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Archive for August, 2010

We all know the scene.

You’re just sitting down to relax in your garden on a warm, sunny day, maybe with a chilled glass of wine and a newspaper … and then they attack.

Buzzing at your head in a yellow and black blur, dive-bombing your ears in a desperate hunt for a sugar fix. Whatever you do, they just won’t go away – and nor does the threat of a painful sting.

Wasps are probably the nation’s most hated insect, provoking widespread fear and loathing, and death by rolled up newspaper. But campaigners are about to try and change all that. They want us to learn to love the wasp.

The insect conservation group, Buglife, will tomorrow launch a major campaign to rebrand wasps as “wonderful”. You shouldn’t kill them, the group says, you should learn to be nice to them. [Read full article]

Herald Scotland

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Government and retailers are under pressure to impose a ban on sale of pesticides linked to bee population decline following new research which groups call a ‘growing body of evidence’

Environmental groups including the Soil Association and Buglife are making a renewed call for an end to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are among the most commonly used pesticides worldwide, after a new study linked them to a decline in bee in bee populations.
The study, published in the journal Toxicology, says the effects on bees of two particular neonicotinoid pesticides, known as imidacloprid and thiacloprid, have previously been underestimated and may explain the decline in bee populations.

It says even low concentrations of the pesticides may be more deadly then previously thought due to their high persistence in soil and water, supporting claims for the role that pesticides may play in bee deaths.
‘The acceptable limits are based mainly on short-term tests. If long-term studies were to be carried out, far lower concentrations may turn out to be hazardous. This explains why minute quantities of imidacloprid may induce bee decline in the long run,’ says study author Dr. Henk Tennekes.

Calls for a ban
Buglife campaigner Vicky Kindemba has welcomed the new research, saying it adds support to calls for a suspension in the use of the pesticides in the UK.
‘This new information adds to the growing body of evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides are very harmful and even at extremely low levels in our environment they could still negatively impact on UK wildlife including pollinators, soil organisms and aquatic invertebrates,’ Kindemba said.
The Soil Association said other products containing the pesticides  should also be withdrawn from general sale in UK supermarkets, hardware stores and garden centres.
‘If the honeybee disappeared off the surface of the globe forever we’d be facing up to an unimaginable food crisis,’ said a spokesperson. ‘This latest research only adds to the evidence that is already strong enough to justify an immediate ban on neonicotinoids today.’
The campaign group has written to the chief executives of B&Q, Wilkinson’s and Wyevale asking them to withdraw any products containing neonicotinoid pesticides from their store.

Government disregards warning
Responding to the new study, Defra said the UK would not be following some other EU countries in restricting the use of neonicotinoids.
‘This research highlights a need for more data on long-term risks to bee health. We have already been considering this and pesticide companies will soon need to provide this data under new EU rules.
‘We will keep this area under review and will not hesitate to act if there is any evidence of an unacceptable risk to bees,’ said a spokesperson.

Useful links

Full Study: The significance of the Druckrey–Küpfmüller equation for risk assessment — the toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to arthropods is reinforced by exposure time

From the Guardian

Also covered in the Ecologist

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Darwin’s name for the bee was replaced in the 20th century. Whatever happened to the humblebee, the old name for the bumblebee, asked Angus Doulton of Oxfordshire in a letter to the Guardian last week.

When Darwin, or indeed any of his contemporaries, wrote of the animated bundles of fluff, he would have called them humblebees. But they weren’t humble in the sense of lowly beings doing the drudge work of nectar and pollen collecting; rather they would have been celebrated for the powerful evolutionary interaction with the flowers they had visited for millions of years. Darwin would have called them humblebees because, as they fly, they hum. Simple.

The etymological change of entomological names occurred gradually and imperceptibly, but some key events can be pin-pointed. The first great 20th-century book on bees was by Frederick Sladen, and his 1912 opus on their life history was firmly in the “humble” camp. By then, bumble, which had always been knocking around in the background as a second-rate alternative, had started to gain some ground. In Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse (1910), the eponymous heroine is troubled by squatters making mossy nests in her back yard. Chief troublemaker is one Babbitty Bumble.

It is, perhaps, at about this time that the myth of the bumblebee’s scientifically impossible flight came into play. As aeronautics took off between the wars, along with faster and sleeker planes, the clumsy-looking furry bee with its pitifully small wings and tubby body was the perfect match for its new, slightly belittling name, as it bumbled from droopy bloom to droopy bloom. By the time of the next bee monograph, by John Free and Colin Butler (1959), the humblebee had gone for ever.

Mark Cocker, the Guardian

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