Endangered Species Monday: Bombus occidentalis
“1/3 bites of food we eat comes from a plant that was pollinated by a bee”
What are we humans doing to Planet Earth?, We are destroying so many pollinating animals, that soon they’ll be none left. When or if that day occurs, when there are no more pollinators, we ourselves will be fighting to stay alive, can you imagine that? Human extinction is slowly in the making… …No matter how many vegans or vegetarians there are, we all require plants. No plants = No life!
That’s a Scientific Fact of Life!
Dr Jose Depre
This Monday’s Endangered Species Post (E.S.P) I document on the Western Bumble Bee. Scientifically identified as Bombus occidentalis this particular species of bee is listed as (vulnerable), and is now nearing complete extinction within the wild, despite conservation efforts aimed at reducing dangers, things certainly are not looking good for the bee, or crops the species pollinates either. Image credits: Rich Hatfield
The species was identified back in 1858 by Dr Edward Lee Greene, Ph.D, (August 10, 1843 – November 10, 1915) was an American botanist known for his numerous publications including the two-part Landmarks of Botanical History and the naming or redescribing of over 4,400 species of plants in the American West.
Endemic to: Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Yukon); United States (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming). To date we still don’t know what the “exact current rate of decline is”, or even if the Western Bumble Bee is going to be with us within the next decade. Its ‘likely that based on current surveys the species will be extinct within the next 10 years (max)”.
Since 2008-2014 there has been quite a significant rate of decline st 11%-12%, sparking concerns that the Western Bumble Bee ‘may eventually be listed as critically endangered’ within the United States and Canada. Scientists confirmed that in one area which is [unknown], possibly the United States via field surveys the species was not found during the years of 2003-2007 (which is of course quite concerning), especially when the species is a major pollinator, and has been seen only in very low numbers at (one to seven per year) each year from 2008 to 2014.
A study conducted focusing on ‘range decline’ relating to some eight separate species native to the United States, showed that the Western Bumble Bee species alone had decreased in population size within its (range), by some 28% (EST) between the years of 2007-2008. A further study conducted by conservation scientists concluded that by 2007-2009 surveys detected the species only throughout the Intermountain West and Rocky Mountains; it was largely absent from the western portion of its range.
Further declines have been reported within the [US] states’ of Oregon and Washington, however populations seem to be somewhat stable within (northeastern Oregon). Populations are also to a degree stable within Alaska and the Yukon. Average decline for this species was calculated by averaging the change in abundance, persistence, and EOO.
- Current range size is estimated to be at some 77.96%
- Persistence in current range relative to historic occupancy: 72.56%
- Current relative abundance relative to historic values: 28.51%
- Average decline: 40.32%
From viewing all data records I can confirm that the (exact rate of decline) within the species range, and its persistence total some 20%, with a 70% rate of decline in ‘abundance’. Surveys have also proven the this decades rate of decline is bar far lower than the last decades, which again raises some rather large concerns about a near future extinction occurring.
Image: Western Bumble Bees’ extant zones.
In the past, B. occidentalis was commercially reared for pollination of greenhouse tomatoes and other crops in North America. Commercial rearing of this species began in 1992, with two origins. Some colonies were produced in rearing facilities in California by a company which imported the technology for rearing bumble bees and applied it to rearing B. occidentalis locally in California.
This same year, a distributor for a competitor which did not have rearing facilities in North America at the time was granted permits by the US Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) for a three year window of time (1992-1994) to export queens of B. occidentalis and B. impatiens to European rearing facilities for colony production.
Following rearing, these colonies were then shipped back to the U.S. for commercial pollination. In 1997, commercial producers began experiencing problems with disease (Nosema) in the production of B. occidentalis. Eventually, the availability of B. occidentalis became critically low, and western crop producers who had become dependent on pollination provided by this species began requesting that APHIS allow the shipment and use of B. impatiens in western states.
