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Thread: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Principles of using of vibro-acoustic markers and communicational signals in the process of bees' lives

    August 31, 2018, CORDIS

    How do the bees use this system of vibro-acoustical signals? Understanding now, how marker and communicational vibro-acoustic signals are arranged, and what, in principle, they serve, let's consider their application in the daily life of beehives.

    Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-08-princi...-bees.html#jCp

    Let's suppose that a bee of the age of about 5 days moves along the hive. Its own marker is set in the "position" "free," or it is not emitted in principle. The bee falls into the zone of action of vibro-acoustical marker signals of the group of bees No. 1, engaged in feeding the larvae with royal jelly. Her internal program verifies the possibility of joining this cluster. She analyzes the correspondence of work to her age. The answer is "no," this work cannot be performed yet.

    It's too early. Her glands are not matured yet. The bee continues her movement, and falls into the zone of action of vibro-acoustical marker of the group of bees No. 2. This marker determines the work of the bees on cleaning the cells for laying eggs by the queen. Her internal program analyzes the situation. The answer is "no." The bee has already left this age range. The bee continues her movement, and falls into the zone of action of vibro-acoustical markers of the group of bees No. 3. They are engaged in feeding the larvae with honey and pollen. The internal program of the bee analyzes the situation. The analysis shows that according to the age of the bee, this work is quite suitable for her. The bee joins the cluster, setting her own marker in accordance with the work being performed.

    The view is somewhat simplistic. Most likely, there should be some marker, or communication, which may be tactile, that determines the need for such connection to the cluster of working bees.

    It is possible that American scientists observed one of these signals during their studies. This was so-called worker piping. It is possible that this signal had a different purpose, because the bee roamed the honeycomb for a long time, and periodically released it—during an hour, or an hour and a half.

    In all cases, the signal was seen as a short pulse, lasting from 0.5 to 1.5 seconds, filled with a frequency of 337 + -15 hertz. This data also confirms once again our idea that the bees communicate using very short impulse signals, which are difficult to process with the help of Fast Fourier Transform algorithms.

    But this is not the end of the problems. There are some other technical features involved in understanding of the "language" of bees, but we do not have space and time to talk about them in this article.

    Thus, we once again wish to state the following:

    The vibro-acoustic signals of bees are a set of short pulses of certain frequency, or sum of frequencies, followed by certain intervals, and are markers of the type of activity of the bees, or communicational signals. These markers and communicational signals do not carry in themselves meaningful, as in our understanding, information, such as letters or words. They are only a means to attract attention, and markers of performed works or emotional states.
    All these signals are used together with tactile signals and with the eyesight of bees.

    Explore further: Sick bees eat healthier

    https://phys.org/news/2018-08-princi...kers-bees.html
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Fireflies....who doesn't remember catching fireflies to put in a jar on warm summer nights?!

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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Don't feel bad Foxie..I did the same and I also used em for night fishing back in the day..when a fire couldn't bee made or a lantern drew to many bugs as kids we would catch em and smear the ends of our pole with the glow..wouldn't think of doing that now...


    William.
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Telling the Bees

    By John Greenleaf Whittier

    Here is the place; right over the hill
    Runs the path I took;
    You can see the gap in the old wall still,
    And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.

    There is the house, with the gate red-barred,
    And the poplars tall;
    And the barn’s brown length, and the cattle-yard,
    And the white horns tossing above the wall.

    There are the beehives ranged in the sun;
    And down by the brink
    Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o’errun,
    Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.

    A year has gone, as the tortoise goes,
    Heavy and slow;
    And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows,
    And the same brook sings of a year ago.

    There ’s the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze;
    And the June sun warm
    Tangles his wings of fire in the trees,
    Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.

    I mind me how with a lover’s care
    From my Sunday coat
    I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair,
    And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.

    Since we parted, a month had passed,—
    To love, a year;
    Down through the beeches I looked at last
    On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.

    I can see it all now,—the slantwise rain
    Of light through the leaves,
    The sundown’s blaze on her window-pane,
    The bloom of her roses under the eaves.

    Just the same as a month before,—
    The house and the trees,
    The barn’s brown gable, the vine by the door,—
    Nothing changed but the hives of bees.

    Before them, under the garden wall,
    Forward and back,
    Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
    Draping each hive with a shred of black.

    Trembling, I listened: the summer sun
    Had the chill of snow;
    For I knew she was telling the bees of one
    Gone on the journey we all must go!

    Then I said to myself, “My Mary weeps
    For the dead to-day:
    Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
    The fret and the pain of his age away.”

    But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
    With his cane to his chin,
    The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
    Sung to the bees stealing out and in.

    And the song she was singing ever since
    In my ear sounds on:—
    “Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
    Mistress Mary is dead and gone!”

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poe...lling-the-bees
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    “Telling the Bees”
    In nineteenth-century New England, it was held to be essential to whisper to beehives of a loved one’s death.

    By Colleen English.

    While most common in the nineteenth century, the practice of “telling the bees” about significant life events endures, albeit in a different form, to the present day. The most pervasive and affecting depiction of this tradition can be found in the New England Quaker writer John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1858 poem “Telling the Bees.”

    An unnamed speaker returns to his lover’s abode after a year’s absence. He describes his previous visit there in careful detail before noting that nothing had changed, not the house or the trees, save the family beehives. The speaker’s attention is drawn to these objects by the movements of a “chore-girl small” who sings a mournful tune as she drapes the hives with “shred of black.” It is apparent from the actions of the chore-girl that something is very wrong here. This is a house in mourning, a realization that sends a wintry chill through the speaker, who then begins to listen intently to the girl’s lachrymose tune. He becomes aware that “she was telling the bees of one / Gone on the journey we all must go!”

    His first thought is that his beloved’s grandfather has died, a conclusion that gives him comfort, knowing that he “sleeps / The fret and the pain of his age away.” His thoughts are then interrupted by the sound of a dog whimpering. He looks up. There, in the doorway, is the old man, his head resting on his cane, very much alive. The chore-girl continues to sing to the bees, and now he can make out what she is telling them. She sings: “Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence! / Mistress Mary is dead and gone!” The poem ends with this communication to the bees, foregrounding their importance in a ritual conveying human grief.

    Whittier himself was eager to locate the tradition of “telling the bees” within the folklore of rural New England. When he published the poem in the Atlantic in 1858 he included an introduction to the poem where he notes that this ritual that has “formerly prevailed” was brought to America from “the Old Country.” That Whittier felt it necessary to include a note about this tradition indicates that, even in the mid-nineteen-century, the tradition of “telling the bees” was fading.

    In an 1858 letterto fellow poet and Atlantic contributor Rose Terry Cooke, Whittier mentions that, following the advice of the Atlantic’s first editor, James Russell Lowell, he changed the title to “Telling the Bees” and added a verse “for the purpose of introducing this very expression.” Whittier’s comments, and his introductory note, indicate a desire to preserve this particular folkloric ritual, to educate the unaware. The emphasis that Whittier places on this concept of delivering important information to the bees implies that there is a special relationship that exists between honeybees and humans that is essential to maintain.

    This practice of “telling the bees” may have its origins in Celtic mythology where the presence of a bee after a death signified the soul leaving the body, but the tradition appears to have been most prominent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the U.S. and Western Europe. The ritual involves notifying honey bees of major events in the beekeeper’s life, such as a death or marriage.

    While the traditions varied from country to country, “telling the bees” always involved notifying the insects of a death in the family—so that the bees could share in the mourning. This generally entailed draping each hive with black crepe or some other “shred of black.” It was required that the sad news be delivered to each hive individually, by knocking once and then verbally relaying the tale of sorrow.

    Charles Fitzgerald Gambier Jenyns, a British Victorian apiarist and rector, in his A Book about Bees (1886) asserts that this message should be delivered to the hives at midnight. In other regions, like in Whittier’s New England, they simply hung crepe on the hive and then sang to the bees that, “So-and-so is dead.” Other variations include merely telling (rather than singing) or whispering the information. In some places they may say “Little brownies, little brownies, your master (or mistress) is dead.”

    Tammy Horn, a literary scholar and apiarist, writes in Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation (2005) that in New Hampshire, the news of a death must not only be sung, but the verses must also rhyme. She provides a sample verse: “Bees, bees, awake! / Your master is dead, / And another you must take.” If the bees begin to buzz after this information has been delivered, it is seen as a good omen.

    Horn also writes of another death custom associated with bees: that of “ricking,” a ritual that required the eldest son in the bereaved family to shift all of the hives to the right in order to signify that a change has occurred. Another take on this was to shift the hives so that their entrances faced the family home. This tended only to occur if the deceased was being waked in the home.

    The consequences of not telling the bees could be dire. Another Victorian biologist, Margaret Warner Morley, in her book The Honey-Makers (1899), cites a case in Norfolk where a man purchased a hive of bees at an auction. When the man returned home with them, the bees appeared very sickly. It occurred to their new owner that they hadn’t been properly put into mourning after the death of their former owner. He decided to drape the hive with black cloth, and soon after he did, the bees regained their health. There are also tales of entire bee colonies dying if the family failed to notify them of a death.

    Throughout the nineteenth-century and well into the twentieth, there were reports of rural people who firmly believed in this tradition of telling the bees. There is even a report of bees brought to a funeral, presumably after being told of the death. In 1956, the AP reported a strange occurrence at the funeral of John Zepka, a beekeeper from the Berkshire Hills. As the funeral procession reached the grave, the mourners discovered swarms of bees hanging placidly from the ceiling of the tent “and clinging to floral sprays. They did not annoy the mourners—just remained immobile.” According to a New York Times dispatch from Adams, MA, published on July 16, 1956: “Nothing like it had ever been seen before.” This curious case seemed to confirm the need to “tell” the bees, further strengthening the conviction that there exists a mournful sympathy between bees and humans.

    The mourning practices of this area of New England were, as nineteenth-century folklorist Pamela McArthur Cole has commented, anachronistic even in 1894. These practices included the superstition that you must touch the corpse before burial, else the departed will reappear to the mourner in a dream. Cole observes that, by 1842, only a few individuals had actually witnessed the ritual of “telling the bees.” Although Whittier’s popular ballad would not be published for another sixteen years, the tradition, while not widely practiced, had clearly taken hold in the public imagination.

    Unhappy events were not the only occasions that the bees were invited to participate in. The bees were in fact so integral to human rituals that Cole notes of a wedding: “The little workers were to be informed of the event, and receive a bit of wedding cake.” The hives were sometimes adorned with flowers to celebrate the proceedings.

    Morley (the Victorian biologist) observes that, in Brittany, it was traditional to decorate the hives for wedding celebrations with scarlet cloth, while in Westphalia, Germany, the newlyweds must introduce themselves to the bees or else they will have an unlucky marriage. This homage paid to the bees during nuptials could be a way of compensating the creatures for the vast amounts of honey consumed during the celebrations.

