3.8
March 28, 2013

50% of US Bees Dead. “We’ve been doing this 30 years, & we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”~ Jeremy Hance

Honey bee (Apis mellifera) collecting pollen. Photo by: Jon Sullivan.

Updates:

USDA: Beekeepers Lost 44% of Honey Bee Colonies Last Year | “The EPA, USDA and Congress must adopt a federal, unified plan that eliminates the use of systemic pesticides to protect bees and beekeepers.” (ecowatch.com) [2015]

42% of honeybee hives killed off in U.S. last year – Technology & Science (cbc.ca)

“They know what’s killing the bees, they’ve have known for years. Go to the EPA’s site and read some of the studies. This one in particular paints a pretty clear picture.” 

“Ugh…. I thought they figured out it was the low level neurotoxins in pesticides that played out over generations of hives?”

It is definitely this. There is just MASSIVE opposition to stopping use of them. My family has been involved in beekeeping in MN for 3 generations. Beekeepers are roughly split into three categories, large, small and hobbyist operations. The larger operations (things like Mel-O honey etc.) use big rig trucks to move large hive sections all over depending on what field a farmer needs pollinated. The smaller operations focus on apiaries and other smaller farms that they don’t have to move the hives as often or at all. Hobbyists obviously never move their hives during the season, but often don’t care if they die off in the winter.

The bees that are dying are from the LARGE operations, because they have the most contact with the pesticides in question. Which are the bad ones you ask? Neonicotinoids.

 

Colony Collapse Disorder: Common Pesticides Disrupt Brain Functioning in Bees.

Update via Reddit r/permaculture:

Recent bee related death reports:

Bee deaths a result of pesticide Safari; count upped to 50,000 dead insects

Meanwhile, other reports of bees dying around Wilsonville and surrounding towns have prompted Xerces to check whether similar pesticides were used elsewhere.

“My worry is that we’re going to lose sight of the real message,” said Mace Vaughan of Xerces. “I think we’re (using insecticides) all over the place, and people are doing it in their backyards without even knowing it.”

U.S. Bee Deaths From Colony Collapse Disorder May Be Tied To Diet, Study Finds (Boston, MA)

Agrichemical and pesticide makers like Monsanto, Bayer AG and Syngenta are also launching projects to study and counter colony collapse.

Few deny that pesticides – particularly a class of commonly used insecticides called neonicotinoids – can be harmful to bees in the laboratory. It is unclear what threat the insecticides pose under current agricultural usage. Some scientists say habitat decline and disease-carrying parasites, such as the Varroa mite, are the chief cause of bee deaths.

Agri-giants trying to solve bee deaths (St. Louis, MO)

One of every three bites of food we consume depends on pollination by honeybees, but these overlooked contributors to our food system are continuing to die in stubbornly perplexing ways.

In 2006, beekeepers started noticing that bees were abandoning their hives, a phenomenon scientists dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder. Since then, the American bee population has dropped by an average of 30 percent every year, sending researchers, beekeepers and farmers into a head-scratching frenzy to figure out the cause.

Study links insecticides to bee deaths (Quebec, Canada)

According to Jean-Pierre Chapleau, spokesman for the Quebec Beekeepers’ Federation, beekeepers want neonicotinoid insecticides banned.

“Neonicotinoid insecticides are overused,” he says. Chapleau said that beekeepers don’t blame farmers, because they can’t buy seeds that have not been treated with insecticides even if they want to.

The industry says that’s not accurate.

Scottish bee deaths double in a single year (Scotland)

SBA president Phil McAnespie said: “Last summer and autumn were very bad, which is obviously an issue and viruses are associated with that. “I think most of the losses are down to the weather. Obviously, there is concern about neonicotinoids and there is ongoing research into that but I don’t think they have played any major part in this [the increase in bee deaths].”

Update: Animal agriculture carnage: Third of all honeybee colonies in England did not survive winter (guardian.co.uk)

Update: Bee keepers’ use of corn syrup and other honey substitutes as bee feed may be contributing to colony collapse (reuters.com)

Update: 1/3 of US Honeybee Colonies Died Last Winter, Threatening US Food Supply – “We’re getting closer & closer to the point where we don’t have enough bees in this country to meet pollination demands,” said entomologist Dennis vanEngelstorp, who led survey documenting declines. (wired.com)

Update: It’s confirmed: It’s getting worse. Cover of the NY Times today, edging out even the Taliban. Thing is, this threat we know how to stop.

“Bee Die-Off Soars, Putting Crops at Risk A mysterious malady seems to have expanded drastically in the past year, wiping out as many as half of the beehives needed to pollinate much of America’s produce.”

Exposure to commonly used pesticides directly disrupts brain functioning in bees, according to new research in Nature.”

While the study is the first to record that popular pesticides directly injure bee brain physiology, it adds to a slew of recent studies showing that pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, are capable of devastating bee hives and may be, at least, partly responsible for on-going Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Christopher Connolly with the University of Dundee in Scotland and his team exposed honeybees to two pesticides at levels encountered in the wild: neonicotinoids and miticidal pesticides.

By recording brain activity after exposure, the researchers found that both pesticides directly hampered bee brain functioning, including blocking neurons from firing. The findings are especially notable for studying bees after exposure to the miticidal pesticide, which is used directly on bee hives to safeguard them from a common parasite, the Varroa destructor mite. In this case, however, the cure may be worse than the disease. Connolly explains:

“Much discussion of the risks posed by the neonicotinoid insecticides has raised important questions of their suitability for use in our environment. However, little consideration has been given to the miticidal pesticides introduced directly into honeybee hives to protect the bees from the Varroa mite. We find that both have negative impact on honeybee brain function.”

Furthermore the researchers found that when bees were exposed to both chemicals—the neonicotinoids and miticidal pesticides—their brain functioning and learning abilities were hurt even more.

The study is the first to show the direct brain impacts that may explain why bees exposed to these pesticides slow aberrant behavior, including losing their way easily and slow reactions.

Scientists both in the U.S. and Europe have recorded the complete collapse of hives following exposure. However, pesticide companies have continually argued that their products cause no harm to bees even as high-profile independent research from multiple sources appears to be telling a very different story.

The research has spurred some policy movement. France has banned the use of neonicotinoids on certain crops. The EU proposed a ban on neonicotinoids for two years after a committee looked at the research for six months. However, the ban was scuttled by opposition from Germany and the UK, though it could still come up in appeal.

Most recently, nine beekeeping and environmental groups sued the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to take action to protect bees.

Bees are key plant pollinators, and their decline has worried scientists, farmers, and policymakers worldwide. In the U.S. alone, bee pollination is estimated to be worth $8-12 billion. While bee declines have occurred in the past, researchers believe this one is much more severe.

Citation: Mary J. Palmer,Christopher Moffat, Nastja Saranzewa, Jenni Harvey, Geraldine A. Wright, Christopher N. Connolly. Cholinergic pesticides cause mushroom body neuronal inactivation in honeybees. Nature Communications. 4, Article number: 1634. doi:10.1038/ncomms2648.

From our friends at mongabay.com.

Ed note: Please sign the petition urging the EPA to ban the pesticides that  are harming bees.

 

Mongabay.com provides news, information, and analysis on environmental issues, with a special focus on tropical rainforests. The web site features more than 70,000 photos and has a section about forests for children available in nearly 40 languages.

 

 

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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