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Category: Bees

Building a Better Bond with Bees

Understanding Bees BetterWe’ve posted several times about the dwindling bee population. In fact, for the past 11 years, the bee population has decreased by approximately 40% per year, resulting in a focused campaign on many fronts to not only try and deal with the problem, but to raise the public’s awareness of it as well.

That included a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture of 4-million dollars to help improve the health and reproductive cycles of bees in the Midwest. The US Postal Service recently launched “Protect Pollinators” – a Forever stamp campaign, highlighting the bee as well as the butterfly.

And all the attention spurred many others to start studying the Apis mellifera more closely, including several universities in the United States and Canada, and National Geographic.

Why Are Bees So Important?

You may remember that insects pollinate by transferring the male germ cells of a plant to the female stigma. Sometimes that’s the same plant – more often it’s a different plant, due to a difference in maturity and seeding times. There is some wind-borne pollination, but the majority of plants that we use for food can only be pollinated by insects.

Bees are the number one pollinators – handling 80% of insect-oriented pollination, accounting for some $15-BILLION per year in agricultural production. Not only can the large perennial colonies move to wherever they are needed, but they can communicate direction and distance from the hive to nectar sources – an attribute humans have taken advantage of as we work to help the bees help us.

Honey bees excel at finding the most abundant and sweetest source of nectar near the colony. Scouts communicate information about the source to their brood with what is called “dance language.”

It’s Science, Not Fiction

While the precipitous drop in bee population since 2006 looks to be slowing somewhat, scientists say that the size of the honeybee population has been cut almost in half since the 1970’s. And post-apocalyptic fears aside, they say that the one thing that could almost certainly mark the end of life on earth as we know it is the decimation of bees.

Where Are the Bees Going?

Several theories have been brought up over the years to explain the loss of bees. Habitat loss, fungal disease and pesticide use have all been considered. Colony Collapse Disorder has, until recently, been the most accepted explanation for dwindling numbers.

But a recent discovery looks to blame a more specific source – Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite from Asia. The pinhead-sized mite crawls onto young bees and sucks their blood. This eventually destroys a hive because it weakens the immune system of the bees, and it makes them more vulnerable to stress and disease.

See it to Believe it

National Geographic commissioned Anand Varma to take detailed photographs of developing honeybees. As you can see in the short video below, he took a long look at the first 21 days of a bee’s life, with the mites clearly visible in this macro-view of a bee colony.

Varma also explains how an experimental breeding program at the USDA Bee Lab in Louisiana is finding ways to exploit some bees’ natural resistance to the mites, while avoiding some known side effects. By delving deeper into what makes bees function and thrive, we can further assist them, possibly even reversing the disappearance of the bees and redeeming our past interactions with our favorite pollinator.

One way you can help the bees today and protect Florida’s status as the number 3 producer of natural honey is by choosing to utilize the 100% natural, integrated green pest control that Good News Pest Solutions provides. We’re committed to keeping your family, pets and the environment safe from harmful chemicals, whether you live in Apollo Beach or Port Charlotte. For more information, give us a call!

A Good Pollinator Can’t Be Licked

A Good Pollinator Can't Be LickedThey’ve borne classic cars, cartoons, movie stars and super heroes. And now, the US Postal Service has announced they’re honoring a very special group of insects – bees and butterflies – some of our favorite pollinators!

On August 3rd, the United States Post Office unveiled their latest addition to their line of limited edition Forever Stamps, at the American Philatelic Society National Summer Convention StampShow in Richmond, Va.

There are five very colorful stamps in the series, highlighting Monarch butterflies and western (or European) honeybees perched on flowers, getting their taste of nectar. This is the second time in 10 years the post office honored nature’s pollinators. In the 2007 series, the stamps honored the bumblebee, hummingbird, a bat, and the Southern dogface butterfly.

Strangely, the USPS didn’t choose to highlight another one of the leading pollinators – our favorite, the second most active pollinator – the mosquito. I guess they didn’t think those stamps would sell very well.😉

How Do Butterflies Pollinate?

Regardless, the Monarch butterfly is a more beautiful alternative, and a major player in widespread pollination. Because the butterflies migrate over thousands of miles every year, their multigenerational journey ranges from southern Canada, the entire length of the contiguous United States, even deep into Mexico, where they spend the winter months resting before returning north!

While honeybees do not naturally migrate anywhere close to those distances, one of the side effects of the dwindling numbers of honeybees is that these days, we often intervene to help them do their jobs.

Humans & Bees Working Together?