    Yet it is in mourning rather that in nuptial celebrations that the tradition of telling the bees lingers. “Telling the bees” resonates in the poetry of twentieth-century confessional poet Sylvia Plath’s “bee poems,” a poetic sequence in her collection, Ariel. Plath had direct experience with beekeeping: Her father was an entomologist who specialized in bees. Shortly before her suicide, Plath began to keep bees herself. In “The Arrival of the Bee Box” (1962), she compares the “clean wood box” to a small coffin and refers to the beekeeping net as a “funeral veil,” thus drawing explicit connections between beekeeping, death, and mourning.

    Today, with the bee crisis reaching alarming heights, we seem to have returned to a morbid intimacy with bees. In early June 2018, French beekeepers, many clad in traditional protective suits and veiled hats, held a symbolic funeral in central Paris to protest the use of pesticides that many see as being responsible for the death of thousands of honeybees. This problem is not unique to France, or even to Europe: In North America, colony collapse disorder—the name given to the phenomenon where honeybees suddenly abandon their hive—has raised alarms about the environmental implications of diminishing honey bee populations.

    While many nineteenth-century commentators on the tradition of “telling the bees” speculated that the custom would die out as more information was gained about beekeeping, the mock-funeral in France attests to its legacy.

    In Paris, as beekeepers hovered over gravestone-like bee boxes and coffins containing beekeeper effigies, it was unclear whether the beekeepers were mourning for the bees or for the demise of their profession. Given that bees pollinate 70 of the 100 crops that feed 90% of the world, this mourning for the bees—and for the humans that tend to them—is fitting. It is more than likely that if the bee population becomes extinct, humankind will follow close behind. While the future of the honeybee remains uncertain, this staged funeral serves as a powerful reminder that our fate is inexorably linked to that of bees. If they were to depart, the journey “we all must go” will come sooner than we realize.

    https://daily.jstor.org/telling-the-bees/
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Musical intermission..Book of Bad Decisions...Emily Dickinson.




    Rock on..
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Hey William hive been missing you...

    Quote Posted by Star Tsar (here)
    Smithsonian Magazine

    Bees Take A Break During Total Solar Eclipses

    Published 10th October 2018



    On August 21st 2017 human beings in North America from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic seaboard took a break from their normal routines to experience the marvel of the total solar eclipse.

    And so did the Bees...

    Read all about it here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/scien...ses-180970502/

    I for one will join in with anyone, I don't care what color you are as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this Earth - Malcolm X / Tsar Of The Star

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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    I thought i'd share an interesting observation

    I was watching a paper wasp working a Dandelion flower and was wondering if I should squish it- we have a high population of these here and I have always understood that they are Not friends of bees.

    As I was contemplating murder, a honey bee landed on the flower right behind it and also started collecting nectar, making its way up the flower, directly underneath the wasp.
    I was watching this thinking....that bee is going to get speared, its right under the wasps stinger!

    But NO! The wasp lifted all left feet up and over the bee, scooted off to the side of the flower til the bee had its back to it and then walked back over to it...I'm thinking okay, now its all on, now you're a gonner!!!

    But no! the wasp placed both antennea on the bees back, stepped away and then when it turned to face it, stepped back and head butted the bee twice in the face knocking the bee completely off the flower.

    All I could think was...Okay, its spring, maybe wasps are also more interested in gathering nectar at this time of year, rather than seeing honey bees as a protein source and Dandelions are a great source of nectar.

    I find nature absolutely fascinating.

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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Throwing nature under the bus: GMO bees and robo-bees

    Published: 29 October 2018

    https://gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/18543

    “Robotic bees could pollinate plants in case of insect apocalypse”, ran a recent Guardian headline reporting how Dutch scientists “believe they will be able to create swarms of bee-like drones to pollinate plants when the real-life insects have died away”.

    And that’s not the only techno-fix on offer for the mass extinction of pollinators. Also in the works are GMO bees, including ones resistant to pesticides, which are a key contributor to the crisis engulfing insects around the globe.

    Are robotic bees the future?

    Over 75% of the leading types of global food crops are reliant on pollinators and the FAO says their help is worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year. So it’s hardly surprising that Walmart is among those filing patents on robotic bees.

    But Jeff Ollerton, a leading expert on pollination ecology, calls claims that robots are the fix for pollinator wipe-out “complete bull****”. According to Ollerton, “No one who knows anything about pollinators thinks that this is feasible... Each year it takes at least 22 trillion pollinator visits to the flowers of coffee plants to sustain global coffee production. That's one crop.”

    Bee expert Dave Goulson is equally unimpressed. In his article, “Are robotic bees the future?”, he also points to the numbers. To take care of insect pollination, robotic bees would need to replace “countless trillions” of insects – “All to replace creatures that currently deliver pollination for free.”

    It’s not just the mind-boggling scale and expense of replacing pollinators that concerns experts like Goulson and Ollerton. They also point to the environmental costs: the resources and pollution involved in producing a vast army of pollinating drones, the energy costs for running them, and the disposal/pollution costs when they stop working. In contrast, real bees, says Goulson, in addition to being biodegradable, “avoid all of these issues; they are self-replicating, self-powering, and essentially carbon neutral”.

    Goulson also points out, “Bees have been around and pollinating flowers for more than 120 million years; they have evolved to become very good at it. It is remarkable hubris to think that we can improve on that.”

    Send in the GMO bees

    But “another controversial response to the slump in bee populations” aims to do exactly that, according to a recent article by Bernhard Warner in The Guardian. Instead of replacing pollinators, this techno-fix involves genetically engineering “more resilient” strains of the honeybee that could better survive the hazards of pesticides, as well as the bee viruses and parasites that humans have spread around the globe.

    The first honeybee queen was successfully genetically engineered in 2014 in a Düsseldorf lab. Its director Martin Beye says his lab is simply exploring the genetic basis of bee behaviour and not trying to build a GMO bee for release into the wild.

    But according to Bernhard Warner: “The truth is that Beye’s highly detailed paper serves as a kind of blueprint for how to build a bee. Thanks to research like his, and the emergence of tools such as CRISPR, it has never been cheaper or so straightforward for a chemical company to pursue a superbee resistant to, say, the chemicals it makes.

    Takeo Kubo, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Tokyo, was the second scientist in the world to make a genetically modified bee in his lab. He told me that he, too, is focused on basic research, and has no ties to the agriculture industry. But, unlike Beye, he welcomes the prospect of GM bee swarms buzzing around the countryside. Lab-made, pesticide-resistant bees could be a real saviour for beekeepers and farmers, he says. And, he adds, the science is no more than three years away.”

    “I’m now 57 years old,” he told Warner in an email, “and completely optimistic to see such transgenic bees in the marketplace in my lifetime!”

    Many beekeepers are understandably alarmed. According to Warner, “Beekeepers fear genetic engineering of honeybees will introduce patents and privatisation to one of the last bastions of agriculture that is collectively managed and owned by no one.” They also fear that GM bees will pollute the gene pool of traditional honeybees and destroy the vibrant local market in such strains.

    Warner says there are also health concerns. Bee stings can already produce allergic reactions in some people that range from the mild to the life-threatening. Could the sting of GM bees “introduce new allergy risks”?

    And there are ecological concerns. Honeybees can already out-compete wild bees, posing a real problem in areas of limited forage where wild bee species are under threat. So wouldn’t smaller struggling bee species face an even bigger threat from a pesticide-resistant “superbee”?

    Throwing nature under the bus

    There is a still more fundamental problem with projects that envisage changing or replacing bees to accommodate intensive farming practices. Jay Evans, who heads the bee research lab at the US Department of Agriculture, told Warner that designing a pesticide-proof honeybee, or a “bulletproof bee”, as Evans calls them, would “throw a lot of nature under the bus”.

    Dave Goulson sees exactly the same problem with robotic bees. “If farmers no longer need to worry about harming bees they could perhaps spray more pesticides, but there are many other beneficial creatures that live in farmland that would be harmed; ladybirds, hoverflies and wasps that attack crop pests, worms, dung beetles and millipedes that help recycle nutrients and keep the soil healthy, and many more. Are we going to make robotic worms and ladybirds too? What kind of world would we end up with?”

    In other words, technologists intent on propping up a form of agriculture where farmers don’t need to worry about harming bees are actually fueling the devastating trajectory that is already causing massive insect declines. And, as a recent Guardian editorial noted, the global collapse of insect numbers is in turn a threat to almost every other species on the planet.

    Even the GMO bee pioneer Martin Beye agrees that building a GMO bee is “a stupid idea”. Rather than pesticide-proof bees, he told Warner, we need to move to farming practices that don’t harm bees. “They should be working on that. Not on manipulating the bee.”

    Dave Goulson puts it like this, “Do we have to always look for a technical solution to the problems that we create, when a simple, natural solution is staring us in the face? We have wonderfully efficient pollinators already, let’s look after them, not plan for their demise.”

    Read this article on the GMWatch site and access sources:
    https://gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/18543
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Cuckoo Bumble Bees: What We Can Learn From Their Cheating Ways (If They Don’t Go Extinct First)

    By Meredith Swett Walker

    Raising kids is a lot of work; it takes a lot of energy to feed and defend helpless offspring. So, brood parasites trick someone else into doing it for them.

    This reproductive strategy is well known in birds, such as cuckoos or the brown-headed cowbird, but brood parasitism is much rarer in insects. Some of the best examples are the cuckoo bumble bees in the subgenus Psithyrus.bombus

    Cuckoo bumble bee queens employ sophisticated con artistry to infiltrate the nests of their hosts, but they don’t simply dump their eggs in another bumble bee nest, like a cuckoo bird. Because their host bumble bees are eusocial, cuckoo bumble bees have to have to trick the entire colony, not just mom and dad. These bees are also considered “social parasites” because they exploit the whole colony, tricking the host workers into rearing cuckoo brood.

    Learning how cuckoo bumble bees cheat the eusocial system can tell scientists a lot about how insect sociality evolves and how hosts and parasites coevolve antagonistically with each other. But, despite their fascinating lifestyle, the ecology of half of the 28 species of cuckoo bumble bees is totally unknown. That lack of knowledge is due in part to their rarity and also, perhaps, to some anti-parasite bias.

    In research published this month in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, Patrick Lhomme, Ph.D., postdoctoral researcher at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas in Morocco, and Heather Hines, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and entomology at Penn State University, review what we know about the ecology and evolution of cuckoo bumble bees and why our opportunities to study the fascinating bees may be running out.

    Nest usurpation—when one queen invades the nest of another, kills the original queen and adopts her brood—is common among bumble bees and usually occurs within a species.

