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Bee decline linked to falling biodiversity

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Somerford 

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Hi all - this is on the BBC website today. Interesting stuff !


Bee decline linked to falling biodiversity
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website



Before and after: entire colonies of bees have collapsed in the US
The decline of honeybees seen in many countries may be caused by reduced plant diversity, research suggests.

Bees fed pollen from a range of plants showed signs of having a healthier immune system than those eating pollen from a single type, scientists found.

Writing in the journal Biology Letters, the French team says that bees need a fully functional immune system in order to sterilise food for the colony.

Other research has shown that bees and wild flowers are declining in step.

Two years ago, scientists in the UK and The Netherlands reported that the diversity of bees and other insects was falling alongside the diversity of plants they fed on and pollinated.

Now, Cedric Alaux and colleagues from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Avignon have traced a possible link between the diversity of bee diets and the strength of their immune systems.

"We found that bees fed with a mix of five different pollens had higher levels of glucose oxidase compared to bees fed with pollen from one single type of flower, even if that single flower had a higher protein content," he told BBC News.

You've now got large areas of monoculture; and that's been a fairly major change in what pollinating insects can forage for

David Aston
British Beekeepers' Association
Bees make glucose oxidase (GOX) to preserve honey and food for larvae against infestation by microbes - which protects the hive against disease.

"So that would mean they have better antiseptic protection compared to other bees, and so would be more resistant to pathogen invasion," said Dr Alaux.

Bees fed the five-pollen diet also produced more fat than those eating only a single variety - again possibly indicating a more robust immune system, as the insects make anti-microbial chemicals in their fat bodies.

Other new research, from the University of Reading, suggests that bee numbers are falling twice as fast in the UK as in the rest of Europe.

Forage fall

With the commercial value of bees' pollination estimated at £200m per year in the UK and $14bn in the US, governments have recently started investing resources in finding out what is behind the decline.

In various countries it has been blamed on diseases such as Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), infestation with varroa mite, pesticide use, loss of genetic diversity among commercial bee populations, and the changing climate.


Varroa mite infestation could be made worse by lower bee immunity
The most spectacular losses have been seen in the US where entire colonies have been wiped out, leading to the term colony collapse disorder.

However, the exact cause has remained elusive.

A possible conclusion of the new research is that the insects need to eat a variety of proteins in order to synthesise their various chemical defences; without their varied diet, they are more open to disease.

David Aston, who chairs the British Beekeepers' Association technical committee, described the finding as "very interesting" - particularly as the diversity of food available to UK bees has declined.

"If you think about the amount of habitat destruction, the loss of biodiversity, that sort of thing, and the expansion of crops like oilseed rape, you've now got large areas of monoculture; and that's been a fairly major change in what pollinating insects can forage for."

As a consequence, he said, bees often do better in urban areas than in the countryside, because city parks and gardens contain a higher diversity of plant life.

Diverse message

While cautioning that laboratory research alone cannot prove the case, Dr Alaux said the finding tied in well with what is happening in the US.

There, collapse has been seen in hives that are transported around the country to pollinate commercially important crops.




Biodiversity near 'point of no return'
"They move them for example to [a plantation of] almond trees, and there's just one pollen," he said.

"So it might be possible that the immune system is weakened... compared to wild bees that are much more diverse in what they eat."

In the US, the problem may have been compounded by loss of genetic diversity among the bees themselves.

In the UK, where farmers are already rewarded financially for implementing wildlife-friendly measures, Dr Aston thinks there is some scope for turning the trend and giving some diversity back to the foraging bees.

"I'd like to see much greater awareness among land managers such as farmers about managing hedgerows in a more sympathetic way - hedgerows are a resource that's much neglected," he said.

"That makes landscapes much more attractive as well, so it's a win-win situation."

The French government has just announced a project to sow nectar-bearing flowers by roadsides in an attempt to stem honeybee decline.

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THOUGHTS...

I wonder if OSR is good for our bees after all ???
What can we as small scale beekeepers do to stem the problem ??

ideas ?

regards

S
 

plumber 

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the goverment ran a campian for humans to eat 5 a day

they should they encorage bees to do the same more diversit in diet

if not

gorilla gardening springs to mind if the goverment will not.

H P time for a new vid

what plants and how to deliver to site, road edges, river banks, foot paths?

any idea on seed stockists
 

thurrock bees 

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a very interesting read, if you were to feed humans on one food type, i.e. bread how long before we kill over?, i can see where the link is, prople concreteing over gardens, buy and plant exortic plants not native plants,etc..

Ideas? well i can only think of one that we could do now, plant, sow seeds from native plants, meadow plants, wildlife mixies??
can anyone think of anything else??:grouphug:

thanks for the interesting read:nature-smiley-005::cheers2:

TB
 

VEG 

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Whilst on holiday in France last year I noticed that most farmed fields had wild flowers growing around the perimiter of the crops. Great idea that could easily be implemented in this country.:cheers2:
 

Chris B 

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Journalists eh?

A thorough scan of the Reading report indicates that honeybee numbers are very closely correlated to beekeeper numbers, and that continues to be true in spite of worrying winter losses.

The journalists wording implies that British bees are currently declining twice as fast as the rest of Europe. In reality the Reading report states that the over the last 40 years beekeeper numbers and hence managed bee colonies in Britain have reduced by 53%, twice the European average.

Why do journalists do that?
 

Hivemaker. 

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Whilst on holiday in France last year I noticed that most farmed fields had wild flowers growing around the perimiter of the crops. Great idea that could easily be implemented in this country.:cheers2:
Think it already is implemented,well at least it is on the arable farms that we take bee's to,wide hedges,and very wide margins left around all the fields for wild flowers to grow.
And not allowed to plough them up.
 
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admin 

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Any idea if it comes under stewardship payments to farmers Hivermaker?
 

Hivemaker. 

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I have no idea what it comes under,but the rules appear to be quite strict as to what they can and can't do with these wide margins,and the farmers are paid for leaving them.
 

darrenperrett 

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It`s part of the cross compliance for the single farm payment. 2m buffer zones from hedges and ditches if the field is over 2 hectares.
 

oliver90owner 

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While a good idea and a move in the right direction one must remember that compared to just 40 years ago there are: how many fields now? Don't know, but the figure is a LOT less. Some fields are now perhaps 5 times bigger than the largest field that was there before combination or several. That is a lot of hedgerows - and a lot more monoculture.

Yes, farmers get extra for including extras and I believe plant diversity along the margins was one facet of the system of payment. Joined up margins was another (not so important for bees but more so for spread of smaller mammals etc.

Regards, RAB
 

Hivemaker. 

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The margins around these fields which we move bee's to are much wider than 2m.......more like 5 or 6m.Not much arable land round here,mostly hill farming, still small fields,steep land,woodland,moorland,nothing changed much over the years,also quite a lot of the land is national trust,which is within a national park,so can't see anything ever changing to any great extent,well regards ripping out hedges ect.
Looking out the window at the moment the fields are alive with lapwings,curlews and fieldfare among other species of birds,must be something good for them to eat still.
 
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