We know that honey bees are in trouble and last year was a very bad year. 2006 was the year the first big loss of honeybees, that has come to be known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), was noticed and that was one year after the increased use of neonicotinoids began in 2005.
US Scientists are having trouble pin pointing a specific insecticide which is linked to CCD because the chemical landscape of the country includes 1200 active ingredients in 18,000 products. Many studies were focused on what was immediately lethal to bees and didn't include the sub-lethal toxins, the ones which can lead to death by making the bees disoriented. Also some studies have focused on one insecticide containing inert chemicals but in the real world those inert chemicals mix with hundreds of other chemicals in pesticides.
A study in Canada concludes that neonicotinoids are linked to mass honeybee deaths but the government is not ready to ban them. Farmer's using neonics on corn crops claim their yield has increased by 15%.
Although Europe is imposing a temporary ban on neonics, the UK is not going along with a ban. The British government is not convinced that there is enough evidence to justify a ban. There is also a huge push back against a ban by industrial farmers and chemical companies.
The refrain is familiar in all three countries:
If you ban the neonicotinoids, farmers are going to be compelled to use products that are much more harmful to the environment and to a wider range of animals.That refrain completely ignores successful and increasing organic farming.
What's Happening to Bees?
Dead bees collected near hive entrances adjacent to corn fields contained agricultural pesticides.In the USA, Not much help here:
Lethal levels of insecticides in pollen [which is fed to emerging bees] are an obvious concern, but sublethal levels are also worthy of study as even slight behavioral effects may impact how affected bees carry out important tasks such as brood rearing, orientation and communication.
(This research was funded by an award from the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign [...] )
New Federal Report on Honey Bee HealthUpdate:
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report yesterday which fails to address the overwhelming scientific evidence of neonicotinoid-related bee death and decline. The report presents no long-term, sustainable solutions to address the current bee crisis. Instead, the report recommends further research on the role of pesticides in honey bee health, further highlighting the stymied pace of U.S. regulatory efforts.
Monsanto buys leading bee research firm after being implicated in bee CCDIn Canada
Beeologics' acquisition announcement explains that Monsanto plans to incorporate all the biological research that Beeologics has conducted over the years into its own programs for developing more GMO systems. Monsanto has also seized control of a key product that is currently in the Beeologics development pipeline that supposedly "help[s] protect bee health."
"Monsanto will use the base technology from Beeologics as a part of its continuing discovery and development pipeline," says the announcement. "Biological products will continue to play an increasingly important role in supporting the sustainability of many agricultural systems."
Mass honeybee deaths linked to insecticides
Residues of nitro-guanidine neonicotinoid insecticides used to treat corn seed were detected in approximately 70 per cent the dead bee samples analyzed by the agency.
"The information evaluated to date suggests that insecticides used on treated corn seeds contributed to many of the 2012 spring bee losses," the Pest Management Regulatory Agency said in a report.
Pete McMartin: Bees have met the enemy, and it is us
The insects humans rely on for pollination suffer from the effects of civilization.
From Sierra Club Canada
Monsanto's Roundup and its active ingredient glysophate
Glyphosate has been shown to kill beneficial insects including parasitoid wasps, lacewings and ladybugs. Other insect populations have been drastically reduced by glyphosate which negatively impacts on birds and small insect-eating mammals. These changes in plant communities impact birds’ sources of food, shelter and nest support.
Glyphosate in its commercial form is 20 to 70 times more toxic to fish than glyphosate alone.
What are governments doing to protect bees? Not much.
In Europe, a delayed (December 2013) temporary (2 year) ban
Bees and the European neonicotinoids pesticide ban: Q&A
What are neonicotinoids (neonics)?
Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticide which act as an insect nerve agent. They are mostly used as a seed treatment meaning the chemical pervades the plant, including the nectar and pollen on which bees feed to stop insects in the soil attacking the seed and other pests destroying the grown plant. Neonicotinoids have been in use for more than a decade and represented an improvement on earlier pesticide sprays, particularly because they are thought to be harmless to humans and other mammals.
Is the science conclusive?
No, partly because it's hard to conduct field experiments when neonicotinoids are nearly ubiquitous in farmland. A recent UK government study failed after the control hives that were meant to be free of the pesticides were contaminated by a nearby field. But the studies that have been done have persuaded most European governments that the risk is serious enough to justify a precautionary suspension for two years across the European Union. Chemical companies have not helped their cause by keeping most of their data secret.
Fipronil named as fourth insecticide to pose risk to honeybeesIn the USA, no ban on neonics and registration of sulfoxaflor
European Food Safety Authority says insecticide poses 'high acute risk' when used as a seed treatment for maize
"The insecticide fipronil poses a high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize," the EFSA said in a statement. "EFSA was asked to perform a risk assessment of fipronil [by the European commission], paying particular regard to the acute and chronic effects on colony survival and development and the effects of sub-lethal doses on bee mortality and behaviour.
EPA Green-Lights New Pesticide Highly Toxic to Bees, Dismisses ConcernsIn Canada, not much either:
This week, EPA granted full unconditional registration to sulfoxaflor stating that there were no outstanding data, and that even though sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees it does not demonstrate substantial residual toxicity to exposed bees, nor are catastrophic effects on bees expected from its use. While sulfoxaflor exhibited behavioral and navigational abnormalities in honey bees, EPA downplays these effects as short-lived.The agency says it has reviewed 400 studies in collaboration with its counterparts in Australia and Canada to support its decision. However, these studies do not seem to be currently available in the public scientific literature.
Canada not ready to ban pesticides believed responsible for honey bee deaths
Canada should ban bee-killing pesticides now
The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) concluded that 2012’s devastating bee loss in Canada was the result of the “hot dry spring” which caused neonicotinoid pesticides to become airborne, attached to dust stirred up by farm machinery. PMRA is now urging farmers and talking to chemical producers and machinery manufacturers about changing their practices.
What can we do about it?
- Groups sue EPA over honey bee deaths, blame some insecticides
- Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind
Pollinators are important members of various land ecosystems. How we manage these ecosystems and landscapes therefore plays a critical role in long-term pollinator. health
- How to build a solitary bee hotel
- Create a Bee-Friendly Garden.
David Suzuki has some suggestions on how to grow that garden.
- BUY ORGANIC PRODUCE, it costs more but we can't afford not to.
Suggestions are very welcome in the comments.
The conclusion of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring:
"The control of nature is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exits for the convenience of man. The concepts and practices of applied entomology for the most part date from that Stone Age of science. It is our alarming misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modern and terrible weapons, and that in turning them against the insects it has also turned them against the earth.
Rachel Carson in 1962 wrote to a friend:
'The beauty of the living world I was trying to save has always been upper-most in my mind-that, and anger at the senseless, brutish things that were being done. . . Now I can believe I have at least helped a little."