Tag Archives: bees

Beepocalypse Myth Handbook: Dissecting claims of pollinator collapse

Bees are in decline.

Or so many environmentalists say , as for example Friends of the Earth with their bee campaign this year. There seems to be no lack of bees in my tiny garden (this photo is of half the front garden).

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Almost every time I go out in the garden there is a buzz of bees – and wasps and hoverflies. I could not do a bee count as there were far too many and they were flying all over the place. I admit to not having mastered the identification of the different bees visiting our garden. This along with all the other green scare stories makes be very sceptical about the decline of bees, and particularly the danger of neonicotinoids. (I simply don’t believe anything Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace say, as their knickers are usually smouldering!!) This article makes this clear, but from my observations, which are scarcely scientific, I can’t help wondering whether the replacement of gardens with hard-surfacing and the prevalence of mono-cultures in farming have not made things worse.

However, like most aspects of the environment there is no place for complacency, and appeals for planting more insect/bee-friendly plants should be heeded and acted on.

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After a decade of debate, the causes of the mid-2000s spike in bee deaths is coming into focus. Culprits are multifactorial, a rebuke of simplistic fingering of pesticides. Time for targeted solutions.

Source: Beepocalypse Myth Handbook: Dissecting claims of pollinator collapse

Myths and truths about bees: There is no dangerous recent decline in the global honey bee population and a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids are not fostering a global pollinator crisis.

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For years, environmental activists and the media have been warning of an impending “bee-pocalypse” in which a drastic fall in the honey bee population, which they claimed was already underway, would threaten bees with extinction and – because bees pollinate much of the food we eat – the word with starvation. The number one culprit in this extinction scenario is a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, for short.

In fact, the honey bee population did face a crisis in 2006, when honey bee queens began turning up dead in hives and the hive population dove. It is a phenomenon dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder. First GMOs and then later neonics were fingered as likely drivers of the bee deaths.

First identified in the U.S. in 2006, CCD is a still-mysterious phenomenon in which bees simply abandon the hive, often in the fall. But further research showed the CCD is a periodic phenomenon that dates back hundreds of years. Research shows that CCD under other names has repeatedly occurred in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

CCD is likely caused by a variety of factors, most likely climate change and the bees susceptibility to various diseases, with viruses as the main culprit. But CCD has now come and gone as it did many times in the past. According to the University of Maryland’s Dr. Dennis van Engelsdorp (who was part of the team that coined the modern term “CCD”), no case of CCD has been reported from the field for the previous three years.

But the direction of the media narrative, like the travel path of a 250,000 ton ocean liner, was established, and you don’t turn that around very easily. The rebound in bee counts and hives has now reached record territory–news that is just beginning to crack the advocacy firewall meme that beemaggedon is upon us.

Bee populations aren’t declining; they’re rising. According to statistics kept by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, honeybee populations in the United States, Canada and Europehave been stable or growing for the two decades neonics have been on the market.

Furthermore, the worldwide trajectory for bee colonies has been upward for over half a century. Honeybees are not on the verge of extinction or irreversible decline and the world will not face mass starvation. That’s just scare rhetoric.

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What about overwinter and summer losses?

The spikes in bee losses in some parts the world that were seen a decade ago are now mostly a thing of the past, although because of variances in nature, there will always be one region or another with higher than normal losses. It is completely normal for beekeepers to lose a percentage of their hives every year, especially in the wintertime due to weather, disease or the exhaustion of stored food supplies.  However, many advocacy groups, and sloppy reporting, have misrepresented over-winter bee losses or added together winter and summer numbers, to make it seem as if the mid-2000s CCD event is ongoing.

Wintertime losses averaged 10 to 15 percent before the U.S. was hit by the varroamite, the deadly parasite that decimates hives and vectors in any number of diseases. Since varroa, loses have risen in some years to 30 to 35 percent. But this does not mean that the honeybee population is in decline.

Over-winter losses are quickly made up each spring, as bees reproduce rapidly.Each queen lays more than 1,000 eggs per day and a worker bee’s lifespan is six weeks in warm weather months. While making up for over-winter losses addscost and work for beekeepers, this is an economic challenge for beekeepers, not an ecological crisis.

