Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Urban Buzz: A New Bee That Sips Sweat Native Insects Getting Closer Look; Humans as 'Salt Lick' By ROBERT LEE HOTZ NEW YORK—A new bee is buzzing in Brooklyn: The tiny insect, the size of a sesame seed, sips the sweet nectar of the city—sweat. "They use humans as a salt lick," said entomologist John Ascher, who netted the first known specimen of the species in 2010 while strolling in Brooklyn's Prospect Park near his home. "They land on your arm and lap up the sweat." North America is home to thousands of species of native bees. But they have long been overshadowed by imported honeybees, prized for their honey and beeswax since the time of the Pharaohs and a mainstay of commercial agriculture. Now, native bees are generating serious buzz. New York City is a hive of activity and one of the most diverse cities in the world. It's also host to hundreds of bee species, including one newly discovered specimen that lives on human sweat. WSJ's Lee Hotz reports. For Mr. Ascher, 41 years old, nothing quite brightens the day like a new box of unidentified bees landing on his desk from some distant glade. So puzzling was the greenish-blue city bee he netted, though, that it took Mr. Ascher, who oversees a digital catalog of 700,000 bee specimens at the American Museum of Natural History, months to pinpoint its proper place in the insect kingdom. In the end, only DNA testing by sweat bee specialist Jason Gibbs at Cornell University could identify its niche. Last November, they announced the discovery of Lasioglossum gotham, in a peer-reviewed journal called Zootaxa. The newbie joined the growing catalog of easily overlooked wild native bees. Sweat bees don't have a high profile outside academic circles. Unlike honeybees, which were originally imported from Europe, native bees don't make much honey. To their credit, though, sweat bees rarely sting; their occasional pinprick registers a one on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, the lowest on the four-point scale. (Bullet ants and the tarantula hawk wasp rate a four.) Photos: Sweat Bee Generates Buzz Jason Gibbs/Cornell University A new species of sweat bee, Lasioglossum gotham, was discovered in the Brooklyn borough of New York in 2010, joining the growing catalog of easily overlooked wild native bees. Shown, a Lasioglossum gotham specimen. More photos and interactive graphics These bees prefer sweaty people—over most animals—because the human diet usually is so salty that their perspiration is saturated with the essential nutrient, experts said. Yet most people never notice when the tiny bees alight on a bare arm or leg. As it turns out, Mr. Ascher and his colleagues are discovering New York City is a hive of activity. By latest count, about 250 species of native bees are known to nest in sidewalk cracks, traffic median strips, parks, and high-rise balcony flower pots—more perhaps than any other major city in the world, several entomologists said. In Prospect Park alone, at least 90 species of native bees flit from flower to flower among the park's sun-dappled golden rod, dandelions and dogwood. "For certain species, the city is as good as or better than a natural area," Mr. Ascher said. Hovering around city parks and flower beds are masked bees, miner bees, mason bees, plasterer bees, cuckoo bees, leafcutter bees, horned bees, and at least 49 species of sweat bees. "We routinely see bees 30 stories up in window gardens," Mr. Ascher said. A local bumblebee has even been spotted on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Sweat bees often live unobtrusively. "You can have sweat bees nesting in your front yard and never know it," because they are so small and mild-mannered, said Cornell's Mr. Gibbs. "Hundreds can nest in a square meter of lawn." As an urban wilderness, New York City continues to surprise field biologists. Not so long ago, museum bug hunters discovered a new genus of centipedes—perhaps the world's smallest—under the fallen leaves in Central Park. In 2009, a new species of cockroach turned up in a West Side supermarket. Earlier this year, researchers at Rutgers University and the University of California identified a previously unknown species of leopard frog whose natural range centers on Yankee Stadium. The discovery of this new sweat bee species—which belongs to a large family of bee species that depend on human perspiration for salt to survive—highlights the importance of the thousands of native bee species in pollinating plants, flowers and fruits. Sweat bees aren't ready to swarm into the commercial workplace. But other native bees are gaining scientific attention at a time when honeybee hives are plagued by myriad problems that threaten their survival. Sweat Bee "We've neglected the native bees because the honey bee was so successful," said entomologist Anne Averill at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst who is conducting a $3.3 million federal study of native bees in 10 states. They hope to expand the role of native bees in agriculture. Not a single native plant in North or South America actually needs a honeybee to survive, so long as native bees thrive, museum and university entomologists said. Untended and largely unnoticed, native bees play a role in pollinating cash crops such as tomatoes, cranberries, alfalfa and squash. They are more prevalent among farmers' fields than previously believed, often more effective than honeybees as pollinators and more resistant to the problems that have decimated honeybees in the U.S. and Europe, several studies show. Unlike many honeybees, urban bees in the Northeastern U.S. have adapted to rising temperatures, which have caused spring—and the first bloom of flowers for pollination—to arrive about 10 days earlier in recent years, Rutgers University researchers said. It isn't easy keeping track of so many bees. Sweat bees encompass an unusually broad range of behaviors, but often differ from each other in almost imperceptible ways. All that distinguishes the Gotham sweat bee from its most closely related species is the pattern of bristles on its abdomen and a few links of DNA. They are so hard to tell apart that agriculture experts world-wide are hard-pressed to take stock of them all. "If there is a new bee species in New York, imagine the situation...somewhere in South America," said Mr. Ascher. "It is hard to effectively manage pollinators if they have not been named scientifically." At the American Museum of Natural History, Mr. Ascher and his colleagues scramble to keep up with requests to catalog unidentified bee species. Museum corridors are a honeycomb of bee boxes and specimen drawers packed with 450,000 preserved bees. Almost every day new native bee specimens arrive in the mail. "We are finding out these things at a fast pace," Mr. Ascher said. "I just got another box of bees and there was a new species in Queens." Write to Robert Lee Hotz at sciencejournal@wsj.com

