Archive | May, 2015

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Feral (or Wild) Bees are Dying

Posted on 09 May 2015 by Jerry

There are an estimated 4,000 species of bees in the U.S. (more than 20,000 worldwide).  Domesticated bees, Apis millifera, are the most familiar and most studied but are only one species of bee.  These are highly social bees that live in human-managed, large farmed hives.  Beekeepers move them from one type of crop to another throughout the year.   This domesticated species appears to have a tolerance to pesticides that feral (wild) bees do not.  It does not face extinction.

Feral bees, or the other 3,999 species in the U.S., are dying.  Feral bees are the large majority of bees.  They are often solitary, stingless and ground nesting.  Estimates place the annual value of all bees in the U.S. Economy at between $14,000,000,000 and $20,000,000,000.

This is because they are a key pollinator of hundreds of plants we depend upon.  These include beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, oilseeds, sunflowers, fruits and plants such as clover that our livestock are dependent upon.  Another way to estimate the value is to recognize that one out of every three bites of food you take has some dependence on bees.

In a recent study described in the April 22, 2015 issue of Nature magazine a scientific team led by Maj Rundlöf established that bumble bees are harmed by seeds coated in neonicotinoid insecticides (insecticides that are chemically close to nicotine).  Their report states, “Here we show that a commonly used insecticide seed coating in a flowering crop can have serious consequences for wild bees.”

The report states further that, “We found that seed coating with Elado, an insecticide containing a combination of the neonicotinoid clothianidin and the non-systemic pyrethroid β-cyfluthrin, applied to oilseed rape seeds (for canola oil), reduced wild bee density, solitary bee nesting, and bumblebee colony growth and reproduction under field conditions.”

These neoincotinoid-based pesticides have been banned in the European Union.  Pesticide producers and the rest of the world need to stop using them as well.  This study, which is highly respected, is a smoking gun that cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately this is only one smoking gun.  Bees are subject to harm from a number of causes.  These include an array of insecticides, parasites, and pathogens.

As another example, a study this year led by Andrew Barron at Macquarie University in Australia found that bee colonies are collapsing because as bees in a colony die due to any number of causes, younger and younger bees start foraging for pollen earlier.  Unfortunately, younger bees die after fewer foraging trips and they collect a smaller amount of pollen.  This is how bees react to such stressors.

Their study shows, “Bee colonies contain a precise balance of bees specialized in the different roles the society needs. If that balance is upset by young bees starting to forage early, sometimes the colony cannot cope.  There is a breakdown in division of labor, and loss of the adult population, leaving only brood, food and few adults in the hive.”

Our bees however, must be saved for the continued health of the human race.  We do not have any way of accomplishing the fertilization the bees provide us.  We therefore must eliminate each cause of bee death as we identify it.  We know that modern life has created a number of threats to our bees.  We must eliminate these threats.

Use the following links to obtain additional information or access the original documents that were the basis of this article.

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Bright Idea

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Ocean Farming When Wild Fish Are Gone

Posted on 04 May 2015 by Jerry

Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) may be in our future but is actually a throwback to how some countries farmed fish on a small scale in ancient times.   In some places it continues today.  IMTA however, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is, “An evolving approach to seafood production that emphasizes an ecosystem management approach where ‘fed’ species, such as finfish or shrimp, are farmed in close proximity to species that can ‘extract’ nutrients from the water column, such as shellfish and algae or seaweed.”

This can be a model for a smaller isolated farm that is inland from a natural waterway or as described in the April 2015, issue of Scientific American in an article by Erik Vance, “Fishing for Billions”, implemented on a grand scale at Zhangzi Island and several other islands, near Korea.  These islands are being used for a grand IMTA experiment.

Instead of deploying neighboring cages that are used in most of the world, most notably in Canada’s Bay of Fundy, the Zhangzidao Company that is conducting the fish farming, according to the Scientific American article, uses entire islands.  After having “carefully studied the movement of nutrients along the shores….they seed nutrient-rich parts of the islands with young scallops bred to thrive here while carefully removing their predators.”

Critics argue the IMTA of the Zhangzidao Company is not legitimate because there are no finfish being raised which theoretically would feed the shellfish with their excrement.  These farms however produce 60,000 tons of kelp, 200 tons of sea urchins, 300 tons of oysters, 700 tons of sea snails, 2,000 tons of abalones and 50,000 tons of scallops each year.  The company references detailed island maps showing ocean currents, where nutrients congregate and where yields are highest.  They have also used 20,000 refrigerator sized concrete blocks to form needed artificial reefs.

Critics of IMTA rightly point out that where finfish are raised today there is net segregation of farmed fish from wild fish.  They state however that this separation is inadequate because finfish escape and breed with wild fish.  They observe that in open-ocean or bays some of the dangers of fish farms are still present.  Specifically, there is still the presence of sea lice and various diseases that can infect the area.  They also are critical of IMTA because it has not shown yet that it has the ability to scale in inland, artificial environments.

It is a reality that the oceans are being over fished.  This large-scale use of the open water around islands is probably not possible in and around most industrialized nations because of too many environmental laws, political pressures and the lack of public acceptance.

Unfortunately fish are appearing in much smaller numbers and are migrating to different environments as a result of climate change.  In addition, melting glaciers and the future absence of run-off streams due to global warming will eliminate many spawning grounds.  Something may need to be done if our world population continues to grow and increases its demand for fish as the protein source in its diet.

What is attractive about IMTA is its mimicry of the natural interdependence of multiple species in an ecosystem.  Its use is far cleaner for the environment and “green” by comparison to traditional farming techniques.

We salute the pioneers of IMTA as a model to be perfected and put to productive use around the world.  While it may not produce the same amount of fish the ocean now holds, it may serve as a necessary substitute for the wholesale fishing now conducted by too many nations.

Use the following links to gain more information or access the original source documents used for this article.  (watch film[s])

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