Honeybee health problems multi-factorial

Most scientists cite multiple factors involved in bee health problems. By far the number one bee health problem is the varroa destructor mite (see page 15). These parasites suck the bees’ hemolymph’ (blood-equivalent), compromise the bees’ immune system, and vector more than a dozen viruses into bee colonies–making diseases virulent that would normally be easily controllable. Worse, varroa rapidly develop resistance to different mite treatments, making control difficult. Resistance in turn prompts the wide use of bee-toxic mite-control pesticides — the most prevalent chemicals found in beehives — where they accumulate in beeswax (“In virtually any residue analysis of bee bread or beeswax these days in any country with varroa, the most prevalent toxins are the beekeeper-applied varroacides”).

Varroa mites aren’t the only factors impacting the health of bees. Poor nutrition, the dwindling genetic diversity of European honeybees, and some 33 other parasites, viruses, bacteria and other diseases can all make keeping a hive healthy a difficult task. Activists focus on pesticides, but of all the agricultural chemicals detected in hives–including the miticides beekeepers use to control varroainfestations — neonics are generally among the lowest trace amounts detected.

Lab vs. Field: Realistic studies and real-life experience demonstrate pesticides and bees co-exist 

Large-scale field studies – four in Canada, one in the UK, four in Europe, most done under Good Lab Practices — have reached the same conclusion: there is no observable adverse effect on bees at the colony level from field-realistic exposure to neonicotinoid-treated crops.

Real world experience coincides with large-scale field study results. In Australia–Earth’s last varroa-free continent–the government’s authoritative report recently confirmed that honeybees there are thriving despite the widespread and increasing use of neonics in agriculture. In western Canada, honey bees are thriving despite annually pollinating Canada’s 19 million acres of 100 percent neonic-treated canola.

Almost all of the research that suggest that neonics harm bees are in artificial environments or laboratory ‘caged-bee’ studies that have been demonstrated to greatly overdose bees. Michael Henry, the French researcher whose study was cited by the EU when it enacted its ban, recently acknowledged,“We have no real clues of what proper, realistic dose you should use in such an experiment,” and, “The dose we have used might overestimate the dose on the field.”

“Bee-Gate” – European activist claims of widespread ecological damage discredited

As the “bee-pocalypse” narrative has increasingly run up against the fact of stable, recovering or in some case rising honey-bee populations, advocacy environmentalists have upped the ante, branding neonics the new DDT and claiming that it is responsible for widespread ecological collapse. The cited foundation for this claim is largely the work of the European IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. Two recent congressional letters to the EPA–one signed by 60 members of the House, the other by 10 Senators–prominently cited IUCN findings among the reasons for an immediate ban on neonics.

But the IUCN Task Force has been completely discredited in a scandal now known as “Bee-Gate.” In a story carried in the London Times and numerous other publications, a leaked memo quotes Task Force scientists conspiring to fabricate their studies as part of a “campaign” to have neonics banned.

Wild bees appear fine, but should be monitored as hard evidence scanty

There are no reliable population numbers on wild bees–data is just not widely available–which has opened the door to speculation about wild bee health. There have been a few claims of alleged problems, but the evidence is almost non-existent at this time. The limited data that does exist suggests there is no crisis. A 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesanalyzed U.S. native bee populations over a 140-year period. Of the 187 native species analyzed individually, only three declined steeply, likely due to the introduction of a pathogen. This can hardly be considered a total, or even partial, population decline. Indeed, many experts studying wild bees are not worried. According to USGS’s Sam Droege, one of the foremost authorities on native bees in the U.S., his observations tell him that most wild bees are doing just fine. That said, because of the critical role that pollinators play in nature and agriculture in particular, the government is wise to continue closely monitoring the bee population in the coming years.

Genetic Literacy Project staff

How to Starve Africa: Ask the European Green Party

A superb demolition of green double-think. They say they care for Planet and People yet put forward policies which don’t help the planet (ban fracking) and will kill lots of people.

