Aug 08 2013
Bees Dying By The Millions As Colony Collapse Accelerates
By Maryam Henein, HoneyColony
Honeybees are messengers. The question is will society listen?
When I started directing the documentary Vanishing of the Bees in 2007, I too had no idea. I didn’t know bees pollinate one in every three bites of food we eat or that bees are transported via trucks like indentured slaves, and that most conventional crops are doused in poisons. We’ve come a long way in the past six years. Bees are in our consciousness more than ever before. Urban beekeeping is thriving worldwide. People are growing gardens. And yet bees are dying in even greater numbers.
When Vanishing first came out, we got a lot of smack for insinuating pesticides caused CCD. Today, unless you are a biotech company, there is no denying that these neonicotinoids are slowly killing bees and beings with their sub-lethal effects. As a proud Montrealer, I did look into whether Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was impacting ‘my (former) home and native land.’ Apparently beekeepers in Canada were discouraged from calling their bee deaths “CCD.” Doing so would mean loss of their subsidies. American beekeepers meanwhile don’t receive subsidies. In essence, the almond industry is subsidizing the U.S. bee industry to the tune of millions of dollars each year. They are the ones who pay beaucoup bucks for hives. California pollinates 80% of the world’s almonds. But I digress.
The point is my fellow beekeeping Canucks had to keep quiet or face being decimated. And so that was that. With our limited budget we concentrated on traveling throughout America and to Europe to illustrate that this was a worldwide phenomenon. Now, Canada can no longer deny that the same poisons killing Italian, German, English, French, and American bees are also killing their bees. There have been too many publicized incidents. Change is slow, but it is happening. Countries are banning these poisons and putting planet and people over profits. We must continue to be the change we want to see.
Here is the latest bee news from Canada, courtesy Mercola.com:
“Just weeks ago in Elmwood, Canada, local beekeeper Dave Schuit lost 600 hives, or a total of 37 million bees. Another Canadian farmer lost eight of his 10 hives.
The bees started dying in droves just after corn in the area was planted, an alarming red flag since corn seeds are often treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, which are known to kill insects by attacking their nervous systems.
Some governments are finally taking action against these toxic chemicals, but clearly not fast enough. How many more millions of bees have to die before protection is granted to these invaluable creatures?
For those who aren’t aware, there are about 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food globally and, of these, 71 are pollinated by bees.1
In the US alone, a full one-third of the food supply depends on pollination from bees — so if bee colonies continue to be devastated, major food shortages will inevitably result.
Large Bee Kills Are Now Becoming Commonplace
Something is wrong – very wrong – if millions of bees are dying off in a matter of days. Schuit noted that he now has to replace his queen bees every few months, instead of every few years, because they are dying off so frequently.2
Last month, an estimated 25,000 bumblebees were found dead in an Oregon parking lot as well, just a short time after 55 trees in the area had been sprayed with Safari, a neonicotinoid insecticide. Ironically, the dead bees were found just as National Pollinator Week was kicking off.
These chemicals are typically applied to seeds before planting, allowing the pesticide to be taken up through the plant’s vascular system as it grows. As a result, the chemical is expressed in the pollen and nectar of the plant, and hence the danger to bees and other pollinating insects.
Adding to the problem are new ‘air seeders,’ which spread pesticide dust into the air when they’re planted, further increasing the toxic chemicals’ reach. According to the Cornucopia Institute:3
“What seems to be deadly to bees is that the neonicotinoid pesticides are coating corn seed and with the use of new air seeders, are blowing the pesticide dust into the air when planted. The death of millions of pollinators was looked at by American Purdue University.
They found that, ‘Bees exhibited neurotoxic symptoms, analysis of dead bees revealed traces of thiamethoxam/clothianidin in each case. Seed treatments of field crops (primarily corn) are the only major source of these compounds.’”
Sources and References
The standard honeybee warning language found on pesticide product labels ("highly toxic to bees, do not spray when bees are actively foraging, etc.") essentially prohibits users from spraying an insecticide only when bees are in the treatment area, even when crops are blooming. For products with residues that are toxic to bees, this restriction does not prevent bee kills because if the products are sprayed before dawn, bees are exposed to residues only hours later when they begin foraging. Google for guidance from the Agricultural Commissioner of the County of San Diego, dated February 17, 2009, titled “Clarification of Bee Protection Statements Related to Thrip Control on Avocados in San Diego County.” This demonstrates how honey bee warning labeling is interpreted and how it impacts pesticide applications by agricultural users. As interpreted by the County of San Diego, products that are highly toxic to bees (by contact or residues) may be applied to blooming crops as long as bees are not physically present (ok to spray at night). Applications of these pesticides must occur after sunset or prior to sunrise. This interpretation is shared by university extensions as well and is assumed to be the purpose of the precise wording in bee caution statements. EPA doesn't want to prevent these products from being used, they just want to prevent bad PR moments and prohibiting their use during the day prevents massive bee kills for the most part. Therefore, for those insecticide products with residual toxicity that remains for days, this language does not prevent bee kills as intended (if that is EPA’s intent). If insecticides were not allowed to be sprayed at all, night or day, when crops were blooming, they essentially would have no place in the market because there are always flowering weeds within the foraging range of a honeybee colony and most of the conventional insecticide products that EPA registers are applied at field rates far in excess of safe levels for honeybees or other bees. Overall - if EPA required a high margin of safety to bees, a lot of pesticide products would simply be banned permanently or only be allowed for very restricted uses.
