(TMU) — The U.S. Department of Agricultural (USDA) has suspended its annual surveys of the honeybee population as the federal agency increasingly turns toward representing big agricultural interests rather than regulating them.
Citing the need for budget cuts, the Trump administration’s suspension of the Honey Bee Colonies report will mean that researchers and the honey bee industry will lose a crucial tool to understanding the precipitous decline of honeybee populations since 2006.
Conservationist groups have denounced the move to curtail the program, accusing the Trump administration of waging a concerted effort to undermine federal research.
Rebecca Boehm, an economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told CNN:
“This is yet another example of the Trump administration systematically undermining federal research on food safety, farm productivity, and the public interest writ large.”
A notice posted over the weekend by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Survey said:
“The decision to suspend data collection was not made lightly, but was necessary given available fiscal and program resources.”
While the suspension is ostensibly “temporary,” according to a USDA spokesperson, the agency has been noncommittal about if and when the agency would restart the survey. It also has not provided a figure in terms of fiscal savings resulting from the suspension.
The move to curtail the Honey Bee Colonies report is at least the third bee-related research project to be halted or reduced by the Trump administration, which has moved toward reversing the Obama administration’s efforts to protect pollinators such as bees.
The USDA began the survey in 2015 to keep track of the quarterly population of honeybees in each state. The most recent report is scheduled to be released in August, but will only include data taken from last January to April of this year.
Since 2017, however, the USDA has been headed by Secretary of Agriculture George “Sonny” Perdue III, a former Georgia governor with a stake in the beef industry who has been dogged by corruption allegations throughout his political career and whom critics see as “more interested in rewarding industry and agriculture than in protecting the public health.”
The USDA has since been transformed into an industry vessel that rubber stamps Big Food and Big Agriculture demands, enshrining them into law. Karen Perry Stillerman, senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food and Environment Program, told the Project On Government Oversight:
“Secretary Perdue seems to have installed an extra-large revolving door to usher in lobbyists and executives from giant corporations.”
Bees pollinate a third of edible crops in the U.S., including apples, almonds, grapes and avocados. The pollinators’ numbers have plunged due to widespread pesticide use, habitat loss, parasites like varroa mites and the climate crisis, alarming authorities over the effect that collapsing bee populations will have on wild vegetation and agricultural crops worldwide.
A study led by the University of Maryland released in June found that beekeepers in the U.S. lost a staggering 38 percent of their colonies last winter, the greatest winter loss since the university’s research began in 2006, according to The Washington Post.
Geoffrey Williams, survey co-author and assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University, told The Post:
“We don’t seem to be making particularly great progress to reduce overall losses.”
Just three weeks ago, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency opened the floodgates on the use of bee-killing neonicotinoids by big agriculture on 13.9 million acres of crops like cotton and sorghum that attract bees.
The EPA’s move clears sulfoxaflor – an insecticide considered “very highly toxic” to bees by the agency – for use on over 16 million acres of crops that attract bees. In combination with the proliferation of insect resistant genetically modified crops, bee populations have continued to plummet worldwide.
A study last year by researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London found that exposure to sulfoxaflor could reduce the size of bumblebee colonies and their offspring by 54 percent.
Mace Vaughan, co-director of the Pollinator Conservation Program at Xerces Society, commented:
“We need some sort of thermometer to be able to determine, at a big scale, are we actually helping to turn around hive loses, to turn around pollinator declines.
“Understanding what’s going on with honeybees is incredibly important to having a sense of what’s impacting pollinators in general.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.