    This is called “facultative social parasitism,” and it’s a strategy deployed by bumble bee queens only under certain ecological conditions. But cuckoo bumble bees are “obligate brood parasites”—in other words, they cannot reproduce without their hosts. They cannot produce their own workers, they lack pollen baskets on their legs and so cannot collect pollen to feed their own offspring, and they cannot produce enough wax to build their own nest.

    Instead, cuckoo bumble bees must find a host colony of another bumble bee species, and it has to be just the right size. Too large, and there will be too many workers defending the nest and the cuckoo will be killed. Too small and there will be too few workers to raise the cuckoo’s offspring. So, cuckoo bumblebees must be selective.

    They also have to be tough fighters to defend themselves from attacking workers as they infiltrate the nest and kill the host queen. Thus, cuckoo bumble bees are heavily armored with larger and stronger mandibles, a hardened abdomen, and a thicker, more powerful sting.

    After it infiltrates a nest, the invading cuckoo must defuse the battle and integrate into the host colony. Some cuckoo bumble bees do this by mimicking the chemical cues used by their host species. Other cuckoos produce few recognition chemicals of their own and then take on the “scent” of the colony via contact with nest materials and workers.

    Finally, once hatched, cuckoo larvae must trick the host workers into feeding them. How this works is largely unknown. Previous research by Lhomme suggests that colonies taken over by cuckoo bumble bee queens may lose their ability to recognize outsiders in general and so be more accepting of cuckoo larvae when they hatch.

    Despite their fascinating adaptations, cuckoo bumble bees are understudied. This is partly due to their rarity in space and time. Because they produce no workers of their own, they are not out and about foraging for long. Cuckoo queens are only above ground and active for a short period while searching for host nests and mating with the short-lived male cuckoos.

    So, it can be difficult for researchers to find and observe cuckoo bumblebees. And there are just not very many of them: Sampling suggests that, even accounting for the lack of workers, their population sizes may be small.

    But another factor that may contribute to our lack of study of these bees is our general attitude towards parasites. In the past, they may have been viewed as enemies of the “real bumble bees” says Lhomme. In addition, they are not effective pollinators and were therefore not seen as “useful” to humans.

    Biologists may now be fascinated by brood parasites, but the public is often less enamored. “The first question people often ask me when I tell them about my research is ‘Why do you study bumble bees that are so mean!?’,” says Lhomme. “It’s said as a joke of course, but I think it’s characteristic of what people really think. I believe the public has less sympathy for parasitic species in general.” And this attitude may hurt conservation efforts.

    Many bumble bee species are declining alarmingly due to climate change, loss of habitat, and introduced diseases. When populations of their host species decline, cuckoo bumble bees decline as well. They are particularly vulnerable to extinction because of their relative rarity as a brood parasite. But, people tend to forget that parasitism, in its various forms, is widespread in the living world. Around half of the species on Earth are parasites of some sort.

    Parasites “are not only important in shaping the populations or the behavior of free-living species, they are an integral part of the ecosystem and the complex food web,” says Lhomme. “They are thus as important to protect as free-living species.”

    Lhomme and Hines hope their review will stimulate further research into cuckoo bumble bee biology and promote conservation efforts.

    Perhaps with better understanding, more people will see the beauty in these brood parasites. Lhomme refers to a quote from esteemed scientist and author Stephan Jay Gould: “We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well—for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”

    Read more:Ecology and Evolution of Cuckoo Bumble Bees;
    https://academic.oup.com/aesa/advanc...say031/5115643

    https://entomologytoday.org/2018/10/...cheating-ways/
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    here's another "build it they will come " moment , i built up the box, put in some frames , some drops of lemongrass oil every couple of days

    about a month later, the swarm dropped in for a look then continued across the road

    i went up for a look to see where they'd settled but they appeared to have moved on

    so i returned to polishing a slab of redgum i'd been working on with a buffer on an angle grinder , didn't hear their approach , ended up i was in the middle of a cloud of bees that came back

    the NEXT DAY i happened to look across to an old discarded box i had NOT setup specifically and noticed an abnormal number of "scouts"buzzing around the entrance and improperly aligned top of the box i had thought they were just robbing the old wax


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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    We don’t treat our bees preferring the natural beekeeping approach. Unfortunately, we’ve not had any hives survive winter which they should. Mostly, they just leave, no evidence of anything wrong. It may be a Queen death and they eventually die out which is what it looks like. But with ongoing pesticide use by neighbors, chemtrails and other nonsense, the bees may have a hard time negotiating where they are. So we expect to purchase a package of bees each year and if they survive then that’s a blessing.

    The very idea of gmo bees or robotic bees is awful. Commercial beekeepers take their bees around to this crop and that crop but it’s all monocropping and the bees don’t get enough variety in their diets to remain healthy. Since humans have decided to interfere in the bees’ lives we ought to at least provide them with the best experience possible and then get out of their way. That’s essentially what we do...plant flowers etc. that support a varied diet. And they pollinate everything on the property.

    Thanks for sharing what you do...

    Blessings

    Jan

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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Thank you bluestflame and MistressJan..

    Mistressjan your outlook and positive view and willingness to not give up is refreshing.

    William.
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Honey Bees May Fight Off Viruses With Help From Fungi

    By Gemma Tarlach

    It’s not easy being a bee these days. Apis mellifera, the Western honey bee, is crucial to agriculture worldwide but faces a growing number of pests and pathogens against which beekeepers have few weapons.

    But the bees themselves may be showing us the way forward: New research suggests the foraging insects may obtain protection against some viruses by consuming fungi, then returning to the hive to spread its medicinal value.

    Honey bees contribute more than $15 billion annually to U.S. agriculture, and hobbyist beekeepers raise millions more bees in their backyards (full disclosure: I have three hives in a community garden).

    While the science and economics of saving honey bees can be controversial, no one can deny that the insects are facing a host of threats not historically seen in the U.S., which have led to a dramatic increase in colony losses. Over the past decade, annual colony deaths have averaged more than 30 percent.

    Much of the blame falls on the aptly-named parasitic mite Varroa destructor, which arrived in force in the 1980s and has since been associated with the spread of at least ten viruses that affect honey bees.

    One of those pathogens, deformed wing virus (DWV), causes shriveled wings and shortened life spans in individual worker bees, and can reduce an entire colony’s health. Another, Lake Sinai virus (LSV), was identified only in 2010 but has since established itself throughout the U.S.

    There are no treatments for these viruses; beekeepers instead try to control the Varroa populations within each colony. (Most colonies have some degree of Varroa present; it’s when levels exceed a certain threshold that viral infection and a decline in colony health become more likely.)

    The tools at beekeepers’ disposal range from chemical-free Integrated Pest Management practices (such as disrupting the mites’ reproductive cycle by manipulating where and when the parasites can breed within a hive) to a variety of miticides. Many of the miticides cause significant bee death if misapplied, and the wily Varroa has developed resistance to some of the chemicals. Robust control of the virus-carrying parasites continues to elude beekeepers.

    What a Fungi

    Foraging honey bees, however, have been observed consuming mycelium, the thread-like filaments found on many mushrooms. Like other fungi, mushrooms can produce chemicals with natural antimicrobial properties, including antibacterial and even antiviral compounds. Researchers wondered whether forager bees eating the mycelium and then returning to the hive to share it with other bees might provide some antiviral protection for the entire colony.

    To find out, a team cultivated several fungi species known to produce antiviral compounds and fed extracts of their mycelium to honey bees, initially in a lab environment. Several species appeared to reduce the amount of pathogens present; the researchers chose the two most promising fungi, amadou (Fomes fomentarius) and red reishi (Ganoderma resinaceum), for field trials.

    The results of the trials were impressive: the extracts, fed to bees in sugar syrup, significantly reduced the viral load of the colonies. How significant? Colonies that were fed the extracts saw a 79-fold reduction in DWV and a 45,000-fold LSV reduction (not a typo) compared with control colonies.

    The findings are potentially game-changing in the ongoing fight against bee viruses, but more work needs to be done. The researchers noted, for example, that they found some antiviral activity in the birchwood used to cultivate the mushrooms. It’s possible the tree’s phytochemicals work in concert with mycelium compounds to provide protection against viruses for the bees.

    The study appears today in Scientific Reports and is open access. You can also read Discover‘s profile of one of the study’s authors, myco-evangelist Paul Stamets, who champions the many benefits of mushrooms and other fungi, from controlling blood sugar to cleaning up oil spills.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-.../#.W9nbzfZFy00


    Extracts of Polypore Mushroom Mycelia Reduce Viruses in Honey Bees

    Abstract

    Waves of highly infectious viruses sweeping through global honey bee populations have contributed to recent declines in honey bee health. Bees have been observed foraging on mushroom mycelium, suggesting that they may be deriving medicinal or nutritional value from fungi. Fungi are known to produce a wide array of chemicals with antimicrobial activity, including compounds active against bacteria, other fungi, or viruses. We tested extracts from the mycelium of multiple polypore fungal species known to have antiviral properties. Extracts from amadou (Fomes) and reishi (Ganoderma) fungi reduced the levels of honey bee deformed wing virus (DWV) and Lake Sinai virus (LSV) in a dose-dependent manner. In field trials, colonies fed Ganoderma resinaceum extract exhibited a 79-fold reduction in DWV and a 45,000-fold reduction in LSV compared to control colonies. These findings indicate honey bees may gain health benefits from fungi and their antimicrobial compounds.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-32194-8
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    usda..National Honey Report for the month of October 2018

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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Bee Like Water...

    Cockroaches use a little kung fu to stave off zombie wasp attacks

    By Christian Cotroneo



    We so seldom see articles extolling the reasons why we should appreciate cockroaches.

    Mostly, we're obsessed with how to get rid of them.

    Sure, roaches are no honeybees. Or even ants. But it doesn't mean we can't learn a thing or two from them.

    Like, for instance, how to successfully fend off a zombie attack.

    While humans have yet to deal with an actual zombie outbreak — aside from isolated events at the local mall around Christmas time — cockroaches have been fighting off zombification for a long time.

    That would be due to a creature that we will never, ever write an appreciation of: the emerald jewel wasp, or just jewel wasp for short.

    But make no mistake. These critters are no gems.

    Despite being considerably smaller than the American cockroach, a jewel wasp is capable of making short work of the roach, thanks to the fearsome "neurotoxic cocktail" it wields.

    With Halloween barely in the rear-view mirror and many of us undoubtedly suffering from horror fatigue, we won't go into grisly detail here.

    We'll spare you the terrifying sequence that sees a wasp plunge its stinger directly into the roach's brain. And we won't dwell on how the toxin robs the roach of its ability to move on its own ...

    No, let's just skip to the good stuff.

    A new study suggests roaches may have figured out how to get off this ride from hell. They use good old-fashioned, butt-kicking kung-fu.