The bee warnings on pesticides are, for the most part, just a boilerplate "one size fits all" without any consideration of exactly how toxic something is nor how long it persists or how long the residues are toxic. One insecticide may be hundreds to thousands of times more toxic to honeybees than another but bear the same warning. Growers, applicators, and CPAs choosing among the plethora of insecticides, if they all bear the same restrictions, will continue to choose highly toxic “knock-down” products that are prone to insect resistance and which come with a burden of human health problems for workers, applicators, and consumers.
When the EU 2-year ban on neonicotinoids was announced, a lot of people (except beekeepers) said "what the heck, there is no scientific proof that it's linked to CCD" (like there is no scientific link between human activity and global climate change). If you take a look at the MSDS or published literature on clothianidin, for example, you'll find that the contact LC50 for honeybees is something like 3.5-22 nanograms, depending on where you get your info. When used as a seed treatment, it is applied at 1.25mg of active ingredient per kernel of corn (google "clothianid seed treatment label" and follow links to a variety of EPA-approved product labels like Poncho). So on each kernel of corn, there are 1,250,000 nanograms of this active ingredient and it only takes 3.5 to kill 50% of bees (if you put 3.5 nano grams on two bees, one of them would die = LC50). Plant a whole field of corn (30,000+ kernels per acre) and you could literally kill billions of bees with that amount of active ingredient. However, you have to consider that the bees are not just sitting out there on the bare earth waiting to have a kernel of clothianid-treated corn to land on them. There are acknowledged dust issues where a tiny amount of the seed treatment blowing to nearby areas can cause a bee kill. As far as what happens after the corn is planted, the clothianidin is systemic so it moves throughout the plant and is expressed in very small amounts in the pollen. Whether that minute amount is enough to kill bees is what the regulators and pesticide companies are haggling over - and legitimately deserves a lot more research. In the meantime…until we're sure one way or the other, if the evidence is leaning toward a strong relationship between CCD and neonics, perhaps it makes sense to temporarily ban or severely restrict the use of products containing these active ingredients.
Chappie - 1 BeeBucks
Many people complain about large chemical companies and the misuse of chemicals by large scale farmers. They should also be proactive and join a local beekeeping club or start on where they live. The more folks we have the more we can help educate the public that have no real concern about our bees and other pollinators disappearing.
For help starting a club feel free to contact me for information.
Chappie McChesney - Founder
Contact your Representative and urge them to support Rep. Blumenauer's
Pollinators Protection Act.
TheRoyal - 7 BeeBucks
The problem with 'round-up ready' corn is that it is not just a residue of the glyphosphate thats the issue. The corn itself contains the pesticide so even without spraying it, its poisonous to living things....including humans. The bees dieing out is a big issue and people need to wake up to it fast. The big problem is that people like Monsanto make millions from selling the seed which has to have the spray to grow because its genetically engineered that way. no spray, no crop and the bees suffer doubly because of it. I don't know what I personally can do to help reverse the trend but if there is anything that I can simply do then someone tell me so I can.
Marne M - 3 BeeBucks
I would also add that these "die-offs" are due to bees' exposure to biofuels/ethanol made from "RoundUp ready" crops. "RoundUp ready," to me, means that when they spray the RoundUp/glyphosate, it kills everything but the crop, which means that there has to be glyphosate herbicide residue on the crop. What we are seeing here in Minnesota are dead/dying trees and vegetation where vegetation is exposed to biofuels' fumes--along all the highways, and where vehicles idle. The symptoms for Dutch elm disease (DED) and emerald ash borer (EAB) are the same as for RoundUp poisoning.
Usernamemarkeis - 7 BeeBucks
three generations of beekepers:grandpa had them in Europe, continued here. Dad had them. I had them until pouring money (thousands)
into nucs, queens, packages, amounted to NOTHING every year! 35 miles s. of Cleveland, Ohio, NEAR OARDC bees in Wooster. I GAVE UP!
Aglick12 - 1 BeeBucks
Probably Fukushima Radiations killed all of the bees too, since they're directly affected by Nuclear Radiation(s)
John Izzard - 11 BeeBucks
The evidence is seemingly undeniable. Therefore, articles such as these need to be splashed on every news paper, in every Country in the world, that has the power to do something about it.
In the furture, plagued with golobal starvation, do we really want our children remembering us like this, "they had the power to do something about the bees, but refused because, the profit margins would slip lower than expected levels, so the bees had to die."
Lets remember, where the bees go, we go!
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