Bee News and Views

A couple of weeks ago, based on a small study (pdf) at Landau University in Germany, it was widely reported that cellphones were causing disorientation among bees and a collapse of bee colonies.

The collapse of a high percentage of bee colonies around the country is real, but not unprecedented, and today–based on research right here in California–it’s being reported in the LATimes that the culprit is not cellphones, but a fungus.

Still, the truth is, the experts aren’t sure of the cause, and–to their credit–are willing to say so.

Researchers have been struggling for months to explain the disorder, and the new findings provide the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.

But the results are "highly preliminary" and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. "We don’t want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved."

Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country — as well as in some hives where bees had survived. Those researchers have also found two other fungi and half a dozen viruses in the dead bees.

The invaluable newspaper also runs a nice long story from Joe Robinson on bees in the garden. The story points out that living with bees is not difficult or dangerous, which is certainly our experience. We have plenty of all sorts of bees and wasps around, and have been stung only a handful of times in sixteen years, and almost always by wasps, not bees. Robinson talks to experts who offer tips on how to attract the three main species of inoffensive wild bees (bumblebees, wood-nesting bees, and solitary bees, which nest in the ground) to your garden. Mostly this means making sure they have flowers they like, such as lilacs. But also:

"If you can find a corner of your yard that can strategically be made messy, that works very well," entomologist Mace Vaughn suggested. "That helps provide nest sites for bumblebees. They need places where the ground’s not being turned over year after year. In my yard all I have to do is clear away some grass."

Need a messy place in the yard? Not a problem. Come on over, Mr. Pollen Pants.

UPDATE:    Onion Radio News has an announcement from the President about "those bees who are no longer with us."


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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