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Environmentalists have suspected pesticides from the beginning of the collapse. In fact anyone who has read "Silent Spring," 1962, by Rachel Carson would have jumped to that conclusion.
To convey the grave danger that these substances represent, she [Rachel Carson] introduces an analogy that will resurface over and over in Silent Spring: pesticides are like atomic radiation—invisible, with deadly effects that often manifest themselves only after a long delay.

In chapter six, Carson's focus shifts from insecticides to herbicides. The general picture that emerges is of a deceptive chemical industry and ill-informed public authorities spending large sums of taxpayers' money undermining whole ecosystems to eradicate one or two nuisance species.

Fast forward FIFTY years.

Use of Common Pesticide Linked to Bee Colony Collapse

Boston, MA – The likely culprit in sharp worldwide declines in honeybee colonies since 2006 is imidacloprid, one of the most widely used pesticides, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

Remember that name. Read all the labels. Do not use anything containing that product.

But after 23 weeks, 15 out of 16 of the imidacloprid-treated hives—94%—had died. Those exposed to the highest levels of the pesticide died first
It took six years to prove that it was imidacloprid that was killing the bees. In the interests of protecting the bees, we lost time because:
Scientists, policymakers, farmers, and beekeepers, alarmed at the sudden losses of between 30% and 90% of honeybee colonies since 2006, have posed numerous theories as to the cause of the collapse, such as pests, disease, pesticides, migratory beekeeping, or some combination of these factors.
Pesticides should have been the No. 1 suspect but there were so many theories put out there to keep the sand in our eyes. It took six years to prove what Rachel Carson told us fifty years ago about pesticides in general. Let's hope we are not too late to bring the bees back. We have a lot riding on this issue, like our food.

Please sign the petition
EPA: Save our Bees and the Food We Eat! Ban Bayer's Chemicals Now!
A beautiful link Honey Bee Haven to an article by jmap's wife.

UPDATE 2 Please read this diary for a scientific look at the situation.

The Bee Colony Collapse Mystery Isn't Quite Solved Yet

While there was some pushback in the diary above against the study I linked to there were also two further studies in Europe which implicate the same type of insecticides.

The study found that even though the dose was sub-lethal, the exposure seriously affected the bees' homing abilities to the extent that they proved to be two to three times more likely to die while away from their nests than untreated bees. "Non-lethal exposure... causes high mortality due to homing failure, at levels that could put a colony at risk of collapse," the researchers say.
Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production, March 29, 2012.

Another pesticide Clothianidin used for treating seeds is highly toxic to honey bees. The trade name is Poncho or Poncho-pro in Germany.
From a leaked 2003 EPA memo:

Clothianidin is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute contact basis (LD50 > 0.0439 μg/bee). It has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen. In honey bees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects in the queen. PDF

Update 4, June 7, 2012
After damning research, France proposes banning pesticide linked to bee collapse

An August 2012 diary by GreenMother Help Ban NeoNicotinoid Pesticides gives more evidence.

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