Beekeepers often load their hives into trucks, driving all across the country to assist farmers and accommodate various growing seasons. And that’s actually one of the reasons the US Postal Service decided to highlight these helpful insects.

The new stamp series is titled “Protect Pollinators,” and while no money from the sale of the stamps goes to the cause, USPS hopes that the stamp series will draw attention and more resources to the valuable pollinators and keeping them alive. You can pick yours up at your local post office or online here.

So, What Else Can I Do?

The Postal Service is also reaching out and encouraging everyone to plant locally appropriate, native plants. It’s a win-win – there’s one more flower to be pollinated, and you can enjoy the glorious colors.

There’s one more way you can protect a pollinator – the one that didn’t get his – or rather – her just desserts from the Post Office. By getting our exclusive No Bite Zones technology, whether you’re in Port Charlotte or Lakewood Ranch, you can take momma mosquitoes and turn them and their babies into vegan mosquitoes that will pollinate as God intended, without biting your family or pets. Another win-win situation. Give us a call to find out more!

And pick up some of the Protect Pollinators Forever stamps. You can’t lick them. (Cause they’re self-stick. Get it?)

Bee Buzzes: The Key to Their Survival?

Bee Buzzes - A Key to their SurvivalOn the HBO show Silicon Valley, one of the running themes is how the computer whizzes use their technology to share data across thousands of phones and Internet-connected smart devices to improve the world.

Now scientists at the University of Colorado & the University of Missouri may have discovered a way to use that technology to solve a very non-technological real-life problem.

For years, farmers and entomologists alike have noticed dwindling bee populations and sought ways to stem their apparent decline. There are many reasons proposed for the diminishing bee population – habitat loss, climate change, exposure to pesticides, the increasing industrialization of farmland, even our own government programs that limit use of farmland, resulting in fewer pollination sources.

Regardless of the reasons, the reduced bee population, both in wild and managed hives continues to be a source of concern for farmers.

But now a team from the biology department at the University of Missouri may have found a ‘sound solution.’

A Sound Solution?

Scientists have used sonic vibrations to monitor birds, bats, frogs and other insects for more than 100 years. So the researchers decided to try that approach with bumble bees.

The first step was to determine the similarities in frequencies of various bees in the lab, much like determining a musical pitch. Then they teamed up with a group at the University of Colorado to record and analyze data using tiny microphones in three locations on Pennsylvania Mountain, in Colorado.

They soon discovered that existing algorithms that estimated the bee population, in almost every case, significantly underestimated the quantity and variety of bee populations that they found evidence of in the acoustical surveys.

But How Do Cell Phones Help?

Using improved algorithms based on the data, the team at UM are now working on an app that anyone can download on their smartphone. The app allows folks to use their phones as mobile microphones, recording, collating and uploading data on the bees’ buzzing, as well as a photograph of the bees recorded if they want.

The data from the study and its continued tracking, as well as the efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of ‘citizen scientists,’ could help farmers track the pollination of their fields and orchards, as well as predicting potential areas where pollination is dropping off before it gets to crisis levels.

And that’s not all. Now that they’ve determined the frequencies, they hope to do future studies on whether or not bees detect competitors by their distinctive buzzes and whether flowers respond chemically to the sound of bee buzzes.

While bees are the number one pollinator of flowers and crops, thankfully, they’re not the only one. We’d like to think we’re doing our part to preserve the second largest pollinator, mosquitoes, with our exclusive No Bite Zones technology that turns the biting momma mosquitoes into vegans, along with their offspring. Especially as our summer rains continue, our clients from North Port to Parrish are enjoying a mosquito free season. If you’d like to check it out, give us a call! Like all our products at Good News Pest Solutions, it’s 100% organic and safe for everyone in your family.

 

Dragonfly Spies: Coming to a Town Near You?

Dragonfly Spies Coming to a Town Near You?There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about spy satellites and drones and having our conversations monitored. But you might not realize just how advanced the technology is… or how small.

We’ve talked in the past about cockroaches that could be electronically programmed to be used as remote control insects, going places humans can’t or won’t go. They even used them in a movie!

Now scientists are launching their technology to all new heights. Creating the perfect insect drone – from Dragonflies! Seriously, it’s like they’re right out of a James Bond film.

Technology Takes Flight

Dubbed DragonflEye, biomedical engineers at Draper, with the help of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at Janelia Research Campus have developed a hybrid drone micro-aerial vehicle.

