Removing wildlife from crops not helping human health

This video from the USA says about itself:

Clearing wild vegetation doesn’t improve crop health

10 August 2015

In the wake of a 2006 outbreak of E. coli – spread via packaged spinach harvested on a farm in Central California – farmers began clearing wild vegetation around growing fields.

Investigations weren’t able to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, but many placed the blame of wildlife. But new research suggests restructuring the agricultural landscape to minimize wildlife is inadvisable and has no effect on the presence of pathogens like E. coli.

“Wildlife took much of the blame for that outbreak, even though rates of E. coli in wildlife are generally very low,” Daniel Karp, a research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a press release. “Now, growers are pressured by buyers to implement practices meant to discourage wildlife from approaching fields of produce. This includes clearing bushes, plants and trees that might serve as habitat or food sources for wild animals. Our study found that this practice has not led to the reductions in E. coli and Salmonella that people were hoping for.”

In a new paper in the journal PNAS, Karp and his colleagues posit that wildlife clearing may negatively affect farmland. Research has shown that natural vegetation can help sustain bee populations, vital for pollinating flowering crops.

“There have also been studies that suggest that a landscape with diverse plant life can filter out agrichemical runoff and even bacteria,” said Claire Kremen, a Berkeley professor of environmental science, policy and management. “Changing this dynamic shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

Researchers arrived at their conclusions after analyzing more than 250,000 surveys of of crops, irrigation water and local rodents, in which samples were tested for pathogens. The scientists compared test results with land use maps, and found no correlation between pathogens and the presence of wild vegetation.

From Wildlife Extra:

Removing wildlife from US vegetable crops has not cut down on human diseases

A move in the US to safeguard people from digestive diseases in the salad vegetables they eat, by removing wildlife from the fields where they grow has been deemed a failure by a new study made by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley.

It was thought that disease-causing germs came from birds, rabbits and other animals that wander in and near fields where crops are growing.

Keeping animals out of the fields should therefore prevent major outbreaks of illness, was the conclusion drawn and so steps were taken on some farms to limit wildlife’s access to crops.

But a new study finds that fencing out animals and removing their habitat isn’t working. It doesn’t make salad greens less germy.

The findings, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were striking. Removing wildlife habitat, such as brush, trees and shrubs, did not improve food safety. In fact, it seemed to increase levels of germs, not reduce them.

A major push to keep wildlife out of farms began in 2006. It followed an outbreak of E. coli bacteria that sickened more than 200 people and killed five.

Raw spinach sold and eaten in 26 US states had hosted the germs and investigators eventually traced the bacteria to a farm in California.

There, the same strain of E. coli was found in the soil, water and faeces of both wild pigs and nearby cattle. The natural conclusion was that animal faeces must be behind the spinach contamination.

Under pressure from retailers and customers, farmers began to remove wildlife from their fields. They put up fences to keep deer, pigs and other animals from getting near crops and cleared nearby areas of trees, shrubs and other non-crop plants, leaving behind bare ground.

The changes worried conservation biologists woprking to preserve ecosystems and species threatened or endangered with extinction. One big concern was for pollinators, such as bees.

To prove the efficacy, or otherwise, of the clearance policy, ecologist Daniel Karp and his colleagues examined data collected at a large farming operation over seven years.

During that time, the farmers collected a quarter of a million samples from their produce and biologists tested each sample looking for various strains of E. coli, as well as for Salmonella, which causes nearly one million cases of food poisoning in the US each year.

Sampling for the germs began shortly after the 2006 E. coli outbreak. It continued as farmers evicted wildlife and their habitat from areas in and around crop fields.

This gave Karp and his team the chance to see whether the changes affected levels of disease-causing germs, orpathogens.

The scientists also sampled for these germs in nearby streams and wells, and used aerial surveys to map and measure how much wildlife habitat bordered the farms.

They now report that removing wildlife habitat has not improved food safety. In fact, pathogen levels seem to increase.

This was seen to be particularly true in crop fields located near grazing livestock, which suggests rain water might have washed tainted cow dung onto the nearby fields. Or it might indicate that removing habitat hasn’t had the effect of stopping wild animals from visiting farms.

Karp and his team now recommend adding more wildlife habitat to farms. For instance, they advise planting non-crop barriers between livestock and crops.

These barrier plants, Karp explains, may clean and filter water before it passes into crop fields. Keeping livestock and wildlife away from shared waterways also could limit faecal germs from reaching crops.

Finally, the researchers suggest surrounding crops of salad vegetables that are eaten raw with others that require cooking.

Animals may tend to stay near the edge of a field, the scientists note. This should keep their faeces — and germs — from spreading beyond the outer crops.

Any pathogens that do end up on these outer vegetables would later be killed during cooking.

Extinct bee species back in the Netherlands

Stelis signata, photo by Johann-Christoph Kornmilch

Translated from the Dutch entomologists of EIS Kenniscentrum Insecten:

Monday, September 21st, 2015

After an apparent absence of nearly 40 years, the Stelis signata bee has been seen again in the Netherlands. In the Salland hills this presumably extinct species has been recorded. Spectacular, certainly because the species has never been found before in Overijssel and has previously been seen mainly in North Brabant and Limburg.

