An unkempt stretch of tall grass, wildflowers and weeds in front of a train station doesn’t look like much — but it may be crucial to solving one of the world’s biggest environmental puzzles.
The European Union will widen a ban on pesticides linked to harming bees, a move that could threaten output of some crops and put pressure on insecticide makers such as Bayer AG and Syngenta AG.
Researchers led by a team at Harvard University have developed a tiny, 175-milligram (about two feathers) device with insect-inspired wings that can both flap and rotate, allowing it to either fly above the ground or swim in shallow waters and easily transition between the two. Researchers think it will one day be used for environmental monitoring studies, according to Science magazine, which dubbed the device the “robo-bee.”
More than a quarter of American honeybee colonies were wiped out over the winter, with deadly infestations of mites and harmful land management practices heaping mounting pressure upon the crucial pollinators and the businesses that keep them.
The fight to save honeybees has gotten boosts recently from the USDA, the White House, andresearchers who are still working to determine why managed honeybees continue to die off. Now, bees have one more thing on their side: beer.
Or, at least, one of the main ingredients of beer. This week, the EPA approved the use of potassium salts of hops beta acids (HBAs) — a biochemical (or naturally-occurring) pesticide that’s derived from hops, the flowers of the plant Humulus lupulus — around honeycombs. Researchhas shown that HBAs have potential for repelling varroa mites, a dangerous mite that attaches itself to honeybees and sucks out their circulatory fluid. Varroa mites weaken bees and spread debilitating diseases, including deformed wing virus, which causes crumpled up, useless wings in young bees.
The world’s most valuable pollinator is under attack.
Bees, responsible for an estimated $15 billion of crop output in the U.S. alone, play an essential role in almond production. With the nut fetching record prices, the insects have become the asset to own — or steal — in Australia’s biggest almond-producing region.
Farmers will be able to use blacklisted pesticides linked to serious harm in bees after the UK government temporarily lifted an EU ban.
Since insecticides have killed most bees in China’s Sichuan province, local farmers are forced to fertilize the flowers themselves. But the “bee-men” may now be a dying breed.
According to the scientist, rapid wage growth could discourage farmers from resorting to hand-pollination. Travelling beekeepers renting out their bees could replace the “bee-men,” on the condition that residents accept to decrease their use of toxic agents.