Summary For 2014 – 167 Animal Mass Death Events In 41 Countries
This year’s extreme cold winter wasn’t just tough on us, it caused a drastic decrease in the number of honey bees in our state.
“It’s devastating,” said Mike Swett, of Squaw Creek Honey. “When I came out and saw my loss, I mean you literally just cry.”
Swett said the majority of his 25 honeybee hives are now full of dead bees.
“I have dead bees, and I still have combed honey here and the bees are just basically starved to death,” said Swett.
Some of Squaw Creek Honey is produced near Swett’s Ames house. Out of a total of six hives there, only one is thriving.
“Last year I probably lost 8 to 10 percent of my bees. This year, I’m seeing 60 percent loss,” said Swett.
Swett said this year’s brutal winter is what killed them.
“It was so cold that the bees were unable to move in their cluster, their ball to the next little bit of food,” said Swett.
Swett estimates the deaths to cost him $600 to $1,000.
“If we have an extreme sort of condition experience like we had this year, this past year, it’s really going to knock out those weaker, sicker or malnourished colonies,” said Iowa Department of Agriculture’s bee researcher Andrew Joseph.
“We think the losses might be as high as 70 percent or so,” said Joseph.
The national average at around 30 percent.
Bees do much more than produce our honey.
“Pollination is the real value of honey bees,” said Joseph. “We all like to eat a diversity of foods in our diets. We depend on honey bees. If we want to see those flowers out there in the environment, we need pollinators,” said Joseph.
Joseph said bees weakened by parasites and pesticides are likely the ones who couldn’t make it through the winter.
Experts said the lower number of bees could eventually lead to higher food prices.
A suspected outbreak of avian botulism is killing thousands of birds in Waikato.
The disease, which causes paralysis in birds, has been recorded in Matamata-Piako District, Waipa District and Waikato District this summer.
There have also unconfirmed reports of bird deaths in the Hauraki District.
About 3000 birds are estimated to have died from the disease in the Waikato region, Fish & Game gamebird manager David Klee said. Along with game ducks, the bacteria was killing black swans, grey teals and the New Zealand dabchick, among others, he said. “It’s pretty indiscriminate, anything that sits on those ponds, seems to be affected.” Although blood samples had not been taken, Mr Klee said the bird deaths all showed “clinical symptoms” of botulism.
Affected birds were showing signs of paralysis, they were flightless and, in the critical stage, had “lolling” and “drooping” heads.
Most outbreaks were occurring at municipal wastewater treatment plants – and in particular older, less used, oxidation ponds.
“The problem is a lot of these ponds no longer have working aerators, they’re filling up with sludge at a great rate.
“Basically in summer, when these ponds get drawn down, you’ve got the perfect microclimate for botulism to occur.”
The drought-like weather may have also played a part in the outbreaks, Mr Klee said. “In years like this, when we’ve got long dry spells of weather it’s more likely to occur.”
Te Awamutu farmer Carl Webber has had to pick up dozens of dead birds from his paddocks, which surround the Te Awamutu wastewater treatment plant, this summer.
He said outbreaks happened every year but this year had been a bad one.
“It hasn’t been big, big numbers this year, but it has been consistent. The whole summer birds have been dying.”
He said up to 20 or 30 carcasses could be seen floating in the pond at any one time. “The [Waipa] council has to be more proactive,” he said.
The oxidation pond had been neglected and birds needed to be kept off it, he said.
More rainwater from within the catchment could also be directed into the pond, he said.
Manager of water services at Waipa District Council Lorraine Kendrick said the council was working with Fish & Game to prevent the spread of the disease. The council reported birds that were sick and dead to Fish & Game every fortnight, and dead birds were immediately retrieved and disposed of. “Anywhere there is a pond system you have the potential for this to occur. But at wastewater plants, nutrient levels are higher.”
The council tried to scare birds away from the disused oxidation pond by using a zon gun, which emitted noise, and employed a “shooter” to fire blanks at the site. The council was also looking at whether the pond could be redeveloped, she said.
Klee said the response of district councils has been mixed. “What we’ve found is that in areas where we have management plans in place with councils, we’ve been able to minimise outbreaks.”
About 52,000 fingerling trout were found dead March 14 at Green Spring Trout Farms near Newville, where about 12,000 adult trout died at the beginning of the month, said owner Doug Holt.
“The water has cleared up, and our DO [dissolved oxygen] numbers are slowly returning to normal, but we’re still having a steady pickoff of fish out of each raceway,” Holt said.
Lisa Kasianowitz, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Wednesday that the hatchery reported March 13 that “the flows in the spring returned to their normal clear state and dissolved oxygen levels had come back up.”
Holt said he didn’t contact DEP regarding the additional fish deaths after it couldn’t find a reason for the earlier fish kill.
Kasianowitz, upon learning of the additional fish deaths, said she will notify inspectors Thursday morning.
On March 16, Holt said he measured DO levels of 2 milligrams per liter. DEP says at least 7 milligrams per liter is needed to sustain fish life.
“I’m sure it’s still residual manure,” said Holt, referring to manure spread of fields by farmers.
Kasianowitz said DEP has not identified the cause of the fish kill. She said DEP investigators looked at surrounding fields, and said manure application appeared to be within regulations.
“DEP has not determined a single cause for this incident,” she said.
The fingerlings deaths occurred in three sections south of the main race, which are used as a holding area because they are not as wide or deep, Holt said.
“I tried to think of everything we could do to try to keep our oxygen levels up — we were running electric aerators — but there’s no way to affect what’s coming in from the hillside to our spring,” he said.
“I can’t even fathom what it’s going to cost us,” Holt said. Each of the fingerlings could be sold next year for $2, which would mean a loss of more than $100,000 from the last fish kill. He said the loss isn’t covered by insurance.
“We’re just getting into our busy season,” Holt said. “We have a lot of fish left. It just hurts because we’re lacking certain species.”
DEP was notified of the problem at the hatchery March 2, and found “extremely low dissolved oxygen content in the spring, which is detrimental to fish.” The levels later rose to acceptable limits, inspectors said.
Kasianowitz also DEP has investigated recent releases from Shippensburg Wastewater Treatment Plant, but doesn’t believe they played a role in the hatchery incident.
It may not be possible to identify a cause, Kasianowitz said, because the geology of the region can result in surface water flowing underground and affecting water quality miles away.
Depth: 40 km
Distances: 129km (80mi) S of Sidorukun, Indonesia
146km (91mi) S of Muncar, Indonesia
149km (93mi) S of Srono, Indonesia
150km (93mi) S of Gambiran Satu, Indonesia
903km (561mi) ESE of Jakarta, Indonesia
Depth: 25 km
Distances: 85km (53mi) SSW of Taron, Papua New Guinea
104km (65mi) SSE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
289km (180mi) E of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea
331km (206mi) WNW of Arawa, Papua New Guinea
773km (480mi) NE of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Depth: 47 km
Distances: 91km (57mi) SSW of Taron, Papua New Guinea
112km (70mi) SSE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
290km (180mi) E of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea
326km (203mi) WNW of Arawa, Papua New Guinea
770km (478mi) NE of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Depth: 89 km
Distances: 144km (89mi) SSW of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
152km (94mi) ESE of Antofagasta, Chile
172km (107mi) S of Calama, Chile
216km (134mi) NE of Taltal, Chile
837km (520mi) S of La Paz, Bolivia