Ecology & Zoology

USDA has reported that honeybees are down 4 percent for 2017, which set off another flurry of Beepocalypse claims by corporate journalists who desperately want to believe that modern science is killing us.

What gets left out of the story is that the 4 percent is down from a 22 year high.

There is no Beepocalypse, no Colony Collapse Disorder, no anything. It is just a statistical blip, as has happened in bees since even casual record-keeping began over a thousand years ago.

Claims of secret meetings and manipulation of the policy agenda. A split in government ranks, and threats to withdraw from a national review. It’s all just part and parcel of the latest round in the development of Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines, in this case proposed new standards for the poultry and egg industries.

Just as many people are trying to eat less processed food to improve their health, some dog owners are turning away from conventional pet food. Instead they’re trying to get back to what they see as a more traditional “butcher’s dog” diet of raw meat, albeit with pre-prepared products that can be served easily and frozen for convenience.

A recent study has raised concerns about the health risks of these raw meat based diet products as possible sources of some bacterial and parasitic diseases. But just how big a problem is this, and who is really at risk?

Plants somehow respond to environmental cues and dangers, especially virulent pathogens, despite a lack of eyes or ears.

How is that possible? It's thanks to hundreds of membrane proteins that can sense microbes or other stresses, but only a small portion of these sensing proteins have been studied through classical genetics, and knowledge on how these sensors function by forming complexes with one another is scarce.

Though CO2 emissions have plummeted in the United States, as developing nations achieve prosperity they will want air conditioners, sanitation and food - and those all require energy. They sure are not going to let already wealthy nations tell them they must be stuck with solar panels.

So climate change may still happen, at least if energy technology stops and fossil fuel use does not. If so, how will plant species will respond to climate change? A 16-year experiment may provide answers. Of course, the experiment is small, the size of two football fields inside the Garraf National park southwest of Barcelona, but it is home to many protected species. So even if it can't model an ecosystem it can model part of one.
Should we ban cars because of their potential to crash? Or stop selling painkillers in case someone takes too many? If we take the logic the EU applies to regulating pesticides, then the answer should be a resounding “yes”. Thankfully, EU lawmakers have looked at the weight of evidence and concluded the risk of driving cars and taking painkillers is acceptable – no ban needed.

Pesticides get different treatment though.

Take the class of insecticides so much in the news, neonicotinoids, that some have blamed for problems with bee health. Didn’t the European Union ban them claiming they were posing unacceptable risks to bees? Isn’t that case closed?
In early times, a raven could be a bad omen, and a new study finds that ancient people were not wrong in thinking the raven might be planning on using a negative event to full advantage. It turns out, according to the paper, they plan ahead, just like humans, and can even forgo an immediate reward in order to gain a better one in the future, which at least some humans do. Great apes too.

Ravens and great apes have not shared a common ancestor for over 300 million years, so what explains it? Evolution is not a straight line and the authors speculate that the cognitive "planning" abilities they share in common re-appeared, on a separate evolutionary path, in the birds. 
There has been some ongoing concern about bee colonies, even fears of an impending "colony collapse disorder", but both the fears and the causes have been misplaced, recent studies have shown.

Rather than being a mysterious effect due to pesticides (like neonicotinoids) slight variations in bee populations remain the fault of parasites. Yet that brings its own mystery. Varroa mites, the biggest culprit, are not very mobile. 
A newly named species, a giant, black, mud dwelling, worm-like animal, doesn't seem to eat much, instead it gets its energy from a form of sulfur. 

The public is often confused what 'discovery' means in science. It means it is being identified as a new species, not never seen before. The three- to five-foot long, tusk-like shells that encase the animal were first documented in the 1700s and are fairly common, it's the living animal inside that is being identified as a new species.  
Colony Collapse Disorder, the belief that honeybees, an important pollinator, are being killed off in droves, has been good for environmental fundraising but hasn't had a scientific foundation.

Nonetheless, it has persisted for 10 years despite data showing that periodic die-offs in bees are as common, and therefore predictable, as solar cycles and California droughts. From the time that records of bees were formally kept, there were reports of mass die-offs without explanation, a thousand years before pesticides even existed.