Mining bee digs tunnel, video

In this video, a mining bee of the species Dasypoda altercator digs a tunnel for its nest. Such tunnels may get 50 centimeter long.

Marijke Scheffer in the Netherlands made this video.

Beautiful blue banded bee photos from Malaysia

Blue banded bee

This is a blue banded bee photo. Ivan Cheah of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia made these bee photos. He was so kind to send them to Lizia in The Hague, the Netherlands, accompanied by notes:

Ivan Cheah wrote: “This bee is visiting this Lantana almost everyday. Guess this bee starting to recognise me… not so elusive anymore… allowing me to take a few shots of it. Not easy to take picture of this bee. Only those who tried or captured the picture of this bee will understand this.”

Lizia wrote: “It is the ‘Amegilla cingulata.’

Ivan Cheah wrote: “ Yes… precisely this is the same bee. This one from Wikipedia the blue color is not so significant, as bright and luminous as in my picture.

Blue banded bee in Victoria, Australia. Photo from Wikipedia

I think that one must be a female.

Females have four blue bands; males five.

Yup… this species is common in Australia… I think cross continental took place that’s why this species is also available in Malaysia. One thing I don’t understand is why this bee is always lone ranger… the most I saw before is only two of it at the same place.

Blue banded bee in Malaysia

My next hope is someday day I’ll get to see its hive… seriously if I get to see its hive it will be like I strike a lottery. Every time I see this bee I start asking myself… when will I get to see your hive?

Lizia: “It is a wild and solitary bee. You’ll find the nest of this lady if you have time to follow her.”

Comment on photo: Ivan Cheah: “Everytime I see it I will look at it attentively… to observe its behaviour. This bee is a very intelligent bee. Whenever I get near it… it will buzz erratically… funny thing is sometimes it will buzz just a feet from me for a few seconds … sometimes it will buzz away in a second… sometimes it will continue to collect the nectar. I guess… it stays because it’s hungry or else it will just buzz away … hahaha”

Lizia: “She must work hard, she can’t rely on others as she is solitary.” [ . . ]. “ Your ‘blue banded bee’ is very important for the cultivation of tomato-like plants (Solanaceae). Our domestic honey bee doesn’t like tomato or lantana flowers. The wild bees are important for the pollination of such flowers.”

Ivan Cheah: “I think this species population is very low… I don’t always get to see it. My worry is this species is very susceptible to extinction by pesticide since its population is so low as compared with honey bee.”

(Ivan Cheah / Cheah Lai Hoo (Ivan), Kuala Lumpur, studied at Indontgoto University)

Blue banded bee in Malaysia on lantana

Project Noah says: “The bees use a process that involves clinging onto flowers and vibrating powerfully, which causes the food source to shoot out.”

Project Noah says: ”Amegilla cingulata builds a solitary nest, but often close to one another.”

Malaysia is well aware of the value of ‘wild bees.’ The country developed a method of ‘trap nesting’ and managing wild carpenter bees to pollinate passion fruit (Passiflora edulis). (See:

Dave’s Garden: “During fall, blue banded bee adults all die as temperatures cool within their nests. Before they die however, the female bees lay eggs within the nests which become immature bees called prepupae. They remain dormant, burrowed in the nest inside cell sacs throughout the winter months and do not emerge until spring brings warmer weather. Then they finish their development into adults and emerge into the warmth of spring and begin a new season of life [5].’” Read more here.

Lazy Lizard Tales: “Blue-banded bee (Amegilla sp.), Chestnut Avenue: “These bees pose virtually no threat to people. A sting from these bees feels like a mere pinprick and is extremely unlikely anyway. A neatly kept garden and well-maintained walls and brickwork will discourage them from nesting where people may contact them. It should be noted, however, that they should indeed be encouraged in gardens.” It’s important to recognise that among the many species of bees and wasps present in Singapore, only a select few pose any potential serious danger to people, and usually only in situations when a nest has been disturbed. Even when hornet or honeybee nests have been detected, simply avoiding the immediate vicinity is typically enough to avoid provoking a defensive response.“ (another Ivan)

Song for bumblebee conservation

This music video from Britain says about itself:

All Through The Day

24 July 2015

An arrangement of the popular Welsh Hymn, raising awareness of the plight of the Bumblebee and other pollinators.

Lyrics by Oliver Swingler
Music Arrangement by Matt Ratcliffe and Natalie Windsor

Natalie Windsor – Voice
Matt Ratcliffe – Piano
Steve Trumans – Bass
Andrew “Woody” Wood – Drums

Recorded at Deal Maker Studios Nottingham
Produced by Tom Harris

Shot on location at Rose End Meadows with thanks to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

Other footage kindly donated by Dusty Gedge and images thanks to Ryan Clarke and The Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Bumblebee cleaning itself, video

This video shows a large earth bumblebee trying to clean itself from all dust particles on its coat.

Germaine Plieger from Gorinchem in the Netherlands made this video.

The music is by The Four Tops, and by Jewel Akens.