In 1998, the USDA-APHIS issued permits to allow B. impatiens to be used in the western U.S. However, within a few years, the USDA-APHIS stopped regulating the interstate movement of bumble bees altogether, citing their lack of regulatory authority. Bombus occidentalis is no longer bred and sold commercially and B. impatiens is used widely in the western U.S. One has to wonder though that since the the US Government stopped granting permits for Bombus occidentalis mostly due to species decline, primarily due to human ignorance, will the same rate of decline now be seen with the species B. impatiens?
Currently to date the only ‘known conservation actions that are under way is that of management, research and surveys’, meanwhile its likely that come the next decade we’ll have lost the species due to a lack of improving/increasing populations, and habitat while failing to decrease disease and virus.
Populations of this declining species have been associated with higher levels of the microsporidian Nosema bombi and reduced genetic diversity relative to populations of co-occurring stable species. The major decline of the subgenus Bombus was first documented in B. occidentalis, as Nosema nearly wiped out commercial hives, leading to the cessation of commercial production of this species. Wild populations crashed simultaneously and the closely related B. franklini has been pushed to the brink of extinction.
However, Koch and Strange (2012) found high levels of infestation by Nosema in interior Alaska where this bumble bee was still quite common. In addition to disease, this species is faced with numerous other stressors including habitat loss and alteration due to agricultural intensification, urban development, conifer encroachment (resulting from fire suppression), grazing, logging and climate change.
Modifications to bumble bee habitat from over grazing by livestock can be particularly harmful to bumble bees by removing floral resources, especially during the mid-summer period when flowers may already be scarce. In addition, livestock may trample nesting and overwintering sites, or disrupt rodent populations, which can indirectly harm bumble bees. Indirect effects of logging (such as increased siltation in runoff) and recreation (such as off-road vehicle use) also have the potential to alter meadow ecosystems and disrupt B. occidentalis habitat.
Additional habitat alterations, such as conifer encroachment resulting from fire suppression, fire, agricultural intensification, urban development, and climate change may also threaten B. occidentalis. Insecticides, which are designed to kill insects directly, and herbicides, which can remove floral resources, both pose serious threats to bumble bees. Of particular concern are neonicotinoids, a class of systemic insecticides whose toxins are extraordinarily persistent, are expressed in the nectar and pollen of plants (and therefore are actively collected by bumble bees), and exert both lethal and sublethal effects on bumble bees.
Since B. occidentalis has recently undergone a dramatic decline in range and relative abundance, reduced genetic diversity and other genetic factors make this species especially vulnerable to extinction, and may lead to increased pathogen susceptibility. Recent research indicates that populations of B. occidentalis have lower genetic diversity compared to populations of co-occurring stable species.
It is therefore regrettable, that despite research, management and surveys - extinction is imminent, when though, we simply don’t know, however when it does happen, it means that yet another pollinator that we humans and animals depend on will be gone for good.
Image: Female B. occidentalis
Humans will never learn or understand just how critically important our wildlife is, until its gone. They’ll then be fighting over themselves, fighting to stay alive. By that time, human extinction will already be in the process.
Dr Jose C. Depre
Chief Environmental & Botanical Officer.
Follow me on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/josedepre11
EMBASSY DAY: 17TH SEPTEMBER 2015 WWW.SAYNOTODOGMEAT.NET
Did you know on the 17th September 2015 from 11:00am the Australian organisation www.saynotodogmeat.net, registration 49 860 343 527 will be hosting peaceful demonstrations around the globe within nine major cities? Embassy Day forms the first (governmental) lobbying in relation to #OperationUnite 2016. Embassy Day will be the organisations second largest demo since April 4th 2015. Back in April Say No To Dog Meat made history by hosting the worlds largest anti pet meat demo in over twenty five countries.
