Wildlife

Birds lose weight, migrate later after consuming insecticide

Birds that have ingested seeds treated with a common insecticide experience weight loss and delay their migrations — effects that could reduce their chances of surviving and reproducing, researchers found.

In a study of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) in Canada, biologists documented the effects in birds that eat the equivalent of just a few seeds treated with the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid — an amount they could be expected to consume in the wild from agricultural fields.

Researchers suspect these impacts could be related to a dramatic decline in some songbird populations.

Neonicotinoids are often applied as a seed coating to protect crops from harmful insects, but when the chemicals are exposed in the environment, studies have found they can affect pollinating insects as well as birds.

Researchers found that birds given a higher dose of the pesticide lost 6% of their body mass within six hours, causing the birds to stay an average of 3 ½ days longer than birds in a control group at the stopover site before resuming migration.

SM neonics and birds 620x264

Wildlife

Profound Effects of Pesticides on Bees

Whether it’s foraging for food, caring for the young, using their bodies to generate heat or to fan the nest, or building and repairing nests, a bee colony does just about everything as a single unit.

While recent studies have suggested exposure to pesticides could have impacts on foraging behavior, a new study, led by James Crall, has shown that those effects may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The new study that shows exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides — the most commonly-used class of pesticides in agriculture — has profound effects on a host of social behaviors.

Using an innovative robotic platform to observe bees’ behavior, the study authors showed that, following exposure to the pesticide, bees spent less time nursing larvae and were less social that other bees. Additional tests showed that exposure impaired bees ability to warm the nest, and to build insulating wax caps around the colony. The study is described in a November 9 paper in Science.

Wildlife

Bees get hooked on harmful pesticide – study

Bumblebees acquire a taste for food laced with a pesticide known to harm them, according to a study suggesting the chemicals pose an even greater threat to pollinators than previously thought.

In experiments, researchers showed that bees initially put off by sugar water containing neonicotinoids – the most widely-used class of insecticide worldwide – soon started seeking them out to the exclusion of untainted food. The findings were published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Neonicotinoids, earlier research has shown, disrupt the ability of bees to reproduce and lower their resistance to disease. Global bee populations are on the decline. And in Southwest China they have become so rare that fruit plantations are no longer being pollinated. Farmers are now doing it themselves.

Wildlife

Neonic pesticide link to long-term wild bee decline

The large-scale, long-term decline in wild bees across England has been linked to the use of neonicotinoid insecticides by a new study. Over 18 years, researchers analysed bees who forage heavily on oilseed rape, a crop widely treated with “neonics”.

The scientists attribute half of the total decline in wild bees to the use of these chemicals while industry sources say the study shows an association, not a cause and effect.

In recent years, several studies, conducted in the lab and in the field, have identified a negative effect on honey bees and bumble bees from the use of neonics. But few researchers have looked at the long term impacts of these substances.

This new paper examined the impacts on populations of 62 species of wild bees across England over the period from 1994-2011. The team, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), used distribution data on wild bees, excluding honey and bumblebees collected by the bees, ants and wasps recording scheme. They were able to compare the locations of these bees and their changing populations with growing patterns of oilseed rape across England over 18 years. The amount of this crop being sown has increased significantly over the period of the study, from around 500,000 hectares in 1994 to over 700,000 in 2011.

A key innovation was the commercial licensing of neonicotinoid insecticides for the crop in the UK in 2002. Seeds are coated with the chemical and every part of the plant becomes toxic to pests.

Manufacturers hailed the development as a major advance, reducing the need for leaf spraying with other insecticides. Around 85% of the oilseed rape crop in England now uses this method for pest protection.

But this new work suggests, for the first time, that the detrimental impacts seen in the lab can be linked to large scale population extinctions of wild bees, especially for those species of bees that spend longer foraging on oilseed rape.

There was a decline in the number of populations of 10%, attributable to neonicotinoids, across the 34 species that forage on oilseed rape. Five of the species showed declines of 20% or more, with the worst affected declining by 30%. Overall, half the total decline in wild bees could be linked to the chemicals.

90805704 20341576793 79d9acb252 c

Wildlife

Air Drop of Poison Kills Endangered Birds

New Zealand conservation groups slammed the government’s use of a pesticide, which the campaigners say may have virtually wiped out a group of endangered birds.