Sunday, February 5, 2012



I couldn't wait until Tuesday's podcast, guys. A summary of the current status of San Onofre nuclear reactors in San Diego after last week's leaks, discovery of over 800 damaged pipes, and employee falling into the radioactive refueling pool. Featuring an interview with James Chambers, a licensed nuclear reactor operator and whistleblower from San Onofre, who offers his unique perspective on what these alarming developments might mean.

Libbe HaLevy
Communications and Creativity Expert
Heartistry Communications
The Heart of the Art of Communicating


The World's #1 Natural Health Website†

By Dr. Mercola

Bees have been dying off around the world for a decade now from a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. A third of the U.S. food supply depends on the honeybee
The collapse of bee colonies is probably multifactorial, rather than a response to one type of toxic assault; one major factor is the toxicity of systemic pesticides, such as Clothianidin (made by Bayer)
One Colorado beekeeper named Tom Theobald exposed the EPA’s complicity with Bayer in allowing Clothianidin to market without honeybee safety studies
An average of six different pesticides were found in hives across the country, with one hive testing positive for 31 different pesticides, in one recent study
More than 75 percent of the honey on American supermarket shelves is not honey at all, but rather an ultra-processed mixture of sugar-water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery, barley malt sweetener and other additives, smuggled in from China and tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals, such as lead

By Dr. Mercola

Bees have been dying off around the world for more than a decade now, a phenomenon that has been named "Colony Collapse Disorder," or CCD.

The U.S. and the U.K. both reported losing a third of their honeybees in 2010. Italy lost half.

The die-offs have spread to China and India, in addition to many other countries.

A third of the U.S. food supply requires the assistance of the honeybee.

The collapse of bee colonies is probably multifactorial, rather than a response to one type of toxic assault.

Although experts don't yet understand all of the underlying factors and how they interact to cause our pollinators to disappear, they agree about one thing: if we allow this to continue, our already-limited global food supply is at risk, which means more than 7 billion humans occupying this planet are at risk as well.

The common honeybee pollinates 130 different crops in the U.S. alone, including fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.

Without our bees, almonds, pumpkins, watermelons and other varieties of melon, and even vanilla, could completely disappear.

Haagen-Dazs donated $250,000 to research into bee colony collapse disorder because it says the honeybees are responsible for 24 of its 60 ice cream flavors, including strawberry, toasted pecan and banana split.

As usual, at the core of the problem is big industry, which is blinded by greed and enabled by a corrupt governmental system that permits the profit-driven sacrifice of our environment. Unfortunately, this motivation reflects an extreme shortsightedness about the long-term survival of the human race, as well as of our planet. Not only are commercial agricultural practices harming honeybee colonies, but your own health is being compromised by deceptive marketing practices about the "honey" you buy, some of which isn't really honey at all, despite what it says on the label.

Honey: Nectar of the Gods

Pure, natural, unfiltered raw honey has an abundance of medicinal and nutritional uses, including the following:

A bounty of nutrition, including enzymes, antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals Promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in your intestinal tract Good for your skin
Helps with occasional sleeplessness Promotes heart health by reducing homocysteine levels Tames allergies
Can help fight viruses, such as herpes, and bacteria, such as that present in chronic sinusitis Helps sooth a cough Helps prevent tooth decay

A special kind of honey that has healing benefits far exceeding that of ordinary honey is called Manuka honey. Manuka honey is made by bees that feed off the flowers of the Manuka bush, a medicinal plant native to New Zealand. Fake honey is unfortunately common in this era of food manipulation and control. Some Chinese brokers sell a mixture of sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery, barley malt sweetener or other additives, and label it "honey". A recent report by Food Safety News reveals just how often they get away with this trickery.