    Kick like your life depends on it

    That's right, according to the study published this week in the journal Brain, Behavior and Evolution, cockroaches kick like, well, the way you'd kick if someone was trying to turn you into a zombie.

    They kick so hard, the researchers noted, that the jewel wasp's head can fall right off.

    (And you thought you'd never catch yourself cheering for a cockroach.)

    But most times, those quick, hard kicks are just enough to convince the wasp to go looking for an easier candidate for the job of being Satan's slave.

    The jewel wasp actually delivers two stings that seal the roach's doom: one, paralyzes it and the second — the brain-piercer— turns it into a zombie.

    Understandably, it's that first sting that needs to be avoided. For the study, Ken Catania of Vanderbilt University watched about 55 clashes between wasp and roach, slowing each down to about 1,000 frames per second.

    Roughly half the roaches fell to the wasps instantly. The other half, however, delivered very high, powerful kicks directly to the wasp's proverbial melon.

    Those kicks — from spike-laden legs no less — sent the aggressor "careening into the walls of the filming chamber," Catania wrote.

    Every now and then, heads would even roll. But that's not all these feisty roaches did. Some dodged the dive-bomb outright. Even when they were caught in the wasp's clutches, a roach would use a "stiff-arm" defense to hold back the stinger. And finally, some desperate wretches resorted to biting the wasp in the belly at the very moment it drove the stinger into its brain.

    So yes, we do have a thing or two we can learn from cockroaches. If ever you find yourself in the clutches of a zombie, you've got to kick and fight and even bite like there's no tomorrow. Or at least not a tomorrow you want to live in.

    https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/an...ks-zombie-wasp
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Propolis Power-Up: How Beekeepers Can Encourage Resin Deposits for Better Hive Health

    By Andrew Porterfield

    Propolis, a mass of plant resins built by honey bees inside their hives, has drawn attention in recent years partly because of its alleged (but as yet unproven) health benefits to humans. But, perhaps more important, it also shows health benefits to bees themselves. Created from resins and other oils and fats collected from trees, propolis helps preserve the structural integrity of a bee hive and protects against wood decay, fungus, and water.

    Propolis has also been connected to benefiting honey bee (Apis mellifera) immune systems, saving energy that would otherwise have been used to protect against nest-invading beetles like Aethina tumida or parasites like the Varroa destructor mite, Nosema fungus, and viruses. In the past, some beekeepers have tried to keep their hives “clean” of propolis, believing it impeded with honey-making activities. Today, though, scientists and beekeepers have begun looking at encouraging propolis production to help sustain healthy hives.

    In a new study published today in the Journal of Economic Entomology, three researches—Cynthia Hodges, master beekeeper and co-owner of Hodges Honey Apiaries in Dunwoody, Georgia; Keith Delaplane, Ph.D., entomology professor at the University of Georgia; and Berry Brosi, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental science at Emory University in Atlanta—looked at four different ways to enhance propolis growth in bee hives.

    The team found that three surface modifications—plastic trap material on the hive wall interior, parallel saw cuts on hive wall interior, and brush-roughened wall interiors—were all equally capable of resulting in increased propolis production, compared to a fourth method, a control, in which the hive wall interiors we left unmodified.

    The researchers divided 20 colonies into five apiary sites and randomly applied one of the three texture treatments or control to each colony. Bees in the colonies foraged for propolis resins from plants common to the Appalachian Piedmont in the southeastern U.S., including conifers, oaks, pecan, red maple, yellow poplar, and urban ornamental plants. The researchers then measured extensiveness and depth of propolis deposits in the hives over time.

    Their results showed that any hive interior treatment significantly increased propolis deposition compared to a non-treatment control. Sampling over time showed propolis hoarding and accumulation, as well. None of the texture treatments showed significantly different results from each other.

    While all treatments resulted in more propolis deposition, the researchers point to the roughened interior of the hive walls as the best method for encouraging deposition. In fact, leaving lumber naturally rough, with no planning or sanding, would provide a simple and effective surface for boosting propolis, they write.

    “We come down in favor of roughened or un-planed wood,” says Delaplane, “because, unlike the plastic trap, it will not subtract from the bee space engineered around the walls and combs. What you see in our pictures is the work of a steel brush. Naturally un-planed wood would be much rougher and, I would expect, even better at stimulating propolis deposition.”

    Other researchers have shown that propolis development has a strong effect on the members of the bee hive. These other investigations have shown that interior walls painted with propolis extract resulted in colonies with lower bacterial loads and with worker bees that expressed lower levels of immune gene expression. Sustained activation of immune genes comes at an energy cost, which can result in a reduction in brood numbers and pose a threat to overall colony health.

    Further studies have shown that reduced immune activation (and therefore less energy spent on fighting infection) comes from reduced pathogen loads in high-propolis colonies and not from immune suppression by propolis.

    “I don’t know of any beekeepers deliberately encouraging their bees to collect propolis,” says Delaplane, adding that many keepers in the past have tried to clear propolis from their hives. “But today we know that this bias is misdirected. I believe encouraging propolis deposition is one more thing beekeepers can do to partner with biology instead of ignore it.”

    https://entomologytoday.org/2018/11/...r-hive-health/

    Read more: Textured Hive Interiors Increase Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Propolis–Hoarding Behavior
    https://academic.oup.com/jee/advance...toy363/5199372
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    The insect apocalypse is here

    Brooke Jarvis The New York Times
    Tue, 27 Nov 2018 14:10 UTC




    Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that something about the experience was amiss. Specifically, something was missing.

    It was summer. He was out in the country, moving fast. But strangely, he wasn't eating any bugs.

    For a moment, Riis was transported to his childhood on the Danish island of Lolland, in the Baltic Sea. Back then, summer bike rides meant closing his mouth to cruise through thick clouds of insects, but inevitably he swallowed some anyway. When his parents took him driving, he remembered, the car's windshield was frequently so smeared with insect carcasses that you almost couldn't see through it. But all that seemed distant now. He couldn't recall the last time he needed to wash bugs from his windshield; he even wondered, vaguely, whether car manufacturers had invented some fancy new coating to keep off insects. But this absence, he now realized with some alarm, seemed to be all around him. Where had all those insects gone? And when? And why hadn't he noticed?

    Riis watched his son, flying through the beautiful day, not eating bugs, and was struck by the melancholy thought that his son's childhood would lack this particular bug-eating experience of his own. It was, he granted, an odd thing to feel nostalgic about. But he couldn't shake a feeling of loss. "I guess it's pretty human to think that everything was better when you were a kid," he said. "Maybe I didn't like it when I was on my bike and I ate all the bugs, but looking back on it, I think it's something everybody should experience."

    I met Riis, a lanky high school science and math teacher, on a hot day in June. He was anxious about not having yet written his address for the school's graduation ceremony that evening, but first, he had a job to do. From his garage, he retrieved a large insect net, drove to a nearby intersection and stopped to strap the net to the car's roof. Made of white mesh, the net ran the length of his car and was held up by a tent pole at the front, tapering to a small, removable bag in back. Drivers whizzing past twisted their heads to stare. Riis eyed his parking spot nervously as he adjusted the straps of the contraption. "This is not 100 percent legal," he said, "but I guess, for the sake of science."

    Riis had not been able to stop thinking about the missing bugs. The more he learned, the more his nostalgia gave way to worry. Insects are the vital pollinators and recyclers of ecosystems and the base of food webs everywhere. Riis was not alone in noticing their decline. In the United States, scientists recently found the population of monarch butterflies fell by 90 percent in the last 20 years, a loss of 900 million individuals; the rusty-patched bumblebee, which once lived in 28 states, dropped by 87 percent over the same period. With other, less-studied insect species, one butterfly researcher told me, "all we can do is wave our arms and say, 'It's not here anymore!' " Still, the most disquieting thing wasn't the disappearance of certain species of insects; it was the deeper worry, shared by Riis and many others, that a whole insect world might be quietly going missing, a loss of abundance that could alter the planet in unknowable ways. "We notice the losses," says David Wagner, an entomologist at the University of Connecticut. "It's the diminishment that we don't see."

    Because insects are legion, inconspicuous and hard to meaningfully track, the fear that there might be far fewer than before was more felt than documented. People noticed it by canals or in backyards or under streetlights at night - familiar places that had become unfamiliarly empty. The feeling was so common that entomologists developed a shorthand for it, named for the way many people first began to notice that they weren't seeing as many bugs. They called it the windshield phenomenon.

    To test what had been primarily a loose suspicion of wrongness, Riis and 200 other Danes were spending the month of June roaming their country's back roads in their outfitted cars. They were part of a study conducted by the Natural History Museum of Denmark, a joint effort of the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University and North Carolina State University. The nets would stand in for windshields as Riis and the other volunteers drove through various habitats - urban areas, forests, agricultural tracts, uncultivated open land and wetlands - hoping to quantify the disorienting sense that, as one of the study's designers put it, "something from the past is missing from the present."

    When the investigators began planning the study in 2016, they weren't sure if anyone would sign up. But by the time the nets were ready, a paper by an obscure German entomological society had brought the problem of insect decline into sharp focus. The German study found that, measured simply by weight, the overall abundance of flying insects in German nature reserves had decreased by 75 percent over just 27 years. If you looked at midsummer population peaks, the drop was 82 percent.

    Riis learned about the study from a group of his students in one of their class projects. They must have made some kind of mistake in their citation, he thought. But they hadn't. The study would quickly become, according to the website Altmetric, the sixth-most-discussed scientific paper of 2017. Headlines around the world warned of an "insect Armageddon."

    Within days of announcing the insect-collection project, the Natural History Museum of Denmark was turning away eager volunteers by the dozens. It seemed there were people like Riis everywhere, people who had noticed a change but didn't know what to make of it. How could something as fundamental as the bugs in the sky just disappear? And what would become of the world without them?

    Anyone who has returned to a childhood haunt to find that everything somehow got smaller knows that humans are not great at remembering the past accurately. This is especially true when it comes to changes to the natural world. It is impossible to maintain a fixed perspective, as Heraclitus observed 2,500 years ago: It is not the same river, but we are also not the same people.

    A 1995 study, by Peter H. Kahn and Batya Friedman, of the way some children in Houston experienced pollution summed up our blindness this way: "With each generation, the amount of environmental degradation increases, but each generation takes that amount as the norm." In decades of photos of fishermen holding up their catch in the Florida Keys, the marine biologist Loren McClenachan found a perfect illustration of this phenomenon, which is often called "shifting baseline syndrome." The fish got smaller and smaller, to the point where the prize catches were dwarfed by fish that in years past were piled up and ignored. But the smiles on the fishermen's faces stayed the same size. The world never feels fallen, because we grow accustomed to the fall.

    By one measure, bugs are the wildlife we know best, the nondomesticated animals whose lives intersect most intimately with our own: spiders in the shower, ants at the picnic, ticks buried in the skin. We sometimes feel that we know them rather too well. In another sense, though, they are one of our planet's greatest mysteries, a reminder of how little we know about what's happening in the world around us.

