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Bee deaths are getting worse, and no one knows why

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It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). A bustling beehive that seems healthy will quickly turn into a ghost town. A live queen may be left behind, or even a few young bees, but little else. The hive simply vanishes.

This article was written by Joshua O’Connor and first published on Timeline.com. Get Timeline App.

Hive deaths have occurred for centuries but became a huge problem in America a decade ago. You need bees to pollinate some food crops or they won’t grow. Beehive numbers have dwindled so much that beekeepers are forced to tour hives around in trucks, going from farm to farm. And now bees are dying not just in winter, but summer too.

What are the causes and how should we address them to safeguard our agricultural food sources? Here’s what we know so far.

 

1940s—1990s: The growing threat to professional bees

United States

The number of working bees had been falling for decades. In the ’40s there were about 5 million managed beehives. There are half as many today.

Beehives were threatened by disease-causing pathogens and new types of pests in the ’80s. The ’90s brought tracheal mites and the Asian Varroa destructor mite to the US and Europe.

 

2006: Mass hive deaths shock bee community

United States

The death of beehives, or colonies, is not unusual, especially in winter months. Records of waves of sudden hive deaths date back centuries, too. But when beekeepers started reporting loss of 30-90% of their hives, they knew something was different. From 2006 to 2011, keepers lost a third of their hives, with much of the damage attributed to CCD.

No cause has been scientifically proven, but factors include pathogens like fungi and viruses, parasites, lack of biodiversity in nectar-producing plants, and stress from overcrowding and transporting bees. The US Department of Agriculture sponsored a multi-disciplinary working group to study the problem and find out how to solve it.

 

2012: Robot bee makes first test flight

Cambridge, MA, US

Some scientists believe genetic tinkering can help solve the hive death problem. By inserting genes into bees that confer resistance to stress or diseases, they want to create “superbees” that won’t succumb to Colony Collapse Disorder. It’s a divisive issue, though — many researchers say we should let bees evolve naturally to face threats, even if it means losing many hives in the process.

If biology fails, there’s always robots. A robot bee designed at Harvard assembles itself like origami and flaps its wings 120 times a second. Its creators say RoboBee could take 20 years to perfect, though. Even then, drones would only be used as a stopgap to mechanically pollinate crops, rather than a permanent replacement.

 

April 29, 2013: EU bans nicotine-based pesticide

Brussels

Nicotine is a common pesticide sprayed onto plants. They is absorb it as they grow, making them disease resistant. But the nicotine is also harmful to bees. The European Union banned neonicotinoid pesticides, sparking protests from farmers who say alternatives are even more harmful to the environment.

Some farmers advocate biodiversity on cash-crop land. They say cultivating plants that attract insects that eat pests is preferable to using any chemical.

 

February 9, 2015: Stressed youths may accelerate hive deaths

London

Are bees growing up too fast? Normally, they start foraging at 2-3 weeks of age. But in hives where disease, lack of food or other stresses kill older foragers, researchers discovered young bees begin foraging earlier. These stressed bees perform their tasks poorly, completing fewer flights. They also die younger. This dramatically accelerates the collapse of the colony.

Our results suggest that tracking when bees begin to forage may be a good indicator of the overall health of a hive.” Dr. Clint Perry, University of Queen Mary London.

 

May 14, 2015: FDA report shows summer deaths increased

United States

Normally hive deaths occur primarily in winter. But in the 12 months ending in April, colonies started to die more frequently in the summer months, too. In fact, loss rates in summer, when bees are supposed to be at their healthiest, were actually higher than the winter rates.

Overall losses were 42%. It’s a worrying sign for the bee industry, farmers and anyone concerned about preserving biodiversity.

Photo: James Patrick Casey via flickr

 

Further reading:

Great British Bee Count: allotments better than parks for bees

Pollen collected by European bees contaminated with pesticides

Bees and pollinators ‘thrive’ in urban environment

Banned pesticide interferes with bees’ ability to gather food

Study: wild bees can thrive in urban environments

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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