Is Your Honey Fake?

In a new report by Food Safety News, more than 75 percent of the honey on American supermarket shelves may be ultra-processed—to the point that all inherent medicinal properties are completely gone—and then smuggled into the country by the barrel drum. Nearly all of this fake honey is made in China. Some of these brokers will even create bogus country of origin papers. All 60 jars of "honey" tested by FSN came back negative for pollen (including Sue Bee and Winnie the Pooh brands), which is a clear sign of ultra-processing.

According to FSN:

"The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world's food safety agencies. The food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others have also ruled that without pollen, there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources."

Millions of pounds of honey that have been banned by the European Union are being smuggled into the U.S. from China. Much of this honey is tainted with illegal antibiotics, including chloramphenicol, which can cause DNA damage and cancer, and heavy metals like lead. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen IS NOT honey.

In their investigation, FSN discovered the following:

76 percent of honey samples bought at grocery stores (such as TOP Food, Safeway, QFC, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc.) were absent of pollen
77 percent of the honey from big box stores (like Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, and Target) were absent of pollen
100 percent of the honey sampled from drug stores (like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS Pharmacy) were absent of pollen

The good news is, all of the samples from farmers markets, co-ops, and natural stores like Trader Joe's had the full, proper compliment of pollen, as did organic brands from common grocery stores. But fake honey—the sorry substitute that it is—might be the ONLY thing even remotely resembling honey that you'll be able to get if we don't find a way to save our honeybees from total global collapse.

HUMANS are Causing the Demise of the Bees

Each year, commercial beekeepers have reported unprecedented losses. Steve Ellis, secretary of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board and a beekeeper for 35 years, had so many abnormal bee die-offs that he'll qualify for disaster relief from the USDA.

The main theories are the following:

Malnutrition of the bees due to destruction of their food supply, causing irreparable damage to their immune systems, which makes them more vulnerable to toxic exposures and pathogens, like viruses and fungi
Toxic pesticides, especially the newer systemic pesticides, insecticides, and genetically engineered crops, are a massive source of toxic exposure to the bees
Microwaves from cellular phones have been shown to cause CCD within 10 days, apparently by affecting the bees' communication with the hive and disrupting their navigational ability
Changing global climate, drought, and migratory stress brought about by moving bee colonies long distances to provide pollination services

The EPA claims that new systemic pesticides are safer for humans because farmers can use less of them. However, experiments show that agricultural chemicals that are safe for bees when used alone are lethal in combination. Farmers increasingly combine sprays. They also destroy nearly all flowering weeds, depriving bees of essential nutrients from different kinds of pollen.

Bee Very Afraid...

While much has been made over the "mystery" surrounding CCD, the problem began shortly after neurotoxic pesticides, which are known to be particularly toxic to honeybees, took over the global insecticide market. These relatively new pesticides are called neonicotinoids. Two prominent examples, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, are used as seed treatments in hundreds of crops.

Virtually all of today's genetically engineered Bt corn is treated with neonicotinoids. A Purdue University study found multiple sources of pesticide exposure for honeybees living near agricultural fields, including high levels of Clothianidin in agricultural machinery exhaust, in the soil of unplanted fields near those planted with Bt corn, and on dandelions growing in those fields. The chemicals were also found in dead bees near hive entrances and in pollen stored in the hives.

Bee colonies began disappearing in the U.S. shortly after EPA allowed these new, toxic insecticides to be used. Even the EPA itself admits that "pesticide poisoning" is a likely cause of the collapse of bee colonies.

These insecticides are highly toxic to bees because they are systemic, water soluble, and very pervasive. They get into the soil and groundwater where they can accumulate and remain for many years and present long-term toxicity to the hive. They enter the vascular system of the plant and are carried to all parts of it, as well as to the pollen and nectar.

These chemicals affect insects' central nervous systems in ways that are cumulative and irreversible. Even minute amounts can have profound effects over time. Foraging insects may become disoriented and unable to find their way back to the hive.

Jim Frazier from Penn State sampled hives from across the U.S. and found an average of six different pesticides in each hive, with one hive testing positive for 31 different pesticides, some of which are of the systemic varieties. Beekeepers everywhere are concerned for their own livelihood, in addition to being fearful of the broader implications of CCD. But one small Colorado beekeeper has served as a one-man sting operation in exposing the EPA's negligence on this issue.

Bee Aware from Greg Stanley on Vimeo.

Courageous Beekeeper Battles Negligent Regulators on Behalf of Bees

Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald became concerned about the effects systemic pesticides were having on his bee colonies. Theobald discovered that EPA allowed Bayer Crop Science, manufacturer of Clothianidin, to market its pesticide for public use without safety studies. Clothianidin has been used commercially for eight years now, with no good safety studies to back it up. Theobald uncovered the documents proving that Congress gave Bayer a thumbs-up to market their product while awaiting the results of a safety study, promised to be complete within 18 months.