    We've named and described a million species of insects, a stupefying array of thrips and firebrats and antlions and caddis flies and froghoppers and other enormous families of bugs that most of us can't even name. (Technically, the word "bug" applies only to the order Hemiptera, also known as true bugs, species that have tubelike mouths for piercing and sucking - and there are as many as 80,000 named varieties of those.) The ones we think we do know well, we don't: There are 12,000 types of ants, nearly 20,000 varieties of bees, almost 400,000 species of beetles, so many that the geneticist J.B.S. Haldane reportedly quipped that God must have an inordinate fondness for them. A bit of healthy soil a foot square and two inches deep might easily be home to 200 unique species of mites, each, presumably, with a subtly different job to do. And yet entomologists estimate that all this amazing, absurd and understudied variety represents perhaps only 20 percent of the actual diversity of insects on our planet - that there are millions and millions of species that are entirely unknown to science.

    With so much abundance, it very likely never occurred to most entomologists of the past that their multitudinous subjects might dwindle away. As they poured themselves into studies of the life cycles and taxonomies of the species that fascinated them, few thought to measure or record something as boring as their number. Besides, tracking quantity is slow, tedious and unglamorous work: setting and checking traps, waiting years or decades for your data to be meaningful, grappling with blunt baseline questions instead of more sophisticated ones. And who would pay for it? Most academic funding is short-term, but when what you're interested in is invisible, generational change, says Dave Goulson, an entomologist at the University of Sussex, "a three-year monitoring program is no good to anybody." This is especially true of insect populations, which are naturally variable, with wide, trend-obscuring fluctuations from one year to the next.

    When entomologists began noticing and investigating insect declines, they lamented the absence of solid information from the past in which to ground their experiences of the present. "We see a hundred of something, and we think we're fine," Wagner says, "but what if there were 100,000 two generations ago?" Rob Dunn, an ecologist at North Carolina State University who helped design the net experiment in Denmark, recently searched for studies showing the effect of pesticide spraying on the quantity of insects living in nearby forests. He was surprised to find that no such studies existed. "We ignored really basic questions," he said. "It feels like we've dropped the ball in some giant collective way."

    If entomologists lacked data, what they did have were some very worrying clues. Along with the impression that they were seeing fewer bugs in their own jars and nets while out doing experiments - a windshield phenomenon specific to the sorts of people who have bug jars and nets - there were documented downward slides of well-studied bugs, including various kinds of bees, moths, butterflies and beetles. In Britain, as many as 30 to 60 percent of species were found to have diminishing ranges. Larger trends were harder to pin down, though a 2014 review in Science tried to quantify these declines by synthesizing the findings of existing studies and found that a majority of monitored species were declining, on average by 45 percent.

    Entomologists also knew that climate change and the overall degradation of global habitat are bad news for biodiversity in general, and that insects are dealing with the particular challenges posed by herbicides and pesticides, along with the effects of losing meadows, forests and even weedy patches to the relentless expansion of human spaces. There were studies of other, better-understood species that suggested that the insects associated with them might be declining, too. People who studied fish found that the fish had fewer mayflies to eat. Ornithologists kept finding that birds that rely on insects for food were in trouble: eight in 10 partridges gone from French farmlands; 50 and 80 percent drops, respectively, for nightingales and turtledoves. Half of all farmland birds in Europe disappeared in just three decades. At first, many scientists assumed the familiar culprit of habitat destruction was at work, but then they began to wonder if the birds might simply be starving. In Denmark, an ornithologist named Anders Tottrup was the one who came up with the idea of turning cars into insect trackers for the windshield-effect study after he noticed that rollers, little owls, Eurasian hobbies and bee-eaters - all birds that subsist on large insects such as beetles and dragonflies - had abruptly disappeared from the landscape.

    The signs were certainly alarming, but they were also just signs, not enough to justify grand pronouncements about the health of insects as a whole or about what might be driving a widespread, cross-species decline. "There are no quantitative data on insects, so this is just a hypothesis," Hans de Kroon, an ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, explained to me - not the sort of language that sends people to the barricades.

    Then came the German study. Scientists are still cautious about what the findings might imply about other regions of the world. But the study brought forth exactly the kind of longitudinal data they had been seeking, and it wasn't specific to just one type of insect. The numbers were stark, indicating a vast impoverishment of an entire insect universe, even in protected areas where insects ought to be under less stress. The speed and scale of the drop were shocking even to entomologists who were already anxious about bees or fireflies or the cleanliness of car windshields.

    The results were surprising in another way too. The long-term details about insect abundance, the kind that no one really thought existed, hadn't appeared in a particularly prestigious journal and didn't come from university-affiliated scientists, but from a small society of insect enthusiasts based in the modest German city Krefeld.

    Krefeld sits a half-hour drive outside Düsseldorf, near the western bank of the Rhine. It's a city of brick houses and bright flower gardens and a stadtwald - a municipal forest and park - where paddle boats float on a lake, umbrellas shade a beer garden and (I couldn't help noticing) the afternoon light through the trees illuminates small swarms of dancing insects.

    Near the center of the old city, a paper sign, not much larger than a business card, identifies the stolid headquarters of the society whose research caused so much commotion. When it was founded, in 1905, the society operated out of another building, one that was destroyed when Britain bombed the city during World War II. (By the time the bombs fell, members had moved their precious records and collections of insects, some of which dated back to the 1860s, to an underground bunker.) Nowadays, the society uses more than 6,000 square feet of an old three-story school as storage space. Ask for a tour of the collections, and you will hear such sentences as "This whole room is Lepidoptera," referring to a former classroom stuffed with what I at first took to be shelves of books but which are in fact innumerable wooden frames containing pinned butterflies and moths; and, in an even larger room, "every bumblebee here was collected before the Second World War, 1880 to 1930"; and, upon opening a drawer full of sweat bees, "It's a new collection, 30 years only."

    On the shelves that do hold books, I counted 31 clearly well-loved volumes in the series "Beetles of Middle Europe." A 395-page book that cataloged specimens of spider wasps - where they were collected; where they were stored - of the western Palearctic said "1948-2008" on the cover. I asked my guide, a society member named Martin Sorg, who was one of the lead authors of the paper, whether those dates reflected when the specimens were collected. "No," Sorg replied, "that was the time the author needed for this work."

    Sorg, who rolls his own cigarettes and wears John Lennon glasses and whose gray hair grows long past his shoulders, is not a freewheeling type when it comes to his insect work. And his insect work is really all he wants to talk about. "We think details about nature and biodiversity declines are important, not details about life histories of entomologists," Sorg explained after he and Werner Stenmans, a society member whose name appeared alongside Sorg's on the 2017 paper, dismissed my questions about their day jobs. Leery of an article that focused on him as a person, Sorg also didn't want to talk about what drew him to entomology as a child or even what it was about certain types of wasps that had made him want to devote so much of his life to studying them. "We normally give life histories when someone is dead," he said.

    There was a reason for the wariness. Society members dislike seeing themselves described, over and over in news stories, as "amateurs." It's a framing that reflects, they believe, a too-narrow understanding of what it means to be an expert or even a scientist - what it means to be a student of the natural world.

    Amateurs have long provided much of the patchy knowledge we have about nature. Those bee and butterfly studies? Most depend on mass mobilizations of volunteers willing to walk transects and count insects, every two weeks or every year, year after year. The scary numbers about bird declines were gathered this way, too, though because birds can be hard to spot, volunteers often must learn to identify them by their sounds. Britain, which has a particularly strong tradition of amateur naturalism, has the best-studied bugs in the world. As technologically advanced as we are, the natural world is still a very big and complex place, and the best way to learn what's going on is for a lot of people to spend a lot of time observing it. The Latin root of the word "amateur" is, after all, the word "lover."

    Some of these citizen-scientists are true beginners clutching field guides; others, driven by their own passion and following in a long tradition of "amateur" naturalism, are far from novices. Think of Victorians with their butterfly nets and curiosity cabinets; of Vladimir Nabokov, whose theories about the evolution of Polyommatus blue butterflies were ignored until proved correct by DNA testing more than 30 years after his death; of young Charles Darwin, cutting his classes at Cambridge to collect beetles at Wicken Fen and once putting a live beetle in his mouth because his hands were already full of other bugs.

    The Krefeld society is volunteer-run, and many members have other jobs in unrelated fields, but they also have an enormous depth of knowledge about insects, accumulated through years of what other people might consider obsessive attention. Some study the ecology or evolutionary taxonomy of their favorite species or map their populations or breed them to study their life histories. All hone their identification skills across species by amassing their own collections of carefully pinned and labeled insects like those that fill the society's storage rooms. Sorg estimated that of the society's 63 members, a third are university-trained in subjects such as biology or earth science. Another third, he said, are "highly specialized and highly qualified but they never visited the university," while the remaining third are actual amateurs who are still in the process of becoming "real" entomologists: "Some of them may also have a degree from the university, but in our view, they are beginners."

    The society members' projects often involved setting up what are called malaise traps, nets that look like tents and drive insects flying by into bottles of ethanol. Because of the scientific standards of the society, members followed certain procedures: They always employed identical traps, sewn from a template they first used in 1982. (Sorg showed me the original rolled-up craft paper with great solemnity.) They always put them in the same places. (Before GPS, that meant a painstaking process of triangulating with surveying equipment. "We are not sure about a few centimeters," Sorg granted.) They saved everything they caught, regardless of what the main purpose of the experiment was. (The society bought so much ethanol that it attracted the attention of a narcotics unit.)

    Those bottles of insects were gathered into thousands of boxes, which are now crammed into what were once offices in the upper reaches of the school. When the society members, like entomologists elsewhere, began to notice that they were seeing fewer insects, they had something against which to measure their worries.

    "We don't throw away anything, we store everything," Sorg explained. "That gives us today the possibility to go back in time."

    In 2013, Krefeld entomologists confirmed that the total number of insects caught in one nature reserve was nearly 80 percent lower than the same spot in 1989. They had sampled other sites, analyzed old data sets and found similar declines: Where 30 years earlier, they often needed a liter bottle for a week of trapping, now a half-liter bottle usually sufficed. But it would have taken even highly trained entomologists years of painstaking work to identify all the insects in the bottles. So the society used a standardized method for weighing insects in alcohol, which told a powerful story simply by showing how much the overall mass of insects dropped over time. "A decline of this mixture," Sorg said, "is a very different thing than the decline of only a few species."

    The society collaborated with de Kroon and other scientists at Radboud University in the Netherlands, who did a trend analysis of the data that Krefeld provided, controlling for things like the effects of nearby plants, weather and forest cover on fluctuations in insect populations. The final study looked at 63 nature preserves, representing almost 17,000 sampling days, and found consistent declines in every kind of habitat they sampled. This suggested, the authors wrote, "that it is not only the vulnerable species but the flying-insect community as a whole that has been decimated over the last few decades."

