination. Overall, production of oil seed crops has risen by almost 20% from 2005-2010 in Europe. Biofuels produced from edible crops have already become controversial because of links to rises in food prices and suggestions that some are just as polluting as the fossil fuels they replace.

“The biofuel policy has gone through without anyone thinking about the impacts on pollination,” said Tom Breeze, another of the research team at Reading.

Over 75% of all food crops require pollination and concern has mounted in recent years about the role of pesticides, habitat loss and disease in declining honeybee numbers and suspected losses of wild pollinators. In December, a two-year ban began across the Europe Union on widely used insecticides that have been linked to serious harm in bees. The UK unsuccessfully opposed the ban, arguing there was insufficient evidence for it.

Kate Humble: Help the UK’s bees – in Bee Part Of It

Why bees have decreased – and how to help the bees

Watch this videoclip: http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/norfolk/hi/front_page/newsid_8683000/8683300.stm