Henk Tennekes was invited to lecture at Harvard on new approaches to pesticide risk assessment

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard extended an invitation to Dutch toxicologist Henk Tennekes to participate in the workshop, “Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) & Neonics: Can we reverse the trend of losing honeybees?” The workshop was held on the Radcliffe Institute campus in Cambridge, MA. It began on the morning of Wednesday, February 11 and concluded at noon on Thursday, February 12, 2015. The workshop convened a panel of international and U.S. experts with backgrounds relevant to public health, toxicology, entomology, governmental policy affairs, and commercial beekeeping to discuss the science on the hazards of neonics to bees and other pollinators, and the public policy implication to save bees and other pollinators.

The rusty blackbird is rapidly disappearing from the scene in North America

Who knew they were disappearing? And, in reality, who knew there was such a thing as a rusty blackbird (Euphagus carolinus). “I think of lot of birders do enjoy rusty blackbirds,” said Nick Sly, a graduate student in the Department of Animal Biology at the University of Illinois. “They aren’t a species that aren’t generally known to the broader public.”Sly is a volunteer coordinator for this year’s Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz. The blitz is a three-year program designed to follow rusty blackbirds on their migration path from the swampy woodlands of southeastern United States to the boreal forests of Canada. The peak migration through Illinois is March through mid-April. “It used to be a really common bird throughout Canada and the eastern United States,” Sly said. “It’s experienced this pretty massive population decline, losing 90-95 percent of its population over the past four decades. Nobody really expected that. There is really no obvious reason.”

Wading Bird Nesting In Key U.S. Area Plummets 28 Percent

One of the nation’s largest and most important wading bird breeding areas—south Florida, which includes Everglades National Park—has seen wading bird nesting plummet 28 percent below 2013 levels and about 18 percent below the nine-year average for the area. According to the South Florida Wading Bird Report from the South Florida Water Management District, an estimated 34,714 wading bird nests were initiated in south Florida during the 2014 nesting season (December 2013–July 2014), a significant drop from last year’s estimate of 48,291 nests and well below the average of the last nine years—42,782 nests.

Bee brains and colony health jeopardised by pesticide exposure

Research at the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews has confirmed that levels of neonicotinoid insecticides accepted to exist in agriculture cause both impairment of bumblebees’ brain cells and subsequent poor performance by bee colonies. The contribution of the neonicotinoids to the global decline of insect pollinators is controversial and contested by many in the agriculture industry. However, the new research, published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, demonstrates for the first time that the low levels found in the nectar and pollen of plants is sufficient to deliver neuroactive levels to their site of action, the bee brain.

Mumbai birds in dramatic decline

An analysis of bird sightings logged during the Mumbai bird races held between 2005 and 2014 has revealed a decline in their numbers across various habitats. Bird sightings in the forests have dropped by 50% from 112 in 2005 to 77 last year. Likewise, grass-shrub-agriculture habitats have witnessed a dip from 102 to 89 during the same period, while only 68 birds were recorded in coastal wetlands in 2014, compared to 91 in 2005. According to the data, the total number of bird species spotted across six locations has nosedived from 277 in 2005 to 225 last year, with a significant drop in terms of average sightings and sighting frequency of birds at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Uran wetlands.

Neonicotinoid insecticide travels through a soil food chain, disrupting biological control of non-target pests and decreasing soya bean yield

Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides world-wide, but their fate in the environment remains unclear, as does their potential to influence non-target species and the roles they play in agroecosystems. We investigated in laboratory and field studies the influence of the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam, applied as a coating to soya bean seeds, on interactions among soya beans, nontarget molluscan herbivores and their insect predators. In the laboratory, the pest slug Deroceras reticulatum was unaffected by thiamethoxam, but transmitted the toxin to predaceous beetles (Chlaenius tricolor), impairing or killing >60%. In the field, thiamethoxam-based seed treatments depressed activity–density of arthropod predators, thereby relaxing predation of slugs and reducing soya bean densities by 19% and yield by 5%. Neonicotinoid residue analyses revealed that insecticide concentrations declined through the food chain, but levels in field-collected slugs (up to 500 ng g1) were still high enough to harm insect predators. Our findings reveal a previously unconsidered ecological pathway through which neonicotinoid use can unintentionally reduce biological control and crop yield. Trophic transfer of neonicotinoids challenges the notion that seed-applied toxins precisely target herbivorous pests and highlights the need to consider predatory arthropods and soil communities in neonicotinoid risk assessment and stewardship.

Tayside hedgehog numbers in decline

Tayside has seen a huge decline in hedgehog numbers, a local charity has revealed. The Wormit Hedgehog Care Centre has taken in 98 of the prickly creatures this year — up from 52 in 2013, but still far below the 322 brought in 2008. Numbers have dipped gradually every year since then, with 268 rescued in 2009, 228 in 2010 and 103 in 2011, as well as 102 in 2012. Sandy Boyd, who runs the centre with his wife Alice, said the weather had a large part to play in the declining numbers. He said: “We’re not only rescuing fewer hedgehogs, but we’re seeing fewer of them in general. Hedgehogs are listed as an endangered species, after UK numbers dipped from an estimated 30 million in the 1950s to around 1.5 million now.

Are the Florida Everglades Sick? Wading Birds In Steep Decline

A decline in small herons and egrets that nest and forage among the Everglades wetlands and tree islands could mean work to restore the troubled ecosystem is not moving fast enough. An annual survey by the South Florida Water Management District released Thursday found that in 2014 the overall number of nests in and around refuges, wildlife sanctuaries and water conservation areas was down by 60 percent — 28 percent lower than in 2013. The drop in Everglades nests for little blue herons (Egretta caerulea), tricolored herons (Egretta tricolor) and snowy egrets (Egretta thula) was particularly troubling: nests that numbered over 1,000 a decade ago were down to about 130 last year. Biologists monitor the birds because their health is so closely tied to Everglades hydrology. When the birds do well, the ecosystem is in good shape.

British garden bird numbers in decline

On 24th and 25th of January this year, the RSPB are asking everyone to join them in their Big Garden Bird Watch, a nationwide count of the different species in our gardens. After the RSPB have collated the information, they will then publish the results about which birds we are seeing and where. As always, it is hoped results will show healthy numbers of birds across Britain and Ireland, however a report from the British Trust for Ornithology indicates the results will say otherwise. The Birdtrends report, published in December 2014, surveys 120 species of birds in the UK and the results are extremely worrying. 28 species of birds appear to have suffered a decline of over 50% in the last 45 years. It seems that it is more common species which have suffered a decline. Senior Research Fellow Dr Stephen Baillie, whom led the research, said “National declines in farmland birds are well-documented and these latest figures show that this decrease is continuing. The results of BTO surveys show that many familiar garden birds are experiencing problems. House Sparrow numbers have dropped by almost 70% since the 1960s and the data suggest that sparrows occupying urban and suburban habitats are faring worst.”

Turtle dove numbers in Britain have dropped by a whopping 93% since 1970, the fastest decline of a bird towards extinction in British history

Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur) populations in Britain are declining so rapidly that they may be entirely gone from the country in a eight years’ time, scientists from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have warned. A paper in the British journal Bird Study, by two RSPB research scientists Jenny Dunn and Antony Morris said that: “at the current rate of decline, turtle doves may be lost as a UK breeding bird by 2021.” Turtle dove numbers in Britain have dropped by a whopping 93% since 1970, the fastest decline of a bird towards extinction in British history.
Moreover, scientists warned that turtle doves are simply the worst affected of the migratory birds that spend the winter in Africa and fly to Britain in the springtime to breed. Eight out of Britain’s twelve most threatened bird species are African migratory birds.

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