    For some scientists, the study created a moment of reckoning. "Scientists thought this data was too boring," Dunn says. "But these people found it beautiful, and they loved it. They were the ones paying attention to Earth for all the rest of us."

    The current worldwide loss of biodiversity is popularly known as the sixth extinction: the sixth time in world history that a large number of species have disappeared in unusually rapid succession, caused this time not by asteroids or ice ages but by humans. When we think about losing biodiversity, we tend to think of the last northern white rhinos protected by armed guards, of polar bears on dwindling ice floes. Extinction is a visceral tragedy, universally understood: There is no coming back from it. The guilt of letting a unique species vanish is eternal.

    But extinction is not the only tragedy through which we're living. What about the species that still exist, but as a shadow of what they once were? In The Once and Future World, the journalist J.B. MacKinnon cites records from recent centuries that hint at what has only just been lost:
    "In the North Atlantic, a school of cod stalls a tall ship in midocean; off Sydney, Australia, a ship's captain sails from noon until sunset through pods of sperm whales as far as the eye can see. ... Pacific pioneers complain to the authorities that splashing salmon threaten to swamp their canoes." There were reports of lions in the south of France, walruses at the mouth of the Thames, flocks of birds that took three days to fly overhead, as many as 100 blue whales in the Southern Ocean for every one that's there now. "These are not sights from some ancient age of fire and ice," MacKinnon writes. "We are talking about things seen by human eyes, recalled in human memory."
    What we're losing is not just the diversity part of biodiversity, but the bio part: life in sheer quantity. While I was writing this article, scientists learned that the world's largest king penguin colony shrank by 88 percent in 35 years, that more than 97 percent of the bluefin tuna that once lived in the ocean are gone. The number of Sophie the Giraffe toys sold in France in a single year is nine times the number of all the giraffes that still live in Africa.

    Finding reassurance in the survival of a few symbolic standard-bearers ignores the value of abundance, of a natural world that thrives on richness and complexity and interaction. Tigers still exist, for example, but that doesn't change the fact that 93 percent of the land where they used to live is now tigerless. This matters for more than romantic reasons: Large animals, especially top predators like tigers, connect ecosystems to one another and move energy and resources among them simply by walking and eating and defecating and dying. (In the deep ocean, sunken whale carcasses form the basis of entire ecosystems in nutrient-poor places.) One result of their loss is what's known as trophic cascade, the unraveling of an ecosystem's fabric as prey populations boom and crash and the various levels of the food web no longer keep each other in check. These places are emptier, impoverished in a thousand subtle ways.

    Scientists have begun to speak of functional extinction (as opposed to the more familiar kind, numerical extinction). Functionally extinct animals and plants are still present but no longer prevalent enough to affect how an ecosystem works. Some phrase this as the extinction not of a species but of all its former interactions with its environment - an extinction of seed dispersal and predation and pollination and all the other ecological functions an animal once had, which can be devastating even if some individuals still persist. The more interactions are lost, the more disordered the ecosystem becomes. A 2013 paper in Nature, which modeled both natural and computer-generated food webs, suggested that a loss of even 30 percent of a species' abundance can be so destabilizing that other species start going fully, numerically extinct - in fact, 80 percent of the time it was a secondarily affected creature that was the first to disappear. A famous real-world example of this type of cascade concerns sea otters. When they were nearly wiped out in the northern Pacific, their prey, sea urchins, ballooned in number and decimated kelp forests, turning a rich environment into a barren one and also possibly contributing to numerical extinctions, notably of the Stellar's sea cow.

    Conservationists tend to focus on rare and endangered species, but it is common ones, because of their abundance, that power the living systems of our planet. Most species are not common, but within many animal groups most individuals - some 80 percent of them - belong to common species. Like the slow approach of twilight, their declines can be hard to see. White-rumped vultures were nearly gone from India before there was widespread awareness of their disappearance. Describing this phenomenon in the journal BioScience, Kevin Gaston, a professor of biodiversity and conservation at the University of Exeter, wrote: "Humans seem innately better able to detect the complete loss of an environmental feature than its progressive change."

    In addition to extinction (the complete loss of a species) and extirpation (a localized extinction), scientists now speak of defaunation: the loss of individuals, the loss of abundance, the loss of a place's absolute animalness. In a 2014 article in Science, researchers argued that the word should become as familiar, and influential, as the concept of deforestation. In 2017 another paper reported that major population and range losses extended even to species considered to be at low risk for extinction. They predicted "negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization" and the authors offered another term for the widespread loss of the world's wild fauna: "biological annihilation."

    It is estimated that, since 1970, Earth's various populations of wild land animals have lost, on average, 60 percent of their members. Zeroing in on the category we most relate to, mammals, scientists believe that for every six wild creatures that once ate and burrowed and raised young, only one remains. What we have instead is ourselves. A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that if you look at the world's mammals by weight, 96 percent of that biomass is humans and livestock; just 4 percent is wild animals.

    We've begun to talk about living in the Anthropocene, a world shaped by humans. But E.O. Wilson, the naturalist and prophet of environmental degradation, has suggested another name: the Eremocine, the age of loneliness.

    Wilson began his career as a taxonomic entomologist, studying ants. Insects - about as far as you can get from charismatic megafauna - are not what we're usually imagining when we talk about biodiversity. Yet they are, in Wilson's words, "the little things that run the natural world." He means it literally. Insects are a case study in the invisible importance of the common.

    Scientists have tried to calculate the benefits that insects provide simply by going about their business in large numbers. Trillions of bugs flitting from flower to flower pollinate some three-quarters of our food crops, a service worth as much as $500 billion every year. (This doesn't count the 80 percent of wild flowering plants, the foundation blocks of life everywhere, that rely on insects for pollination.) If monetary calculations like that sound strange, consider the Maoxian Valley in China, where shortages of insect pollinators have led farmers to hire human workers, at a cost of up to $19 per worker per day, to replace bees. Each person covers five to 10 trees a day, pollinating apple blossoms by hand.

    By eating and being eaten, insects turn plants into protein and power the growth of all the uncountable species - including freshwater fish and a majority of birds - that rely on them for food, not to mention all the creatures that eat those creatures. We worry about saving the grizzly bear, says the insect ecologist Scott Hoffman Black, but where is the grizzly without the bee that pollinates the berries it eats or the flies that sustain baby salmon? Where, for that matter, are we?

    Bugs are vital to the decomposition that keeps nutrients cycling, soil healthy, plants growing and ecosystems running. This role is mostly invisible, until suddenly it's not. After introducing cattle to Australia at the turn of the 19th century, settlers soon found themselves overwhelmed by the problem of their feces: For some reason, cow pies there were taking months or even years to decompose. Cows refused to eat near the stink, requiring more and more land for grazing, and so many flies bred in the piles that the country became famous for the funny hats that stockmen wore to keep them at bay. It wasn't until 1951 that a visiting entomologist realized what was wrong: The local insects, evolved to eat the more fibrous waste of marsupials, couldn't handle cow excrement. For the next 25 years, the importation, quarantine and release of dozens of species of dung beetles became a national priority. And that was just one unfilled niche. (In the United States, dung beetles save ranchers an estimated $380 million a year.) We simply don't know everything that insects do. Only about 2 percent of invertebrate species have been studied enough for us to estimate whether they are in danger of extinction, never mind what dangers that extinction might pose.

    When asked to imagine what would happen if insects were to disappear completely, scientists find words like chaos, collapse, Armageddon. Wagner, the University of Connecticut entomologist, describes a flowerless world with silent forests, a world of dung and old leaves and rotting carcasses accumulating in cities and roadsides, a world of "collapse or decay and erosion and loss that would spread through ecosystems" - spiraling from predators to plants. E.O. Wilson has written of an insect-free world, a place where most plants and land animals become extinct; where fungi explodes, for a while, thriving on death and rot; and where "the human species survives, able to fall back on wind-pollinated grains and marine fishing" despite mass starvation and resource wars. "Clinging to survival in a devastated world, and trapped in an ecological dark age," he adds, "the survivors would offer prayers for the return of weeds and bugs."

    But the crux of the windshield phenomenon, the reason that the creeping suspicion of change is so creepy, is that insects wouldn't have to disappear altogether for us to find ourselves missing them for reasons far beyond nostalgia. In October, an entomologist sent me an email with the subject line, "Holy [expletive]!" and an attachment: a study just out from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that he labeled, "Krefeld comes to Puerto Rico." The study included data from the 1970s and from the early 2010s, when a tropical ecologist named Brad Lister returned to the rain forest where he had studied lizards - and, crucially, their prey - 40 years earlier. Lister set out sticky traps and swept nets across foliage in the same places he had in the 1970s, but this time he and his co-author, Andres Garcia, caught much, much less: 10 to 60 times less arthropod biomass than before. (It's easy to read that number as 60 percent less, but it's sixtyfold less: Where once he caught 473 milligrams of bugs, Lister was now catching just eight milligrams.) "It was, you know, devastating," Lister told me. But even scarier were the ways the losses were already moving through the ecosystem, with serious declines in the numbers of lizards, birds and frogs. The paper reported "a bottom-up trophic cascade and consequent collapse of the forest food web." Lister's inbox quickly filled with messages from other scientists, especially people who study soil invertebrates, telling him they were seeing similarly frightening declines. Even after his dire findings, Lister found the losses shocking: "I didn't even know about the earthworm crisis!"

    The strange thing, Lister said, is that, as staggering as they are, all the declines he documented would still be basically invisible to the average person walking through the Luquillo rain forest. On his last visit, the forest still felt "timeless" and "phantasmagorical," with "cascading waterfalls and carpets of flowers." You would have to be an expert to notice what was missing. But he expects the losses to push the forest toward a tipping point, after which "there is a sudden and dramatic loss of the rain-forest system," and the changes will become obvious to anyone. The place he loves will become unrecognizable.

    The insects in the forest that Lister studied haven't been contending with pesticides or habitat loss, the two problems to which the Krefeld paper pointed. Instead, Lister chalks up their decline to climate change, which has already increased temperatures in Luquillo by two degrees Celsius since Lister first sampled there. Previous research suggested that tropical bugs will be unusually sensitive to temperature changes; in November, scientists who subjected laboratory beetles to a heat wave reported that the increased temperatures made them significantly less fertile. Other scientists wonder if it might be climate-induced drought or possibly invasive rats or simply "death by a thousand cuts" - a confluence of many kinds of changes to the places where insects once thrived.

