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US wild bee numbers decline as land is converted for biofuel

December 22, 2015
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood 


h/t Mark Hodgson




Matt McGrath might be headed for the BBC’s Correction Centre!


Wild bees in the US have declined in many farming areas according to the first national effort to map their numbers.

The study suggests that between 2008 and 2013, the numbers of wild bees went down across almost a quarter of the US.

The researchers say that the conversion of land to grow corn for biofuels is a key element in the decline.

If the trend continues say the scientists, it could drive up costs and destabilise crop production….

The most important reason for the decline in numbers according to the authors is the increased demand for biofuels, which has seen more land turned over to growing grains. US law requires that all gasoline sold contains at least 10% ethanol, mostly made from corn.

In the areas that have seen the most serious reduction in wild bees, there have been 200% increases in the amount of corn planted.

"The pattern we show is consistent with the expansion of corn for ethanol, the reduction of areas around fields that weren’t cultivated before," said senior author, Prof Taylor Ricketts from the University of Vermont.

"They are going back into production and those are the areas that were providing good habitat for wild bees."

While concerns over bee decline in Europe have focussed on the impact of neonicotinoid chemicals on insects of all varieties, this study wasn’t able to extract specific information on the use of pesticides.

However the authors are in little doubt that chemicals are having an impact.

"If you look at the maps, the places that show the lowest abundance is essentially a map of intensified agriculture in the US," said Prof Ricketts.

"That’s a footprint of agriculture’s effect on bees, and its a habitat loss thing and it’s also a chemicals and pesticides thing for sure."

  1. Dave Ward permalink
    December 22, 2015 11:46 am

    Yet another instance of “The Law of Unintended Consequences”. Don’t the Greens EVER think before demanding something?

    • David Richardson permalink
      December 22, 2015 12:21 pm

      Dave – NO they don’t

      BUT worse is the screaming denunciation of anyone who does think. And eventually the “we never said it was a good idea” statement.

  2. December 22, 2015 1:06 pm

    And just where has the EPA been in all of this? Nothing to see here. Yesterday, Hoppy Kercheval’s commentary on a WV site dealt with the corruption within it illegally using social media to frame the conversation. Rush Limbaugh used the same expose on his “Morning Update” today and named names. Anyone else tired of lies and deception? It is not about the actual environment, it is about the hard left gaining control over people as dictators.

  3. December 22, 2015 5:00 pm

    Paul – Link the study doesn’t work.
    Interesting that the LAT’s has a competing theory out in today’s paper: Wild bees are least abundant where they’re most needed, study says —

    Doesn’t mention the biofuel issue.

  4. December 22, 2015 6:28 pm

    Maybe. The matter can be taken various ways.

    Going on the basis the study us correct (unlikely)…

    1. Assuming the locus is cars / people / fuel is bad, blame the cars / people / fuel

    2. Assuming the locus is the effect of manipulative pressure, that’s what is bad

    The study?
    What exactly is a wild bee? Seen tame bees, here boy?
    Lots of confounding reasons come to mind, study needs validation.

  5. December 22, 2015 6:43 pm

    The study has the ring of a less than half truth. On my Wisconsin dairy farm, we converted two small pastures to crops given the high corn price. Nets about $4500/yr more. The clover, dandelions and wildflowers in those former pastures would have produced honeybee pollen. But their main food resource on the farm is the wild spring cranapple blossoms followed by alfalfa when it flowers, many tens of acres at a time, and just before each of 3 annual cuttings. On the margin, those two small pastures meant little to the bees.

    We had two wild honey bee colonies in the woodlots that simply failed. Both in old hollow burr oaks. One colony was lost because the tree failed in a winter ice storm about 2000, the colony got exposed and froze. The other simply failed sometime around 2005, I presume due to varroa mites. There are two bee keepers with professional hives in the area (stores sell alfalfa honey) and both have had mite problems. Varroa was first detected in the US in Wisconsin in Sept 1987 near Saukville. By 1988, it had been detected in 12 states and has now become a well recognized serious problem everywhere.

    It is probably correlation without causation to say biofuels are the main wild bee problem. 1. Coincidence that ethanol production began ramping in the 1990s as varroa spread. 2. Ecology. The regions with the largest maize production are also the poorest wild honeybee habitat due to vast swaths of maize and soybean monoculture, with poor to no honeybee pollen sources and few places to establish wild colonies.

    A hilly contour farmed Wisconsin dairy with lots of alfalfa, three woodlots, two ponds, and a natural spring is very different than a flat 600 acre (nearly a square mile) southern Illinois or Iowa used only to grow corn and soy.

  6. January 17, 2016 6:50 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

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