Archives

Scientists discover another cause of bee deaths, and it’s really bad news

Scientists discover another cause of bee deaths, and it’s really bad news

ByJaymi Heimbuch

bee_face.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scale

So what is with all the dying bees? Scientists have been trying to discover this for years. Meanwhile, bees keep dropping like… well, you know.

Is it mites? Pesticides? Cell phone towers? What is really at the root? Turns out the real issue really scary, because it is more complex and pervasive than thought.

Quartz reports:

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

The researchers behind that study in PLOS ONE — Jeffery S. Pettis, Elinor M. Lichtenberg, Michael Andree, Jennie Stitzinger, Robyn Rose, Dennis vanEngelsdorp — collected pollen from hives on the east coast, including cranberry and watermelon crops, and fed it to healthy bees. Those bees had a serious decline in their ability to resist a parasite that causes Colony Collapse Disorder. The pollen they were fed had an average of nine different pesticides and fungicides, though one sample of pollen contained a deadly brew of 21 different chemicals. Further, the researchers discovered that bees that ate pollen with fungicides were three times more likely to be infected by the parasite.

The discovery means that fungicides, thought harmless to bees, is actually a significant part of Colony Collapse Disorder. And that likely means farmers need a whole new set of regulations about how to use fungicides. While neonicotinoids have been linked to mass bee deaths — the same type of chemical at the heart of the massive bumble bee die off in Oregon — this study opens up an entirely new finding that it is more than one group of pesticides, but a combination of many chemicals, which makes the problem far more complex.

And it is not just the types of chemicals used that need to be considered, but also spraying practices. The bees sampled by the authors foraged not from crops, but almost exclusively from weeds and wildflowers, which means bees are more widely exposed to pesticides than thought.

The authors write, “[M]ore attention must be paid to how honey bees are exposed to pesticides outside of the field in which they are placed. We detected 35 different pesticides in the sampled pollen, and found high fungicide loads. The insecticides esfenvalerate and phosmet were at a concentration higher than their median lethal dose in at least one pollen sample. While fungicides are typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees, we found an increased probability of Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load. Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees placed in an agricultural setting are exposed to.”

While the overarching issue is simple — chemicals used on crops kill bees — the details of the problem are increasingly more complex, including what can be sprayed, where, how, and when to minimize the negative effects on bees and other pollinators while still assisting in crop production. Right now, scientists are still working on discovering the degree to which bees are affected and by what. It will still likely be a long time before solutions are uncovered and put into place. When economics come into play, an outright halt in spraying anything at all anywhere is simply impossible.

Quartz notes, “Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.”

Bayer CropScience Opens Bee Care Site in Clayton

Bayer CropScience Opens Bee Care Site in Clayton

Five Awesome Bee Products For Your Health

Five Awesome Bee Products For Your Health

 

 

U.S. Government Steps Up to Protect Bees

 

U.S. Government Steps Up to Protect Bees

by Megan Thompson

After the loss of 10 million beehives to Colony Collapse Disorder and numerous studies linking bee deaths to neonicotinoid pesticides, the U.S. government is joining the European Union to pass legislation protecting this vulnerable species.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require that warning labels be placed on four common neonictinoids (imidacloprid, clothainidin, dinotefuran and thiamethoxam). The use of these labeled pesticides will then be banned wherever pollinators are present.

The U.S. is following in the footsteps of the European Union which, in April, banned the use of neonicotinoids for two years. Recent bee deaths have threatened the existence of many common crops in both America and Europe, including almonds, blueberries, apples, avocados, cucumbers, onions and more. In the U.S. alone, bees are responsible for pollinating $30 billion worth of crops every year: roughly a third of the food Americans consume.

While this new step may begin to slow bee colony collapses, it is more of a band-aid than an actual solution. Studies have identified 21+ pesticides that are considered harmful to bees, eight of which lower resistance to disease-carrying parasites that infect individual bees and hives. As of now, only four of these pesticides will be regulated.

The new legislation also does not apply to nursery plants, many of which are contaminated with the same four pesticides that will be banned on commercial crops. According to Lisa Archer, director of the food program for Friends of the Earth, “[w]hile this is a step in the right direction, it falls far short of what is needed to protect bees and other pollinators from pesticides.” Archer added that a much-needed addition to the new laws would be to add regulations to nursery plants.

Home Gardeners’ New Plants Could Be Killing Off Bees

Home Gardeners’ New Plants Could Be Killing Off Bees

 

 

An environmental group said Wednesday that many home gardeners may be unknowingly hurting the bee population, as the insects’ numbers continue to decline.

Bees pollinate many fruits and vegetables, including apples, strawberries, blueberries and cucumbers.

The Pesticide Action Network along with a well-known University of Minnesota bee researcher said a study found that garden supply stores including Home Depot and Lowe’s are selling plants that are treated with pesticides that kill bees.

But the authors believe that many more garden stores are likely treating their plants with the deadly neonicotinoid pesticides.

At the University of Minnesota Horticultural Garden, there should be hundreds of bees where there are just one or two, U of M bee expert Vera Krischik said.

She said a world without bees would be a lot less tasty.

“Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries they are all bee pollinated,” she said. “If we don’t have bees to do the pollination, what are we going to be left with? Rice, corn, soybeans — it’s going to be a very bland diet.”

The Pesticide Action Network said 54 percent of plants bought at Home Depot, and Lowe’s had neonicotinoid pesticides in their systems.

Once treated, the pesticide stays in the plants for two years.

“That means a home gardener who thought they planted a bee friendly landscape in their backyard may end up planting a bee toxic garden instead,” said Lex Horan of the Pesticide Action Network.

The bee die off is already affecting prices at the grocery store.

Many fruit producers are forced to buy bees so their plants can pollinate and that has boosted prices of produce.

Home Depot released a statement: “We have not reviewed the study but we certainly appreciate the importance of the bee population. We will reach out to the study group to find out more about their findings and methodology.”

These types of pesticides are already banned in some parts of Europe and Canada, and the group is hoping is that the United States will ban them as well.

WCCO did reach out to Lowe’s stores and did not hear back.

Original article by Esme Murphy for CBS Minnesota