The Department of Conservation dropped more than 900 tons of toxic sodium fluoroacetate late last year across parts of the South Island, including Kahurangi National Park.

The pesticide, known commercially as 1080, was intended to wipe out invasive pests such as possums, stoats and rats that threaten native species.

Anti-1080 campaigners say the drop “exterminated” part of a rare population of rock wrens, which are the country’s only true alpine birds.

The Department of Conservation claims heavy snowfall could be behind the disappearance of the birds.

Environmentalists called that claim “ludicrous,” pointing out the alpine birds frequently encounter such snowfall.

“The use of 1080 is inhumane and is an indiscriminate poison banned in most of the world,” said NZ First’s outdoor recreation spokesman Richard Prosser.

New Zealand is the world’s leading user of the poison.

Ew150123b

Wildlife

Widespread impacts of neonicotinoids ‘impossible to deny’

Neonicotinoid pesticides are causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial species and are a key factor in the decline of bees, say scientists.

Researchers, who have carried out a four-year review of the literature, say the evidence of damage is now “conclusive”.

The scientists say the threat to nature is the same as that once posed by the notorious chemical DDT.

Manufacturers say the pesticides are not harming bees or other species.

Neonicotinoids were introduced in the early 1990s as a replacement for older, more damaging chemicals. They are a systemic insecticide, meaning that they are absorbed into every cell in a plant, making all parts poisonous to pests.

But some scientists have been concerned about their impact, almost since the moment they were introduced.

Much of the worry has surrounded their effects on bees.

There’s been a well documented, global decline in these critical pollinators.

Many researchers believe that exposure to neonicotinoids has been an important destabilising factor for the species.

In 2011, environmental campaigners, the IUCN, established an international scientific taskforce on systemic pesticides to look into the impacts of these chemicals.

The members have reviewed over 800 peer reviewed papers that have been published in the past 20 years. Their assessment of the global impact says the threat posed goes far beyond bees.

In their report, to be published next month, they argue that neonicotinoids and another chemical called fipronil are poisoning the earth, the air and the water.

The pesticides accumulate in the soil and leach into water, and pose a significant problem for earthworms, freshwater snails, butterflies and birds.

The researchers say that the classic measurements used to assess the toxicity of a pesticide are not effective for these systemic varieties and conceal their true impact.

They point to one of the studies in the review carried out in the Netherlands.

It found that higher levels of neonicotinoids in water reduced the levels of aquatic invertebrates, which are the main prey for a whole range of species including wading birds, trout and salmon.

“There is so much evidence, going far beyond bees,” Prof Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex told BBC News.

“They accumulate in soils, they are commonly turning up in waterways at levels that exceed the lethal dose for things that live in streams.

“It is impossible to deny that these things are having major environmental impacts.”

The scientists are very worried about the prophylactic use of neonicotinoids, where seeds are coated in the chemicals and the plant grows up with the ability to destroy pests already built in.

“It is a bit like taking antibiotics to avoid getting ill,” said Prof Goulson, one of a team of 29 scientists involved in the research.

“The more they are used, the stronger the selective pressure you place on pest insects to become resistant to them. Using them as prophylactics is absolute madness in that sense.”

Campaigners have protested against the continued use of neonicotinoid chemicals The task force argues that with neonicotinoids and fipronil making up around a third of the world market in insecticides, farmers are over-relying on them in the same way as they once became over reliant on chemicals like DDT.

“We have forgotten those lessons and we’re back to where we were in the 1960s,” said Prof Goulson.

“We are relying almost exclusively on these insecticides, calendar spraying 20 times or more onto a single field, it’s a completely bonkers way.”

While neonicotinoids don’t accumulate in human or animal tissue in the way that DDT once did, the modern pesticides are more lethal, about 6,000 times as toxic compared to the older spray.

Representatives of manufacturers say that there is nothing new in the task force study.

“There is very little credible evidence that these things are causing untoward damage because we would have seen them over 20 years of use,” said Dr Julian Little from Bayer, one of the manufacturers of neonicotinoids.

“If you look at the tree bumblebee, it is eating the same food as the other bees, and is being exposed to the same pesticide load and weather conditions and yet it is flourishing, whereas some other bees are not.

“If it were pesticides causing the mass destruction of our fauna, surely you would see effects on all bees?”

