Nav: Home

Honeybees at risk from Zika pesticides

October 29, 2018

Up to 13% of US beekeepers are in danger of losing their colonies due to pesticides sprayed to contain the Zika virus, new research suggests.

Zika - which can cause severe brain defects in unborn children - is spread by mosquitoes, so the insects are being targeted in the southern US where Zika-carrying mosquito species live. The new research, by the University of Exeter and the University of California, Berkeley, was sparked by a 2016 media report on millions of honeybees killed by Zika spraying. Honeybees are not native to the US and most colonies are kept by beekeepers, who play a key role in agriculture by helping to pollinate crops.

By comparing data on bee densities with areas at risk from Zika, the researchers calculated the percentage of colonies that could be affected.

"A colony unexpectedly exposed to pesticide spraying for mosquitoes would almost certainly be wiped out," said Lewis Bartlett, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"Beekeepers in the US move their colonies around to support farmers, so a beekeeper with all their bees in one area at a given time could lose them all."

Mosquitoes are usually targeted for spraying in summer, when the insects are most active, but this is also the key time for honeybees.

Some states, such as Florida, have well-established mosquito control programmes and systems to limit the effects on unintended targets such as bees. But the researchers warn other states are less well prepared to organise measures such as warning beekeepers before spraying.

"At the start of this research we spoke to a beekeeper who was caught unawares and lost all her bees," Bartlett said.

"Beekeeping is a very traditional way of life in the US, with a lot of pride in families who have done it for generations, but many are struggling now.

"Given all the threats facing bees, even a small additional problem could become the straw that broke the camel's back.

"Many beekeepers live on the breadline, and if something like this changes things so beekeeping is no longer profitable, there will be huge knock-on effects on farming and food prices."

People in many countries are rightfully concerned about Zika, but Bartlett said research and preparation were essential before embarking on "expensive and environmentally dangerous" mosquito control measures.

The study found a positive correlation between honeybee colony density and areas with suitable conditions for Zika - raising the risk of bees being harmed by anti-Zika spraying.

These areas include Florida, the Gulf Coast and possibly the California Central Valley.

The researchers said their study was only possible thanks to data from the USDA and CDC, and regulations overseen by the EPA.

The study focussed on honeybees because being kept by beekeepers means there is more data on them than any other bee species.

Although the findings do not directly translate to other species, Bartlett said honeybees are resilient compared to most bees - so the situation for other species may be similar or even worse.
-end-
The paper, published in the Journal of Apicultural Research, is entitled: "Identifying regions of risk to honey bees from Zika vector control in the US."

University of Exeter

Related Bees Articles:

Quantifying objects: bees recognize that six is more than four
A new study at the University of Cologne proves that insects can perform basic numerical cognition tasks.
Prescribed burns benefit bees
Freshly burned longleaf pine forests have more than double the total number of bees and bee species than similar forests that have not burned in over 50 years, according to new research from North Carolina State University.
Insecticides are becoming more toxic to honey bees
Researchers discover that neonicotinoid seed treatments are driving a dramatic increase in insecticide toxicity in U.S. agricultural landscapes, despite evidence that these treatments have little to no benefit in many crops.
Neonicotinoids: Despite EU moratorium, bees still at risk
Since 2013, a European Union moratorium has restricted the application of three neonicotinoids to crops that attract bees because of the harmful effects they are deemed to have on these insects.
Bees 'surf' atop water
Ever see a bee stuck in a pool? He's surfing to escape.
How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.
Where are the bees? Tracking down which flowers they pollinate
Earlham Institute (EI), with the University of East Anglia (UEA), have developed a new method to rapidly identify the sources of bee pollen to understand which flowers are important for bees.
Pesticides deliver a one-two punch to honey bees
A new paper in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry reveals that adjuvants, chemicals commonly added to pesticides, amplify toxicity affecting mortality rates, flight intensity, colony intensity, and pupae development in honey bees.
Bees can count with just four nerve cells in their brains
Bees can solve seemingly clever counting tasks with very small numbers of nerve cells in their brains, according to researchers at Queen Mary University of London.
Trees for bees
Planting more hedgerows and trees could hold the key to helping UK bees thrive once again, a new study argues.
More Bees News and Bees Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.