Their irrational and immoral objection to GMO sums all this up

The Risk-Monger

There is a commonly shared neo-colonialist expression: The Europeans have the watches; the Africans have the time. Today, the European Green Party, with the support of countless environmentalist NGOs, proposed an initiative in the European Parliament to make Africa wait for at least another generation to be able to lift itself out of poverty.

The report tabled by Green MEP, Maria Heubuch, is as vile as it is selfish in its neo-colonialist demands to impose peasant agriculture on a continent trying to develop and feed itself. The Greens are demanding that the European Union not be involved with the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition which is donating billions to create a green agricultural revolution in ten of the poorest African countries. Many identify what has been achieved in Asia today as due to the World Bank’s investments in agricultural technologies in the 1960s and 70s and what is sorely…

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Wildlife Gardening on a minute scale

Three years ago we moved to our retirement house in Garstang. In many ways it was ideal and had been recently done up.

Here is a photo we took when we bought the house.

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The front garden was ghastly with all this golden gravel! There were three cypress type trees which faced the axe. However there was a fine camelia (not sinensis), two prolific forsythia and a few other things. At the back half was down to slate and the rest was a poor lawn, which is easily water-logged.

This aerial view from Google shows what we have. It was taken this time last year, after I removed the golden gravel and put in suitable stepping stones. When I removed the gravel I found that the soil was the most glutinous clay on earth.

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I was faced with several serious challenges;

  1. Glutinous, soggy, water-logged clay back and front
  2. Tiny gardens back and front.
  3. A large concreted drive leading to the garage which meant dead space for plants.

We decided to have a wildlife garden and grow some vegetables and herbs. Three years ago wildlife was almost absent. I had never been in a garden so devoid of birds, butterflies, bees or insects.

In the first year (2013)  I planted ivy round the base of the walls at the back and front, and four honeysuckle at the back. We also had a few things in containers and grew some runner beans. In 2014 the shrubs I had propagated from our vicarage were just big enough to plant and so in went some buddleia (globosa and davidii) in the front and back.; cotoneaster to hide the compost bin; rhubarb : a frame round the 10ft trunk of a cypress to grow up honeysuckle and ivy; along with more containers; and also pallets to give vertical flower beds. I planted some bulbs.

Come Autumn 2014 I started the worst job which was removing all the gravel. I bagged it up and it went to a good home. Finally I got down to the membrane and then found the glutinous clay. For a time I regretted removing the gravel. The soil needed much work which is on-going. I put in a bag of fine gravel and then some limestone, which apparently made no difference. (It stills gets sand when I find a stray sandbag by the road side.) I have dug in some compost, put on manure and grass-cuttings  (some from a neighbour), and trivial amounts of coffee grounds and egg-shells. It is still glutinous clay and liable to flood but it must be improving.

in 2015 I planted loads of hebe, some lavetera,   berberis darwinii, mock orange and perennials like michaelmas  and oxe-eye daises, various primulas, sedum, and various other plants. Our criteria are first, insect and bird friendly, colourful and, at times, edible. It is not restrictive at all and I followed the old guidelines for wildlife gardening, which I had followed since 1980. If you want to get further ideas look at the RSPB website under wildlife gardening and make your own choice. I put in a tiny pond and acquired plants  including water ranunculus from Fylde ditches before they were cleared out. I also salvaged some Purple loosestrife, which is both a beautiful flower and has an exotic sex-life.

The garden looked good in 2015 though many plants were still tiny. Insects were incredibly numerous with loads of bees, hoverflies and an increasing number of birds.

And so to 2016. During the winter both back and front garden were under water but I lost very few plants. My few forgetmenots had spread like made and now at the end of April, all plants are shooting up.

So what is there?

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At the back the grass is awful, but the honeysuckle is thriving and the ivy about to take off. I recently bought a small rowan and the aubretia and rhubarb are doing well.

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The compost bin and water butts. The cotoneaster now almost provide a screen and there are two cotoneaster horizontalis which are going vertical up the pallet.They will soon be in flower and swarming with insects and then produce red berries in the autumn.

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My new rowan in flower and a bug-hotel, with honeysuckle nearby.

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A corner with an old pot-stand entwined with ivy and honeysuckle and a buddleia globosa about to flower for the first time.

