CATCH THE BUZZ
Modern Man, and Climate Change Moving Bees Upward
Climate change is chasing the Himalayan
cliff honey bees higher up the mountains.
Nepalese apiarists says the bees, known for
their ingenuity in making colonies in places where humans and predators do not
have easy access, have started migrating higher places to build their colonies.
They tell Nepal’s Republica newspaper they believe the move by the honey bees is
mainly due to the effect of climate change.
As a result, people making their living by harvesting honey from the
wild bee colonies now have to take more risks to reach the bees. At the same
time, they say, the number of colonies in the usual areas has plummeted
Child Development Program director Suroj Pokharel, who has conducted
research on the bees, says due to rising temperatures and the effect of climate
change, the Himalayan cliff bees have started climbing higher to make hives.
He tells the newspaper that during the past 10 years the bees have moved
200 to 400 meters (656 ft. to 1,313 ft.) higher than their usual habitats.
“The species of honey bee found in the plains could be found up to the
altitude of 1,100 meters (3,608 ft.) but now they have climbed 200 meters
further up,” Pokharel says.
The Himalayan cliff bees used to climb down to 1,000 meters (3,260 ft.)
to escape the cold during the winter, but now do not descend below 1,200 meters
(3,937 ft.), he says. Similarly, the Himalayan bees, which were at an altitude
of 3,100 meters (10,170 ft.), now are found at 3,500 meters (11,482 ft.).
“The change in the habitat of the bees can be attributed to the rising
temperatures and the development of modern infrastructure including roads and
buildings,” Pokharel says. “The Himalayan bees are no more found in the places
where they were found until a decade ago.”
Pokharel says increasing dust and smoke in the villages and modern
infrastructure is threatening the bees’ existence and the increasing use of
insecticides has also taken a serious toll.
Climate change is also gradually altering the flowering time of the
rhododendron, the main source of nectar for the Himalayan bees.
But How Does
This Work In An Emergency Supercedure?
In a discovery that may be key to increasing agricultural economies
worldwide, Michigan researchers have identified a single gene in honeybees that
separates the queens from the workers.
A research team from Wayne State University, working with Michigan State
University, has unraveled the gene's inner workings and published the results
in the journal Biology Letters.
Principal investigator Aleksandar Popadic says the gene, which is
responsible for leg and wing development, plays a crucial role in the evolution
of bees' ability to carry pollen.
“The gene – Ultrabithorax, or Ubx – is responsible for making hind legs
different from fore legs so they can carry pollen,” says Popadic, associate
professor of biological sciences in Wayne State's College of Liberal Arts and
“In some groups, like crickets, Ubx is responsible for creating a
'jumping' hind leg. In others, such as bees, it makes a pollen basket – a
'naked,' bristle-free leg region that creates a space for packing pollen."
MSU entomologist Zachary Huang says other studies have shed some light
on this gene's role in this realm, “but our team examined in great detail how
the modifications take place.”
Ubx represses the development of bristles
on bees' hind legs, creating a smooth surface that can be used for packing
This makes the discovery important because what has been discovered can
be used as a foray into more commercial studies focused on providing means to
enhance a bee's pollination ability – the bigger the pollen basket, the more
pollen that can be packed in it and transported back to the hive.
While workers have these distinct features,
queens do not.
The team confirmed this by isolating and silencing Ubx. This made the
pollen baskets completely disappear, altered the growth of the pollen comb and
reduced the size of the pollen press.
Ubx is also expressed in the same region of the hind legs in bumble
bees, which are in the same family as honey bees. This finding suggests the
evolution of the pollen-gathering apparatus in all corbiculate bees may have a
shared origin and could be traced to the acquisition of novel functions by Ubx.
The researchers also found that bees living in more complex social
structures have an advantage over isolated populations in developing these
“The pollen baskets are much less elaborate or completely absent in bees
that are less socially complex,” Huang says. “We conclude that the evolution of
pollen baskets is a major innovation among social insects and is tied directly
to more complex social behaviors.”
The value of agricultural crops dependent on honey bee pollination was
estimated to be $14.6 billion a year in the U.S. in 2013.
Popadic and Huang says their findings, along with future research, may
provide an option for improving the shrinking population of bees'
pollen-collecting capacity, leading to increased pollination and hopeful
increases in fruit and vegetable production.
The research was funded by the National Institute of General Medical
Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.
Beekeepers Are Farmers
Legislation is under consideration to
exempt the honey bee industry from Washington State’s draconian business and
occupation (B&O) tax
The bill sponsored by Republican
Sen. Jim Honeyford expands the definition of agricultural products for purposes
of the state B&O tax to include honey bee products and pollination
This will exempt them from the tax under the general agricultural
product exemption. The exemption is permanent and not subject to the 10-year
expiration date or a tax preference performance statement.
The effective date of the legislation will
be 90 days after the adjournment of the session in which it is passed.
The legislation was proposed because an exemption from state B&O tax
that applies to wholesale sales of honey bee products expires on July 1, 2017.
The state Senate Agriculture, Water and
Rural Economic Development Committee approved the bill and referred it to the
Ways and Means Committee.
Supporters say exempting beekeepers from
the tax will help them be competitive with those from out of state.
“As with any business, the B&O tax can
be a crippling obstacle to overcome and easing that burden will allow the
industry to expand, grow and create more jobs,” Honeyford says in a statement.
Washington is the only state to impose a
business and occupations tax, which is levied on the gross receipts of all
business activities. Unlike a corporate net income tax, there are no deductions
for the costs of doing business.
“Small businesses often struggle in their
first several years just to make a profit; many in Washington fail as a result
of hitting the low B&O threshold but ending up in the red and losing
money,” Honeyford says.
The amount of the tax depends on the category of business conducted. The
general tax rate on manufacturers and wholesalers is 0.484%. The general rate
on retailers is 0.471%. The tax is levied on the gross receipts of all business
activities, except utility activities, conducted within the state.
No category of state B&O tax applies to any farmer selling
agricultural products at wholesale or to any farmer who grows agricultural
products owned by others, such as custom feed operations. A farmer is defined
as a person producing agricultural products for sale.
“Just as the state considers milk that
comes from cows to be an agricultural product, so should it consider products
derived from honey bees,” says Honeyford, who serves as ranking Republican on
Committee notes with the bill say that 100 taxpayers will be affected by
the legislation. The notes say that in 2009, beekeepers reported about $1.6
million in wholesale sales. The committee estimates the state government will
lose about $7,000 a year from taxes on pollination services and $6,000 a year
on tax revenue from the sale of honey bee products.
Washington State Beekeepers Association
president Mark Emerich testified in favor of the change before the committee
saying honey bees are an integral part of agriculture. He later told reporters
he didn’t know of any other state where beekeeping wasn’t defined as being in
Beekeepers say the tax also puts bee pollination services at a
disadvantage because more than half of the state's pollination is carried out
by out-of-state bee businesses and as only a handful register to pay the
B&O tax and the state government did not know they were there.