On the 4th April 2015 the Say No To Dog Meat family hit the streets internationally in their thousands marching for dogs and cats in the horrific pet meat trade. The main April protests were non-governmental, however was a reminder that should the (eight governments) the organisation are lobbying not respond to the polite requests from the Aussie organisation. The next step would be Embassy Day, September 2015. Finally after Embassy Day, the organisation will then begin gearing up for phase two of Operation Unite 2016 that will be held October 2nd and 3rd 2016. Followed up with #OperationUnite comes the new #lovefamily campaign too.
Image: (SNTDM) supporter, #lovefamily campaign.
September 17th 2015 will see demonstrators lobbying South Korean embassies within Los Angeles, United States and Ottawa, Canada. Then in New York the Indonesian embassy, followed up with the Cambodian embassy in Seattle, United States will be demonstrated. Meanwhile within the United Kingdom the Vietnamese embassy will be peacefully protested in London, followed up with the Indian consulate in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Nigerian embassy in Johannesburg, South Africa will follow soon after. The Thailand consulate within Perth and Philippines consulate in Brisbane, Australia will be peacefully lobbied too.
Donna Armes, campaign manager and director confirmed that all embassy consulate generals and ambassadors had been sent communications months before Embassy Day was planned. Furthermore the campaign manager stated a second electronic communication had been sent and received by embassy staff informing them about the peaceful protests, and why the organisation has been forced to lobby all nine embassies. Embassy staff, consulates and ambassadors have failed to acknowledge the Aussie organisations peaceful plans which is a little frustrating but then the organisation didn’t expect a reply anyway.
Say No To Dog Meat volunteers and directors will begin the ‘peaceful demonstrations’ with an up to date speech on current and past issues in relation to both ‘Asian and African’ dog and cat meat trade outside of each embassy. After the main speech the public can stay or depart of which the organisations volunteers and directors will then be handing into the embassies all data and petitions.
Image: Nigeria, woman prepares dog carcass for [404 joint delicacy, peppered dog soup].
Each petition contains from 10,000 to 200,000 signatures. Statistics on pet meat consumption death rates, virus and disease, regulations and violations of current standing law, predictive model data research, food hygiene violations will be handed into the consulate generals and ambassadors too. Presidential letters will also feature within the pack of which each government has a set six to eight months to respond. The organisation is not expecting an immediate or even positive response, of which OPERATION UNITE will continue to go ahead come October 2016.
For the very first time in history the Indian and Nigerian embassies will be lobbied by the organisation in relation to the Indian, Nagaland and Nigerian pet meat trades. Nigeria is the largest dog meat consuming country on the continent of Africa and third largest on the planet. Furthermore deaths from consumption of diseased or rabies infested pet meat has skyrocketed this year alone with some eighty people dead already. Meanwhile the Indian Nagaland state loses on average an estimated forty people a year via the direct consumption of rabies infested dog meat. Rabies is also on the rise in both pet meat consuming zones. India is where 85% of all human rabies deaths occurred between 1995 and 2004. Over this period there were 21404 rabies deaths a year there. Death rates for 2014 are yet to be seen.
“About 3.5 million dog bites are registered every year in India. The Government cannot give vaccine free of cost to all people. From 2006, the price of vaccine has increased…”
Despite many protests against the South Korean Bok Nal pet meat trade that began in June and ended in the first week of August. The South Korean government took no notice of expert knowledge, scientific data or petitions handed to them. Instead they allowed traders to continue the horrific disease riddled trade, and took little notice of their own laws and guidelines implemented to protect dogs and cats in meat trade. Dare we ask what the point is in introducing animal protection laws, just to allow native citizens to continue violating them?
From 2013-2015 Say No To Dog Meat has vainly lobbied the Viet Nam health minister and president Trương Tấn Sang to bring an end to the pet meat trade. On the 19th August 2014 reports issued by the (World Health Organisation) confirmed that deaths rates had increased slightly to forty (per year), however its estimated that some one hundred people die annually from rabies infection.
Despite the Aussie organisation sending more than enough scientific evidence to the Vietnamese health minister and president the trade continues. From 1995-2004 the then death rate from rabies in Viet Nam stood at some 1,550. Since 2004 the Vietnamese pet meat trade has increased. Death rates continue to increase within the country from the direct consumption of diseased pet meat, statistics from 2014 showed many of these deaths were infant related either bitten by dogs on private land or from consuming rabied infected dog and cat meat.