Similar to the RoboRoaches, scientists are experimenting with installing a technology-filled ‘backpack’ on actual dragonflies. Technology that includes a miniaturized solar unit, optical stimulation technology and guidance systems equipped for advanced navigation.

Dragonflies are the perfect covert operatives – they exist on every continent except Antarctica, and their God-given design of 4 wings allows them to hover, change direction rapidly, darting capabilities and even the ability to fly in reverse!

But That’s Far From All

What’s more, the tech teams say that their advances could mean more than just the potential espionage uses. For example, in their experimentation to further control the dragonflies, they created more innovative fiber optics.

Traditional optical fibers were too stiff to be wrapped around the tiny dragonfly’s nerve cords, so Draper developed innovative flexible ‘optrodes’ that can bend light around sub-millimeter turns.

Say What?

For the dragonflies, that means scientists can stimulate specific neurons for flight or vision, without hurting the insect. But the hope is that the same technology could be utilized to create far less invasive laparoscopic surgery techniques, as well as advance replacement limb integration and control for prosthetic use.

And that’s just one potential advance.

They also hope to adapt the technology for other insects – enabling them to more closely study honeybees, learning flight patterns, migration habits and pollination techniques and finding ways to improve them. And that’s good news for everyone.

Here at Good News Pest Solutions, we’ve been studying insects, including dragonflies – which are great mosquito repellents – all up and down the Gulf Coast of Florida, from Ruskin to Punta Gorda. We specialize in 100% natural and organic pest solutions, safe for the whole family and more effective than nasty chemical treatments. If you need help, give us a call!

Bumblebees Placed on the Endangered List

Bumblebees-On the Endangered ListIn the 1970’s, the unusual loss of several colonies of bees across the United States led to a bit of a panic among scientists and farmers. It seemed that there was a global crisis in the making. That scare was mined by science fiction authors and moviemakers, even as recently as the 2008 film, The Happening. Ultimately, in real life, it was discovered that the so-called “Disappearing Disease” had been recorded as far back as the 17th century and was part of the normal cycle of bee colony life, albeit a rarer occurrence.

Here at Good News Pest Solutions, we deal with and study a lot of different insects and bugs – yes, they are two different things – and one of our favorites has always been the humble bumblebee.  While they don’t produce enough honey to harvest, they are excellent pollinators, especially for wildflowers and cranberry bushes, and you could call them the original AirBnB-ers, reusing mouse holes, compost heaps, and piles of leaves for their homes.

What’s Happening to the Rusty Patch Bumblebee?

Unfortunately, one science fiction nightmare is coming true. Bombus affinis, also known as the rusty patched bumblebee, has now been placed on the endangered list. The rusty patch bumblebee is a native to North America, at one time blanketing the upper Midwest. But their numbers have been declining since 2003. By 2014, the state of Vermont and then Canada declared the bombus affinis an endangered species. Now, after an estimated 87% decline, as tracked by the Xerces Society, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has given the species endangered status.

Unfortunately, the biggest threat to Bombus affinis is other bumblebees. In the 90’s, several efforts were made to commercialize the bumblebee populations for better crop pollination. One such effort involved shipping queens of two species of bumblebees, Bombus occidentalis and Bombus impatiens to breeding facilities in Europe. The resulting colonies were then shipped back to farms in the United States. Recent studies have theorized that these colonies were infected by wild European bees in the same facility and brought the disease back to North America, devastating bee populations that had not built up a natural resistance.

Additionally, all bumblebees are at risk from pesticides and environmental encroachment (that’s a big phrase for the problems caused when we keep building more stuff). Even the farmers bumblebees are meant to help and the fertilizers they spread can have a negative effect on the bumblebee population. Planting more crops leaves less space for milkweed and other wildflowers that the bumblebees rely on for the feeding of the colony.

The easiest way to identify the Bombus affinis is by their unique markings. Unlike the round markings on the back of most bumblebees, the rusty patched bumblebees have an almost mushroom shape, that tapers to a V in their back.

What You Can Do To Help

So what can you do? The rusty patched bumblebee is seldom found in Florida, but in general, just leave bumblebee nests alone. Except for the queens, the bee colony dies off each season, and bumblebees in general are not that aggressive, so just relax and let them go about their way. And when more tips are offered, we’ll be the first to let you know!

Here at Good News Pest Solutions, we care about the environment and endeavor to use cutting-edge, natural, eco-friendly pest control measures that are safe for our earth and you, while being highly effective at controlling pests. If you are looking for a green pest control company, look no further! You have found the Gulf Coast’s leader in natural pest control; contact us today!

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