Helpful insects and landscape changes

Image of potato beetle.

(Michigan State University) “One of the take-homes from our review is that natural enemies can be more abundant when agricultural landscapes are made up of smaller farm fields. Some natural enemies need resources found in other habitats or in crop field edges. We think when habitat patches are small, they are more likely to find their way back and forth between these habitats and crop fields, or from one crop field into another.”

Decade-long drought in Chile wipes out hives as bees are left without flowers

Image of honey bees at bee feeder.

(Reuters) “There’s no water anywhere. The bees are suffering just the same as cattle, crops and people.” Concern over the impact of changing environments on bees has reached the highest levels of government in Chile. The country has already unleashed millions in aid for drought-stricken farmers. In August, it said it would include a line item in future agency budgets to account for the ‘costs’ of climate change.

The EPA has approved the first-ever bee-distributed pesticide for the US market

Image of bumble bee on flower.

(Ars Technica) In August, the EPA approved the first-ever bee-distributed organic pesticide for the US market—a fungus-fighting powder called Vectorite that contains the spores of a naturally occurring fungus called Clonostachys rosea (CR-7). CR-7 is completely harmless to its host plant and acts as a hostile competitor to other, less innocuous fungi. It has been approved for commercial growers of flowering crops like blueberries, strawberries, almonds, and tomatoes.

Biodiversity improves crop production

Image of wild bee covered in pollen on yellow flower.

(Eurac Research) Ecologists and biologists compared data from about 1,500 agricultural fields around the world. In heterogeneous landscapes — where the variation of crops, hedges, trees and meadows is greater — wild pollinators and “beneficial” insects are more abundant and diversified. Not only do pollination and biological control increase, so does the crop yield.

Making better worker bees

Image of liquid being poured into bee hive.

(Bloomberg Businessweek) Argentine startup Beeflow says it has more than doubled its tiny workers’ pollen-carrying capacity by feeding them custom compounds. The nutrients enhance the bees’ immune systems to handle colder conditions and also increase their attraction to the particular flower the farmer wants them to pollinate – blueberries, raspberries, or the all-important almonds. The 2-year-old company tested its insect fuel this season in the fields of a major California almond farmer and on raspberry crops for Driscoll’s, America’s largest berry grower. On deck: cherries and avocados.

This bee gets punched by flowers for your ice cream

Animated image of a leafcutter bee in a hole.

(KQED) VIDEO Next time you eat ice cream, thank a bee. Without them, there would be no cones, milkshakes or sundaes. Every summer, alfalfa leafcutter bees pollinate alfalfa in an intricate process that gets them thwacked by the flowers when they release the pollen that allows the plants to make seeds. And these seeds are what make it possible to grow nutritious hay for dairy cows.