Tag Archives: USA

US Farmers Plant to Feed Bees

Farmers in California and other states are turning over a percentage of crop land to wildflowers and shrubs that are attractive to bees. Improving bee habitat and nutrition, they hope, will boost the dwindling populations of native bees and help cut the costs of commercial pollination.

The bee habitat enhancement effort was organized by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit group out of Portland, Oregon.

Getting farmers to plant bee habitat is key, [Mace] Vaughan [the group’s pollinator program director] said, because bees with nutritionally sound diets are better able to fend off diseases and other problems.

Bee habitat can also reduce a farmer’s costs and alleviate the stress on honeybees. Through research on California’s watermelons, University of California, Berkeley, professor Claire Kremen found that if a farmer sets aside between 20 percent and 30 percent of a field for bee habitat, the farm can get all or most of its pollination from native bees.

That’s unrealistic for most farms, but Kremen said adding hedgerows and other plantings can help sustain a beneficial combination of native and commercial bees. Research has found that native bees make commercial honeybees more efficient pollinators by getting in their way and making them take a more circuitous route from plant to plant.

“What it means is you don’t have to have a huge number of native bees, but if you have some then the combination of honeybees and native bees has a huge effect,” Kremen said.

Other researchers have found that setting aside bee habitat leads to better crop production on the remaining land, compensating the farmer.

Read the full story, Farmers Add Plants to Attract, Nourish Bees at the National Public Radio website, NPR.org.

Honey Laundering: Toxic Chinese Honey is Sold in US Stores

As if fans of honey needed yet another reason to buy straight from local beekeepers — or, better yet, to keep their own honey bees — a new investigative report from Food Safety News warns that tainted honey from China is ending up on American store shelves and on the tables of consumers.

Asian honey, tainted with illegal antibiotics, heavy metals, and in some cases agriicultural chemicals that are banned from use in many countries including Canada, has for some time been smuggled into Europe and North America. Alarmingly, Food Safety News, this practice continues, “despite assurances from the Food and Drug Administration and other federal officials that the hundreds of millions of pounds reaching store shelves were authentic and safe following the widespread arrests and convictions of major smugglers over the last two years.”

Experts interviewed by Food Safety News say some of the largest and most long-established U.S. honey packers are knowingly buying mislabeled, transshipped or possibly altered honey so they can sell it cheaper than those companies who demand safety, quality and rigorously inspected honey.

“It’s no secret that the honey smuggling is being driven by money, the desire to save a couple of pennies a pound,” said Richard Adee, who is the Washington Legislative Chairman of the American Honey Producers Association.

“These big packers are still using imported honey of uncertain safety that they know is illegal because they know their chances of getting caught are slim,” Adee said.

Read the full report by Andrew Schneider at Food Safety News: Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves

Four New Viruses Found in US Honey Bees

A new study of health honey bees by researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) has found four new viruses in bees,  six species each of bacteria and fungi, four types of mites, and a parasitic fly called a phorid, which had not been seen in honey bees outside California.

The 10-month study followed 20 colonies in a commercial beekeeping operation of more than 70,000 hives as they were transported across United States for crop pollination. The goal was to answer one basic question: what viruses and bacteria exist in a normal colony throughout the year? — establishing a baseline for further research into Colony Collapse Disorder.

Colony Collapse Disorder, unlike other traditional causes of honeybee losses, is characterized by colonies with capped brood and queen which have been abandoned by the workers. Food stores (honey and pollen) in the affected hives are not immediately robbed out by other bees, and hive pests such as wax moth and small hive beetle are slow to move in.

The causes are still unknown, although recent research has pointed to a combination of stressors such as long-distance transportation, varroa mite infestations, and fungi or viruses, as most likely culprits.

While this study did not identify the cause of CCD, it did offer a measurement of the normal levels of pathogens.

“We brought a quantitative view of what real migrating populations look like in terms of disease,” said senior author Dr. Joseph DeRisi. “You can’t begin to understand colony die-off without understanding what normal is.”

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Illegal Chinese Honey Imports into USA?