And guess who conducts and funds honeybee studies?

The pesticide companies themselves… the fox is again guarding the henhouse. The EPA merely receives the report from the pesticide company, has its scientists make a recommendation, and then EPA administrators make a decision about product safety, supposedly based on good science. In this case, there is NO good science to be found—at least coming from Bayer.

The supposedly scientific research by Bayer proved to be woefully inadequate. Bayer performed the study on one 2.5-acre plot of land planted with canola seed. However, this is a mere fraction of the area foraged by a typical bee colony. In fact, the average area foraged by such a colony is 28,000 acres! Theobald called Bayer's study a "mockery of science" because it was nowhere near an accurate representation of the bees' natural habitat.

So, Theobald wrote an article for the July 2010 issue of Bee Culture, which created quite the buzz. The EPA changed their tone in response to his article, admitting the Bayer study was deficient. Nevertheless, they haven't pulled Clothianidin from the market. According to the Pesticide Action Network:

"Governments in Italy, Germany, France and elsewhere have already taken action against neonicotinoids to protect their pollinators. And beekeepers there are reporting recovery. Yet regulators in the U.S. remain paralyzed, apparently captive to industry-funded science and a regulatory framework that finds chemicals innocent until proven guilty."

No Simple Answers—Persistence is Key

Saving the honeybee will require much more than removing one or two pesticides from the market. It will require a complete change in the mindset and values of industry, and the regulators they hold captive. There is no force for change greater than that fueled by public outrage, so I encourage you to spread the word. Educate your friends, your family… your grocery bagger!

If the goal of pesticides is to increase food yield to more easily feed 7 billion human beings, this goal falls flat on its face if it leads to the collapse of our food chain.

As Tom Theobald says, we can eliminate this one product, maybe, but that won't solve the problem. In a year or two, there will just be another equally dangerous chemical, unless we can change the conditions that lead to the problem. And this means we must yell loud enough to awaken our government from its stupor.

Some folks are doing just that. Honeybee sanctuaries are springing up everywhere, as the award-winning documentary Queen of the Sun shows. Many city dwellers are becoming smalltime backyard beekeepers. If you are interested in supporting the cause, you can check out some of the following websites to guide you in how you can help.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Parasite Drives Honey Bees to Doomed Zombie Flight?

by Steve Williams
January 4, 2012
10:00 am

Parasitic flies that take over the bodies of honeybees may at last provide another clue into why honey bee colonies have been collapsing at an alarming rate.

Since 2007 hives across the US have been deserted by bees who have gone missing without an apparent cause, decimating colonies across the country. A combination of factors had been blamed for the decline in numbers, ranging from parasitic mites to the effects of pesticides.

However, new findings published in Plos One show a more gruesome threat to bee numbers: the discovery that honey bees may be falling prey to a paristic fly that causes the bees to fly around in the night before killing them, with the offspring of the fly eventually emerging from the remains of the honey bee.

From New Scientist:

John Hafernik of San Francisco State University in California and colleagues discovered that hosting Apocephalus borealis, a parasitic fly found throughout North America, makes bees fly around in a disoriented way at night, when they normally roost in the hive, before killing them.

Although unlikely to be the sole cause of colony collapse disorder, Hafernik thinks the parasitic fly discovery may help explain why bees quit their hives. “They seem to leave their hives in the middle of the night on what we call the ‘flight of the living dead’,” he says.

More from the study’s abstract:

Honey bee colonies are subject to numerous pathogens and parasites. Interaction among multiple pathogens and parasites is the proposed cause for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a syndrome characterized by worker bees abandoning their hive. Here we provide the first documentation that the phorid fly Apocephalus borealis, previously known to parasitize bumble bees, also infects and eventually kills honey bees and may pose an emerging threat to North American apiculture. Parasitized honey bees show hive abandonment behavior, leaving their hives at night and dying shortly thereafter. On average, seven days later up to 13 phorid larvae emerge from each dead bee and pupate away from the bee.

The parasitic flies have now been found at 77% of sites in the San Francisco Bay area and their presence has been detected in hives in South Dakota and California’s Central Valley.

The team will now investigate if the so-called “zombie” flights the bees have been forced to undertake are because the parasite affects the bee’s “clock” genes that govern when the bees are active. An alternative theory is that the bees may be ejected from the colony by other bees in order to save the hive from further infection.

As mentioned above, the parasite is unlikely to be the sole cause of declining honey bee numbers but this new finding may provide a clue that can eventually lead scientists to a solution on how to help honey bee populations recover.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/parasite-drives-honey-bees-to-doomed-zombie-flight.html#ixzz1idPvuIVm