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Going through from the back to the front is a bit of  a mess. The pallets are now ready for plants, the four pots are tiny self-propagated margareta and a tiny bay leaf. The honeysuckle is now in leaf and will flower for the second year.

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I always am propagating something. Here are some diverse hebes, with two bagged by a neighbour. They are easy to grow and propagate and excellent for insects.

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Our herb garden, which is often grazed by grandchildren. There are some strawberries on the pallets and another honeysuckle in the corner. The pallet screens the bins.

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Looking the other way to gate are shrubs in containers. Some are lavender, but more hebe, a berberis and viburnum opulus, along with half-planted pallets. (We need to get about 40 annuals ASAP for the pallets.)

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A close-up of the same. The berberis flowered this year but not the viburnam

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A view down to the gate. The larger plants are three year old hebes, but the rest are younger. On the fence is an orange honeysuckle and the smaller pots mostly contain young lavender.

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The front of the house with lavendar, hebe,buddleia, hydrangea in pots. The tiny pond with the camelia behind. Other plants just beginning to show. There is a tiny bit of golden gravel to sort out. By the pond are two Purple Loosestrife, which are beautiful and have an exotic sex-life described by Charles Darwin.

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The same from the drive. At the front are primula, daffs, sedum  hebe and an Appalachian Kalmia. behind the stones is a line of hebe and behind that larger shrubs. In the centre you can see a pinkish flower as a Cuckoo flower invited itself into the garden – and very welcome.

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The front nearer the road. Against the fence between the two forsythia are a buddleia globosa  and a yellow rose both a few feet high and spindly, but this year will alter that. The perennials in the foreground are coming to life and only six inches high.

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Right at the front is a raised area which had three cypress-type things, which were removed. This gave room for shrubs and plants. Note the frame round the old cypress trunk with more honeysuckle and ivy.

The end of April is not the best time to show this, as many plants have just come out of a dormant phase. However in a few weeks, there will be considerable green growth and then flowers. With a horrible april insects are few, but soon they will arrive in plenty and variety.

Recently there have been more birds, mostly the common ones but a sparrowhawk paid a visit.

So after three years of a little intermittent work, I think this year will see the garden grow well and encourage a wider variety of species into the garden. It has not been much work or expense, but it shows what can be dome with limited space and appalling soil.

So now I await the birds, bees and insects and, hopefully, hedgehogs and frogs.

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Here’s a link to the RSPB on wildlife gardening;

https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/givenatureahomeinyourgarden/ 

RSPB also do a book on wildlife gardening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I am no longer a Green

 

That is a surprising statement for someone to make when he read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring  half a century ago and has been green ever since.

I can boast like the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11! But I am not speaking like a fool 🙂 Every garden of mine has had a compost heap, I tend to grow organically, plant flowers, shrubs and trees to attract wildlife, ride a bike when I can (and even more so for fun), energy economical – or bloody mean and keeping the heating down; and lots of other things to get brownie points from treehuggers. I have voted Green and been active in Friends of the Earth.

However, I confess that the disimulation and nastiness of anti-frackers made me reconsider my green credentials.I found greenie Christians , as a whole, no better as so many repeated the dodgy dossiers of Greenpeace, Fiends of the Earth , Frack Off and the rest of them, and often think I don’t care for the environment because I think f***ing is a good rather than a bad thing.

So I had to become a Green anti-green. Or so I thought until I came across the alternative, which goes by the clumsy name of Ecomodernism.  I stumbled across it and as I read it, I found that it summed up the position I had come to myself as I rejected the orthodox green faith. I had to apostasize from evangelical greenery as I found they were not quite honest and from their moral high ground didn’t give a damn for the poor especially those freezing to death. Far too many in Britain are living like this;

fuel poverty

Some get upset by this blog; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/aunt-elsie-rip-13-january-2020-a-fracking-shame/

But back to Ecomodernism.