March 16th 2009 the Vietnamese government were handed third party data from; National Institute of Infectious and Tropical Diseases and the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi, Viet Nam that stated; “Most Rabies deaths in Vietnam were from the direct Butchering and eating of either dog or cat meat”.
Vietnamese researchers confirmed;
“In Viet Nam, dogs with rabies have been detected in dog slaughterhouses and workers at dog slaughterhouses are vaccinated against rabies as part of the national programme for rabies control and prevention. However, the private slaughter of dogs is relatively common in the country which increases rabies infection rates”
“Vietnamese doctors already consider dog slaughtering to be a risk factor for rabies transmission, but it is important that other health care workers and policy makers, both in- and outside Vietnam, are aware of this risk factor”
Dog and cat meat trade is now finally illegal within Thailand, unfortunately this doesn’t stop traffickers from snatching dogs and transporting from Thailand into the Viet Nam. Yes the trade may indeed be illegal, but again our own investigative journalists have located street traders openly selling and smuggling unhygienic meat in rural communities.
Back in 2013 [Life With Dogs] stated; “In the past week, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam have signed a deal with the intention of ending the importation and sale of dogs to be used as food. This move was initiated by their governments because of the involvement of animal welfare group Asia Canine Protection Alliance. The ACPA is comprised of four notable animal groups: Animals Asia, Change for Animals Foundation, Humane Society International and Soi Dog Foundation.
We are now in 2015 and as yet [SpeakupFortheVoiceless] and [SayNoToDogMeat] have yet to witness any such decrease of trade within Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Trafficking and snatching of pet dogs and cats continues within Thailand feeding the trade within the Viet Nam and China. Why has it taken from 2013 to do nothing? One only has to walk the streets of Hanoi, Saigon, Hoi An and Ben Tre to witness dog meat traders more than active. On June 30 2015, police from Sakol Nakorn intercepted a truck carrying the butchered remains and carcasses of more than 100 dogs. The truck was heading for Tha Rae, [the traditional home of Thailand’s dog meat trade]. Yet trade is illegal!
Within the Philippines the government has introduced tough and stringent laws with regards to pet meat traffickers and peddlers (Please click the links to view current data from government). Say No To Dog Meat recognizes the Philippines as one of few Asiatic countries on the continent that has taken the pet meat trade seriously. Despite a law banning the killing and maltreatment of dogs (Animal Welfare Act of 1998), dog-eating and the industry that supplies it continues particularly in the northern part of the country. Back in June 23 2013, some 12 dogs were rescued in San Pedro Laguna, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The Philippines government aims to eliminate the country’s dog meat trade by 2016, AKF Head and Legal Counsel Heidi Caguioa told Rappler . Eradication means no more dog meat traders and no more dog meat restaurants. Say No To Dog Meat will be lobbying the Philippines embassy within Brisbane, Australia calling on the government to strengthen the current Animal Welfare Act 1998 and Rabies Act 9482.
Finally Say No To Dog Meat volunteers will be lobbying the Indonesian embassy calling on the government to enact law and close down all known dog meat markets. The Indonesian dog meat trade is allegedly associated with the Minahasa culture of northern Sulawesi, Maluku culture and the Bataks of northern Sumatra, where dog meat is considered a festive dish, usually reserved for occasions such as weddings and Christmas. While Say No To Dog Meat and our comrades Animal Defenders Indonesia, Surabaya Tanpa Dog Meat, Bali Adoption and Rehabilitation Center would like to believe this, the trade on dog and cat meat actually occurs every day of the month.
This September 2015 please unite with Say No To Dog Meat this Embassy Day 2015. For more information please contact the organisation here via email: email@example.com
Image: Say No To Dog Meat, Team Perth.
Chief Executive Officer.