    Like other species, insects are responding to what Chris Thomas, an insect ecologist at the University of York, has called "the transformation of the world": not just a changing climate but also the widespread conversion, via urbanization, agricultural intensification and so on, of natural spaces into human ones, with fewer and fewer resources "left over" for nonhuman creatures to live on. What resources remain are often contaminated. Hans de Kroon characterizes the life of many modern insects as trying to survive from one dwindling oasis to the next but with "a desert in between, and at worst it's a poisonous desert." Of particular concern are neonicotinoids, neurotoxins that were thought to affect only treated crops but turned out to accumulate in the landscape and to be consumed by all kinds of nontargeted bugs. People talk about the "loss" of bees to colony collapse disorder, and that appears to be the right word: Affected hives aren't full of dead bees, but simply mysteriously empty. A leading theory is that exposure to neurotoxins leaves bees unable to find their way home. Even hives exposed to low levels of neonicotinoids have been shown to collect less pollen and produce fewer eggs and far fewer queens. Some recent studies found bees doing better in cities than in the supposed countryside.

    The diversity of insects means that some will manage to make do in new environments, some will thrive (abundance cuts both ways: agricultural monocultures, places where only one kind of plant grows, allow some pests to reach population levels they would never achieve in nature) and some, searching for food and shelter in a world nothing like the one they were meant for, will fail. While we need much more data to better understand the reasons or mechanisms behind the ups and downs, Thomas says, "the average across all species is still a decline."

    Since the Krefeld study came out, researchers have begun searching for other forgotten repositories of information that might offer windows into the past. Some of the Radboud researchers have analyzed long-term data, belonging to Dutch entomological societies, about beetles and moths in certain reserves; they found significant drops (72 percent, 54 percent) that mirrored the Krefeld ones. Roel van Klink, a researcher at the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, told me that before Krefeld, he, like most entomologists, had never been interested in biomass. Now he is looking for historical data sets - many of which began as studies of agricultural pests, like a decades-long study of grasshoppers in Kansas - that could help create a more thorough picture of what's happening to creatures that are at once abundant and imperiled. So far he has found forgotten data from 140 old data sets for 1,500 locations that could be resampled.

    In the United States, one of the few long-term data sets about insect abundance comes from the work of Arthur Shapiro, an entomologist at the University of California, Davis. In 1972, he began walking transects in the Central Valley and the Sierras, counting butterflies. He planned to do a study on how short-term weather variations affected butterfly populations. But the longer he sampled, the more valuable his data became, offering a signal through the noise of seasonal ups and downs. "And so here I am in Year 46," he said, nearly half a century of spending five days a week, from late spring to the end of autumn, observing butterflies. In that time he has watched overall numbers decline and seen some species that used to be everywhere - even species that "everyone regarded as a junk species" only a few decades ago - all but disappear. Shapiro believes that Krefeld-level declines are likely to be happening all over the globe. "But, of course, I don't cover the entire globe," he added. "I cover I-80."

    There are also new efforts to set up more of the kind of insect-monitoring schemes researchers wish had existed decades ago, so that our current level of fallenness, at least, is captured. One is a pilot project in Germany similar to the Danish car study. To analyze what is caught, the researchers turned to volunteer naturalists, hobbyists similar to the ones in Krefeld, with the necessary breadth of knowledge to know what they're looking at. "These are not easy species to identify," says Aletta Bonn, of the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, who is overseeing the project. (The skills required for such work "are really extreme," Dunn says. "These people train for decades with other amateurs to be able to identify beetles based on their genitalia.") Bond would like to pay the volunteers for their expertise, she says, but funding hasn't caught up to the crisis. That didn't stop the "amateurs" from being willing to help: "They said, 'We're just curious what's in there, we would like to have samples.' "

    Goulson says that Europe's tradition of amateur naturalism may account for why so many of the clues to the falloff in insect biodiversity originate there. (Tottrup's design for the car net in Denmark, for example, was itself adapted from the invention of a dedicated beetle-collecting hobbyist.) As little as we know about the status of European bugs, we know significantly less about other parts of the world. "We wouldn't know anything if it weren't for them," the so-called amateurs, Goulson told me. "We'd be entirely relying on the fact that there's no bugs on the windshield."

    Thomas believes that this naturalist tradition is also why Europe is acting much faster than other places - for example, the United States - to address the decline of insects: Interest leads to tracking, which leads to awareness, which leads to concern, which leads to action. Since the Krefeld data emerged, there have been hearings about protecting insect biodiversity in the German Bundestag and the European Parliament. European Union member states voted to extend a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides and have begun to put money toward further studies of how abundance is changing, what is causing those changes and what can be done. When I knocked on the door of de Kroon's office, at Radboud University in the Dutch city Nijmegen, he was looking at some photos from another meeting he had that day: Willem-Alexander, the king of the Netherlands, had taken a tour of the city's efforts to make its riverside a friendlier habitat for bugs.

    Stemming insect declines will require much more than this, however. The European Union already had some measures in place to help pollinators - including more strictly regulating pesticides than the United States does and paying farmers to create insect habitats by leaving fields fallow and allowing for wild edges alongside cultivation - but insect populations dropped anyway. New reports call for national governments to collaborate; for more creative approaches such as integrating insect habitats into the design of roads, power lines, railroads and other infrastructure; and, as always, for more studies. The necessary changes, like the causes, may be profound. "It's just another indication that we're destroying the life-support system of the planet," Lister says of the Puerto Rico study. "Nature's resilient, but we're pushing her to such extremes that eventually it will cause a collapse of the system."

    Scientists hope that insects will have a chance to embody that resilience. While tigers tend to give birth to three or four cubs at a time, a ghost moth in Australia was once recorded laying 29,100 eggs, and she still had 15,000 in her ovaries. The fecund abundance that is insects' singular trait should enable them to recover, but only if they are given the space and the opportunity to do so.

    "It's a debate we need to have urgently," Goulson says. "If we lose insects, life on earth will. ..." He trailed off, pausing for what felt like a long time.

    In Denmark, Sune Boye Riis's transect with his car net took him past a bit of woods, some suburban lawns, some hedges, a Christmas-tree farm. The closest thing to a meadow that we passed was a large military property, on which the grass had been allowed to grow tall and golden. Riis had received instructions not to drive too fast, so traffic backed up behind us, and some people began to honk. "Well," Riis said, "so much for science." After three miles, he turned around and drove back toward the start. His windshield stayed mockingly clean.

    Riis had four friends who were also participating in the study. They had a bet going among them: Who would net the biggest bug? "I'm way behind," Riis said. "A bumblebee is in the lead." His biggest catch? "A fly. Not even a big one."

    At the end of the transect, Riis stopped at another parlous roadside spot, unfastened the net and removed the small bag at its tip. Some volunteers, captivated by what the study revealed about the world around them, asked the organizers for extra specimen bags, so they could do more sampling on their own. Some even asked if they could buy the entire car-net apparatus. Riis, though, was content to peer through the mesh, inside of which he could make out a number of black specks of varying tininess.

    There was also a single butterfly, white-winged and delicate. Riis thought of the bet with his friends, for which the meaning of bigness had not been defined. He wondered how it might be reckoned. What gave a creature value?

    "Is it weight?" he asked, staring down at the butterfly. In the big bag, it looked small and sad and alone. "Or is it grace?"

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    Now that the bugs have gone... the birds are following...
    "La réalité est un rêve que l'on fait atterrir" San Antonio AKA F. Dard

    Troll-hood motto: Never, ever, however, whatsoever, to anyone, a point concede.

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  37. Link to Post #1839
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Quote Posted by Hervé (here)
    [...]
    =================================================

    Now that the bugs have gone... the birds are following...
    From a repost of a 2017 article:

    ‘Decimated’: Germany’s Birds Disappear as Insect Abundance Plummets 76%

    By Morgan Erickson-Davis
    Global Research, December 08, 2018
    Mongabay 27 October 2017



    Originally published by Mongabay.com and Global Research on November 2, 2017

    A new study in PLOS ONE reveals a 76 percent reduction in Germany’s flying insect biomass over the past 27 years while another reports the country’s bird abundance has declined 15 percent in just over a decade.

    While the causes behind the insect decline haven’t yet been conclusively studied, the PLOS ONE study suggests agricultural intensification like increased pesticide use may be contributing to the decline.

    Neonicotinoid pesticides have been blamed for bee declines, and studies also link them to declines in aquatic insect communities. Many flying insects have aquatic life stages.

    More research is underway to better understand the causes and ramifications of such a big decline in flying insect biomass.

    Germany’s flying insect biomass has dropped 76 percent in the past 27 years, according to a study published last week in PLOS ONE. The findings have stunned biologists around the world and are prompting concern about potentially disastrous ecological consequences as another study finds the country lost 15 percent of its birds in just over a decade.

    The study was conducted by researchers at institutions in Germany and the Netherlands. Over the course of nearly 30 years, they collected flying insects within protected areas in lowland western Germany by trapping them with mesh tents that funneled into bottles of alcohol. They then measured the biomass – basically, the combined weight – of the insects to see how it changed from year to year.

    In total, the researchers collected 53.54 kilograms of flying insect biomass from 1989 to 2016. This may not sound like much, but the researchers say it represents millions of individual insects.

    The results revealed a dramatic decline in flying insects. In total, their biomass dropped 76 percent over the 27-year sampling period; collections from midsummer showed an even bigger reduction –- 82 percent.


    Flying insects, like this damselfly, perform many important ecological roles.
    Photo by Bruce Marlin via Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.5).

    While declines in bees and butterflies have been fairly well documented in many regions around the world, this is one of the few studies that have examined biomass trends in flying insects generally. The researchers say their results indicate a more extensive problem than previously thought.
    “Our results demonstrate that recently reported declines in several taxa such as butterflies, wild bees and moths, are in parallel with a severe loss of total aerial insect biomass,” the authors write, “suggesting that it is not only the vulnerable species, but the flying insect community as a whole, that has been decimated over the last few decades.”
    The study is being lauded by outside researchers. Axel Ssymank is an entomologist and head of the Natura 2000 & Habitats Directive, a program run by the Germany’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (which reports to the Ministry of the Environment). He said the study effectively documented and preserved material collected at the sample sites, and that collection methods were fully standardized. As a result, the study showed “no methodological bias at all” and the results “are beyond doubt and very well documented.”

    “The study is the most comprehensive and detailed study on loss of insect biomass … at central-European scale, if not beyond,” Ssymank said in an email to Mongabay.

    Why such a big decline?
    As insect populations drop off around the world, the lingering question remains “why?” Evidence suggests that there may be myriad causes: Pesticides used on crops around the world have been linked to the disappearance of bees; global warming seems to be endangering the UK’s garden tiger moth; destruction of prairies for farmland in the U.S. heartland has catapulted tiny skipper butterflies towards extinction.

    The PLOS ONE study looked a couple possible drivers to see how much of an impact they could be having on flying insects in Germany: climate change and habitat change. It found that while these two influences are likely affecting the country’s insects, they probably couldn’t be causing such a big decline all by themselves.


    Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) are listed as Endangered in Nova Scotia.
    Photo by Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.net, via Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.5).

    While they didn’t analyze it as part of their study, the researchers speculate that “agricultural intensification,” such as increased fertilizer and pesticide usage, could be contributing to the decline. They explain that despite being officially protected, all the areas where they collected insects were surrounded by cropland. They say these protected areas could be serving as “sinks or even as ecological traps” where agricultural runoff could be pooling and poisoning ecosystems.

    Scientists have long linked pesticide use to insect decline – a reasonable assumption since that’s their very purpose. But research indicates that pesticides are killing more than target insects. For instance, a 2008 study in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology demonstrated low but persistent levels of a common neonicotinoid pesticide in aquatic ecosystems can kill off or reduce the growth of water-dwelling invertebrates. A PLOS ONE study published in 2013 showed the presence of neonicotinoids in Dutch water bodies correlated to big drops in aquatic insect abundance.

    Many flying insects have an aquatic phase. Dragonflies, for example, spend most of their lives underwater – as long as six or seven years for some species – before molting into their iconic flying form for just a few weeks to breed. As they spend time underwater, they are exposed to contaminants that may leach from farm fields or other human developments. If contamination is too high, populations may suffer; some species are so sensitive, that scientists use them as “bioindicators” of the health of water bodies. Dragonfly larvae appear to be particularly sensitive to water pollution.

    The presence of neonicotinoids in water systems appears to be increasing. Another study in PLOS ONE published in 2014 found neonicotinoid pesticides were widespread in Canada’s prairie pothole wetlands, where neonicotinoid-treated crops are commonly grown. The researchers even found pesticide presence in wetland areas far from crop fields, “suggesting its susceptibility to transport and potential to affect those wetlands that are isolated from agricultural production,” the study reads.

    Neonicotinoids are also suspected of killing terrestrial and arboreal insects, and are perhaps most infamously linked to declines in bee populations. They comprise one of the most commonly used pesticide classes in the world, with about 95 percent of U.S. corn and canola crops treated with neonicotinoids in 2009. The European Commission is reportedly considering an all-out ban of neonicotinoid pesticides in all EU member states.

    The authors of the German study published last week did not directly survey their study sites for the presence of neonicotinoids or other pesticides, but say it is critical to uncover the causes responsible for the decline.
    “Whatever the causal factors responsible for the decline, they have a far more devastating effect on total insect biomass than has been appreciated previously,” the authors write.
    Ssymank further underlines that the 76 percent reduction in flying insects pertains to protected areas, and warns that the numbers in Germany’s agricultural areas “may be much worse.”

    Not just insects
    The drop-off in Germany’s insect abundance isn’t just concerning to entomologists. Flying insects are important for other wildlife and ecological processes: they are a critical food source for many bird species, and countless plants depend on them for pollination. These effects also translate to benefits for humanity, with the total economic value of pollination estimated to be around $177 billion in 2009. As bees decline, farmers report it’s getting harder for them to grow crops that depend on bees for pollination.

    Scientists think bird populations may already be declining in response to reductions in insects. A recent study of government data by German environmental organization Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) estimates that more than 25 million birds disappeared from Germany over the past 12 years. That’s about 15 percent of the country’s total bird population.


    The authors of the NABU study say that a direct relationship between Germany’s insect and bird declines is very likely. The study also found the bird drop-off correlated to shifts in agricultural land use from pasture and fallow land to more intensively managed corn and rapeseed crops.

    Bird disappearances aren’t limited to Germany. On the other side of the Atlantic in North America, barn swallows have declined around 95 percent in the past 40 years. Other swallow species also seem to be dropping off. Since swallows are heavily dependent on flying insects (they catch their food on the wing), scientists think insect decline may be to blame here, too.

    Researchers admit there is a gap when it comes to thorough surveys of insect abundance and trends, and say the most recent German insect study represents one of the first attempts to address this.
    “There is a huge paucity of data on historical patterns of insect populations and work on ecological phenomena that depend upon insects has long suffered due to this gap in our knowledge,” Joe Nocera, a population ecologist at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, told The Scientist. “And here, with this paper, is one major first step in correcting this.”
    Axel Ssymank said the German government is also funding a research project looking at insect biomass and possible reasons behind its decline. Administered under the EU’s Habitats Directive, the project’s results are expected to be released at the end of next year.
    “As habitats covered by EU regulations for nature conservation [also] show this decline, we are concerned a lot about losing quality and characteristic species, as well as consequences and effects on other ecosystem components,” Ssymank told Mongabay.
    The researchers behind last week’s PLOS ONE study are also digging deeper into Germany’s insect decline, telling The Scientist they are currently working on an analysis of what consequences a 76 percent decline in Germany’s flying insects may mean for ecosystem functioning and insect-dependent wildlife.
    “There is an urgent need to uncover the causes of this decline, its geographical extent, and to understand the ramifications of the decline for ecosystems and ecosystem services,” they write in their study.
    Source:
    Hallmann, C. A., Sorg, M., Jongejans, E., Siepel, H., Hofland, N., Schwan, H., … & Goulson, D. (2017). More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PloS one, 12(10), e0185809.
    The original source of this article is Mongabay
    Copyright © Morgan Erickson-Davis, Mongabay, 2018


    Related:
    The Deathly Insect Dilemma. “It is not Normal for 50%-to-90% of a Species to Drop Dead”
    "La réalité est un rêve que l'on fait atterrir" San Antonio AKA F. Dard

    Troll-hood motto: Never, ever, however, whatsoever, to anyone, a point concede.

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  39. Link to Post #1840
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    Default Re: Calling all light warriors - the Bees need you!

    Paul Stamets' epiphany that mushrooms could help save the world's bees

    Evan Bush The Seattle Times
    Sat, 06 Oct 2018 14:59 UTC

    Paul Stamets, a renowned expert on mushrooms, nurtures fungi near his home in Shelton, Washington

    The epiphany that mushrooms could help save the world's ailing bee colonies struck Paul Stamets while he was in bed.

    "I love waking dreams," he said. "It's a time when you're just coming back into consciousness."

    Years ago, in 1984, Stamets had noticed a "continuous convoy of bees" traveling from a patch of mushrooms he was growing and his beehives. The bees actually moved wood chips to access his mushroom's mycelium, the branching fibers of fungus that look like cobwebs.

    "I could see them sipping on the droplets oozing from the mycelium," he said. They were after its sugar, he thought.

    Decades later, he and a friend began a conversation about bee colony collapse that left Stamets, the owner of a mushroom mercantile, puzzling over a problem. Bees across the world have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Parasites like mites, fast-spreading viruses, agricultural chemicals and lack of forage area have stressed and threatened wild and commercial bees alike.

    Waking up one morning, "I connected the dots," he said. "Mycelium have sugars and antiviral properties," he said. What if it wasn't just sugar that was useful to those mushroom-suckling bees so long ago?

    In research published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, Stamets turned intuition into reality. The paper describes how bees given a small amount of his mushroom mycelia extract exhibited remarkable reductions in the presence of viruses associated with parasitic mites that have been attacking, and infecting, bee colonies for decades.

    In the late 1980s, tiny Varroa mites began to spread through bee colonies in the United States. The mites -which are parasites and can infect bees with viruses -proliferate easily and cause colony collapse in just years.

    Over time, colonies have become even more susceptible, and viruses became among the chief threats to the important pollinators for crops on which people rely.

    "We think that's because the viruses have evolved and become pathogenic and virulent," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland professor in entomology, who was not involved in the mycelium research. "Varroa viruses kill most of the colonies in the country."

    He likened the mites to dirty hypodermic needles; the mites are able to spread viruses from bee to bee.

    The only practical solution to date has been to keep the number of Varroa mites within beehives "at manageable populations."

    Stamet's idea about bee-helping mycelium could give beekeepers a powerful new weapon.

    At first, mushrooms were a hard sell.

    When Stamets, whose fascination with fungi began with "magic mushrooms" when he was a "long-haired hippie" undergraduate at The Evergreen State College, began reaching out to scientists, some laughed him off.

    "I don't have time for this. You sound kind of crazy. I'm gonna go," he recalled a California researcher telling him. "It was never good to start a conversation with scientists you don't know saying, 'I had a dream.'"

    When Steve Sheppard, a Washington State University entomology professor, received a call in 2014 from Stamets, however, he listened.

    Sheppard has heard a lot of wild ideas to save bees over the years, like harnessing static electricity to stick bees with little balls of Styrofoam coated in mite-killing chemicals. Stamets' pitch was different: He had data to back up his claims about mycelium's antiviral properties and his company, Fungi Perfecti, could produce it in bulk. "I had a compelling reason to look further," Sheppard said.

    Together with other researchers, the unlikely pair have produced research that opens promising and previously unknown doors in the fight to keep bee colonies from collapsing.

    "This is a pretty novel approach," vanEngelsdorp said. "There's no scientist who believes there's a silver bullet for bee health. There's too many things going on. ... This is a great first step."

    To test Stamets' theory, the researchers conducted two experiments: They separated two groups of mite-exposed bees into cages, feeding one group sugar syrup with a mushroom-based additive and the other, syrup without the additive. They also field-tested the extract in small, working bee colonies near WSU.

    For several virus strains, the extract "reduced the virus to almost nothing," said Brandon Hopkins, a WSU assistant research professor, another author of the paper.

    The promising results have opened the door to new inquiries.

    Researchers are still trying to figure out how the mushroom extract works. The compound could be boosting bees' immune systems, making them more resistant to the virus. Or, the compound could be targeting the viruses themselves.

    "We don't know what's happening to cause the reduction. That's sort of our next step," Sheppard said.

    Because the extract can be added to syrups commercial beekeepers commonly use, researchers say the extract could be a practical solution that could scale quickly.

    For now, they are conducting more research. On Wednesday, Hopkins and Sheppard spent the day setting up experiments at more than 300 commercial colonies in Oregon.

    Meanwhile, Stamets has designed a 3D-printable feeder that delivers mycelia extract to wild bees. He plans to launch the product, and an extract-subscription service next year, to the public.

    Stamets said he hopes his fungus extract can forestall the crisis of a world without many of its creatures, including bees. He is alarmed at how fast species are going extinct.

    "The loss of biodiversity has ramifications that reverberate throughout the food web," he said, likening each species to parts of an airplane, that hold the Earth together - until they don't.

    "What rivet will we lose that we'll have catastrophic failure? I think the rivet will be losing the bees," he said. "More than one-third of our food supply is dependent on bees."

    Related:
    "La réalité est un rêve que l'on fait atterrir" San Antonio AKA F. Dard

    Troll-hood motto: Never, ever, however, whatsoever, to anyone, a point concede.

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