You will find their manifesto here

http://www.ecomodernism.org/

To comment briefly on the Manifesto; many criticise their split of intense human habitation and wilderness, where they argue agriculture should be intesive rather than centred on small farms and small-holdings. At first I baulked at that and then realised we have no choice if we are to feed the world, which I consider a moral imperative. As for wilderness, which I love, it is not suitable for much human habitation without wrecking it.  An example of wrecked wilderness is the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which has less feel of wilderness than many of the hilly parts of Britain.

Grand Canyon wilderness seen from the south Rim. LH picture is the Bright Angel trail which makes a nice August day’s walk RH is the Unconformity

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Mt St Helens; wilderness at its most wild (Oct 2009)

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And two within 30 miles of my home in the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland

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Needless some have tried to shred them like George Monbiot and co. It is a great shame and it would be far better if all concerned about planet and people looked for the common ground that unites, rather than minor differences. But then are stuck with a green ideology which takes them over. I will say no more but here is a fine article which outlines  the different perspectives of those who care for planet and people by Matthew Nisbet with the unfrotunate title of  Disruptive ideas: public intellectuals and their arguments for action on climate change.[ Ref;Nisbet, M. C. (2014), Disruptive ideas: public intellectuals and their arguments for action on climate change. WIREs Clim Change, 5: 809–823. doi:10.1002/wcc.317] and on-line

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/wcc.317

He discusses the three main approachs from Bill McKibbin, who sticks to protesting not realising that this will not change everything despite Naomi Klein, through Al Gore and Lord Stern, who try too hard to face both ways to the Ecomodernism of Nordhaus and Shellenburger, who have recruited Mark Lynas to their ranks.

In his paper Nisbet presents the different stances on the various issues in the table I reproduce below. (apologies for the imperfect copying)

Table 1. Public Intellectuals and their Arguments for Action on Climate Change
Group Problem Framing Outlook on Nature Outlook on Technology Policy Proposals Model of Social Change
  • 1Monbiot supports nuclear, carbon capture.
  • 2Gore skeptical of nuclear, carbon capture, puts stronger faith in market than Sachs or Stern to drive innovation.
  • 3Artistic expression specific focus of Kingsnorth.
Ecological Activists
Examples:

  • B. McKibben
  • D. Suzuki
  • C. Hamilton
  • G. Monbiot
  • N. Klein
  • P. Kingsnorth
Capitalism, consumerism has exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet, risking catastrophe, or certain collapse. Sacred, fragile nature provides human salvation. Must be kept separate, protected against human influence. Advocate small-scale, locally owned renewables. Warn that nuclear energy, genetic engineering too risky, promote consumption.1 Call for strong regulation of industry, rationing of energy use, localization of economies, food systems, governance. New consciousness spread through grassroots organizing, social protest. Artistic attention to ‘ecocide’, myth of progress.3
Smart Growth Reformers
Examples:

  • T. Friedman
  • Gore
  • N. Stern
  • J. Sachs
  • A. Lovins
Climate change is ultimate market failure, corrected by putting price on carbon. Progress blocked by ‘deniers’. Nature has limits, but ‘dangerous interference’ can be avoided by smart policy, ‘stabilizing emissions’, enabling ‘sustainable growth’. Market pricing will drive adoption of renewables, energy efficiency. Need government to catalyze nuclear, carbon capture.2 Call for binding international agreement, national carbon pricing, and government investment in innovation. Market mechanisms drive change. More recent calls for grassroots pressure, third-party movements, new ‘mindfulness’.
Ecomodernists
Examples:

  • S. Brand
  • M. Hulme
  • R. Pielke Jr
  • S. Rayner
  • T. Nordhaus/M. Shellenberger
  • A. Revkin
Misdiagnosed as environmental problem and market failure. Should be re-framed as energy innovation and societal resilience challenge. Nature is more resilient than fragile. Innovative, high-energy planet can promote human progress, while conserving, managing nature. Renewables not capable of meeting energy demand. Need government to develop natural gas, nuclear, carbon capture, other innovations. Argue for portfolio of ‘clumsy’ policy approaches across levels of society, government investment in energy technologies and resilience strategies. Technologies that lower cost of action, public forums that challenge assumptions create conditions for cooperation, innovation.

Sometime I would like to write up a Christian Ecomodernism, if only to counter the Bambi eco-theology.

 

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