The European Crop Protection Association said the task force was being selective in their evidence, pointing to recent studies carried out by industry showing that the declines in bee populations have been overstated.

“We respect the scientists who have produced this research, but it appears that they are part of a movement that brings together some academics and NGOs whose only objective is to restrict or ban the use of neonicotinoid technology regardless of what the evidence may show,” a spokesperson said.

Europe already has a two-year moratorium in place meaning that neonicotinoids can’t be used on flowering crops such as oilseed rape.

Last week, President Obama announced the creation of a pollinator health task force to look at the impact of pesticide exposure on bees and other insects.

75755330 450230116

Wildlife

Earthworms Stunted by Pesticide Use

Worms are struggling to cope with the use of pesticides, which a new study reveals alters both the physiology and behaviour of the important soil-aerating creatures.

A Danish-French research team studied earthworms that had been living for generations in soil sprayed with a fungicide.

“They spend a lot of energy on detoxifying, and that comes with a cost,” said researchers Nicolas Givaudan and Claudia Wiegand, whose report was published in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry.

And that cost is that they are less successful at reproducing and are much smaller than worms living in organic farming fields.

That means there are often two to three times more earthworms in unsprayed soil than in soil treated with pesticide.

Earthworms are important to the environment because they help in the decomposition of decaying leaves, as well as eat parts of fungus and bacteria.

Their burrowing activity brings air into the soil.

Earthworms living in ground treated with fungicide weigh half as much as those living in untreated fields.

Ew140328g

Wildflower Blooming Expands Under Global Warming

Climate change has stretched the wildflower blooming season in the Rocky Mountains by more than a month, with half the flowers beginning to bloom weeks earlier than before.

But researcher David Inouye of the University of Maryland says that the flowering plants’ response to climate change is complex, with different species responding in unexpected ways.

Inouye began counting flowers in the Rockies in 1974, long before climate change was even on the scientific radar.

He and his students have since amassed an enormous amount of data on wildflower blooming, and say the blooming times are now changing rapidly.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he says that the peak time of wildflowers bursting into bloom has moved up five days per decade during his study.

But he says that as the bloom season lengthens, the plants are not producing more flowers.

The same number of blooms is spread out over more days, so at peak bloom there may be fewer flowers.

Ew140328b

Wildlife

Pesticides for Agriculture Killing Aquatic Insects in the Wild

New research has found that the use of common pesticides in Europe and Australia has killed up to 42 percent of invertebrates, which make up about 95 percent of all animal species.

A team of German and Australian researchers studied the impact of the chemicals on the biodiversity of invertebrates in flowing waters of Germany, France and the Australian state of Victoria.

The study examined the effects of insecticides and fungicides that have been deemed “safe” for widespread use.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists report considerable losses in the biodiversity of aquatic insects and other freshwater invertebrates because of the use of the chemicals, as compared to the species in non-contaminated areas.

They warn that some of the insects being killed, like mayflies, caddisflies and dragonflies, are important food sources for other animals.

This means their losses affect animals up the food chain to birds and fish. Companies that manufacture the pesticides are required to prove that they break down quickly and have only limited effects on the ecosystem.

But researchers point out that those tests are mostly conducted in laboratory conditions that don’t always accurately reflect what happens in the wild.

Ew130621b

Wildlife

Bee deaths: EU to ban neonicotinoid pesticides

There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee populations.

Wild species such as honey bees are said by researchers to be responsible for pollinating around one-third of the world’s crop production.

There is heated debate about what has triggered the widespread decline in bee populations. Besides chemicals, many experts point to the parasitic varroa mite, viruses that attack bees and neglect of hives.

Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.

But many farmers and crop experts argue that there is insufficient data.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban – not enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules the Commission will now impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids.

The UK did not support a ban – it argues that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive. It was among eight countries that voted against, while four abstained.

67296280 newbeebbc

Wildlife

Pollution and bush fires choke honey production in the Rift Valley, Kenya.

The heavy presence of pesticides in the air and environmental degradation in bee keeping areas is affecting production. Some of the agrochemicals being used to spray large-scale farms and ranches are harmful and have affected production of honey by poisoning pollen which is the main food of the bees.

Sporadic fires in Mt Kenya forest worsened matters for bee keepers in Laikipia East as heavy smoke was swept into hives, killing millions of bees.