BUSTED! Chinese Honey Reported Illegally Imported

Ingredients company Alfred L Wolff GmbH is vigorously denying accusations against two of its US executives who were arrested for allegedly importing honey from China mislabelled as coming from Russia and the Ukraine.

Prosecutors alleged the honey imported by two employees from the Chicago offices of the Hamburg-based company was falsely labelled so as to avoid paying the antidumping duties on Chinese honey imported to the United States, according to the Associated Press. Furthermore, the honey was said to contain an antibiotic that is not approved in the USA for use in food-producing animals, such as bees.

Alexander Wolff, managing director, confirmed to FoodNavigator.com that two employees have been arrested.

“We are mainly accused to have imported honey into the US in violation of custom regulations with respect to declarations of origin to avoid antidumping duties,” he said. “These accusations are wrong and shall be rebutted and we will defend ourselves against these allegations with all legal means.”

Wolff said he was unable to comment on the matter in further detail due to the ongoing proceedings and based on the advice of attorneys.

Back in February, federal agents took samples from 9 containers of honey that were marketed as having come from Russia. Antidumping duties are not applicable for honey of this origin. However, tests showed 3 of the 9 containers were from China, claimed the Associated Press. Another batch labelled as coming from the Ukraine was also found to be sourced from China.

Then, after searching Wolff’s Chicago offices, investigators found a shipment of the honey was sold to a company in Texas, despite containing the illegal antibiotic. And 57 tonnes of “Light Amber Polish Honey” may also have come from China.

The two Wolff employees were arrested on Friday, 23 May, at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. The current charge is said to carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 (€159,440) fine.

Wolff has subsidiaries in North America, South America, China, Hong Kong, Hungary and Romania, and holds an ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) certificate. The company was founded in 1901 and is currently undergoing strategic changes as it moves away from lower value ingredients and focuses on gum arabic and agar agar.

CCD Blamed for Honey Bee Losses in Utah

Colony Collapse Disorder, the mysterious bee ailment that has led to the disappearance of millions of bees in the United States alone, “and in a worst-case scenario could be a threat to the food chain that humans depend on for life, has made its way to Utah,” according to a report yesterday in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Even before the latest malady, rates of bee die-offs since 1989 have been so severe that managed honeybees could cease to exist by 2035, May Berenbaum, chair of the Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America, said in testimony last year before a U.S. House subcommittee.

Until recently, however, the state of Utah seemed to be successfully dodging CCD.

The Tribune story tells of commercial beekeeper Gary Dutson, whose family has kept bees for more than 70 years. He built up to 4000 hives last fall , then unexplained die-offs cost him half of the colonies. As a result, Dutson says he has had to sell of 500 acres of the family farm.

The replacement cost of the lost colonies is estimated at $130,000 USD, and Dutson says he has just barely enough hives to meet his pollination commitments to the Utah orchards. Any further losses may put him out of business.
Continue reading CCD Blamed for Honey Bee Losses in Utah

Bee Hive Thefts on the Rise in USA

As if American beekeepers didn’t have enough to deal with in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD — the mysterious syndrome blamed for devastating losses of honeybees in the United States last year), now there’s a new threat to their hives: crooked humans. A nationwide bee shortage resulting from CCD means demand far outweighs supply for this pollination season, pushing the cost of hive rental as high as $200 in some locations, according to a Business Week report — the kind of money that means crime does pay.

loading bee hives onto truck “If you can get 50 strong healthy hives on a medium sized truck and get them to a grower who is desperate for bees in his orchard,” says Kim Flottum, “you can make yourself some good money. At $150/colony, that truckload of bees amounts to $7,500 for a couple hours work. Not a bad night’s haul.”

Beekeepers know that it’s a challenge enough to do the rounds of distant bee yards for the normal purposes of hive maintenance and inspection — imagine trying to arrange round-the-clock protection for those hives sent out to pollination, isolated in the middle of enormous orchards where they may rest unattended for days at a time. Continue reading Bee Hive Thefts on the Rise in USA