Skip to comments.The chemical behind the great bee dieoff
Posted on 12/30/2015 3:47:03 PM PST by presidio9
During these hectic weeks between Thanksgiving and New Yearâs Day, many of us think a lot not only about family, but about food. As we gather around tables to talk, so many of our holiday rituals centers around eating: cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, applesauce for Chanukah latkes, honey-glazed ham for Christmas and â especially in the South â black-eyed peas and greens for good luck on New Yearâs Day. Kwanzaa literally translates to âfirst fruits.â
Yet many of these holiday favorites are endangered, because the bees they depend upon are dying by the millions.
You may have heard about this crisis years ago and filed it away in your mind as probably another hysterical overreaction by environmentalists.
Not so. The threat is real and present. We all know bees make honey, and are therefore critical to the honey-baked ham and baklava that many of us have recently been enjoying. What everyone may not know is that in the process of making honey, bees pollinate more than 70% of the worldâs most common crops, from fruits and nuts to the alfalfa eaten by dairy cows.
All told, bees are responsible for one in three forkfuls of the foods we love , from pumpkin pie and cheesecake to collards and Brussels sprouts; from chocolate and coffee to apples and strawberries. And here in New York, bees pollinate more than $300 million worth of crops such as apples, grapes and pumpkins.
But across the world, bees are dying at unprecedented rates, and beekeepers, farmers and scientists are sounding the alarm. U.S. bee populations have reached historic lows, and weâre losing nearly a third of our bee colonies each year â a rate that more than triples what was once considered normal.
Scientists point to a complex web of factors, including climate change and habitat destruction, to explain the massive collapse of colonies here and across the world.
But a certain class of insecticides, used on three-quarters of U.S. farms each year â and on about 140 different crops, including corn, canola and soy â has emerged as a clear culprit in the dieoff.
Sharing the same chemical properties as nicotine, neonicotinoids are neurotoxins that can kill bees off directly. These chemicals can also disorient bees and make it harder for them to pollinate and get back to their hives.
We need more bees
The insecticides may actually be addictive to bees, just like nicotine in tobacco is addictive to humans. Bees have been shown to actually prefer food sources treated with these pesticides to natural alternatives like sugar water.
Numerous lab studies have shown that these pesticides are a danger to bees, and last month the journal Nature published the first study to establish a direct causal link between neonic exposure and beesâ ability to do their job as pollinators.
By one estimate, these chemicals are 6,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT, which was banned in the United States in the 1970s over concerns that the common pesticide was poisoning wildlife and the environment, and endangering human health.
Based on this mounting science indicating the danger of neonics, the European Union has already banned the three most widely used neonicotinoids.
Thereâs been no equivalently bold action here, as pesticide manufacturers have managed to derail regulatory efforts.
The fact that our government is failing doesnât mean the rest of us are powerless.
Major garden retailers like Loweâs and Home Depot are already beginning to phase out the sales of neonics and plants treated with them. Some grocers like Whole Foods are beginning to label appropriate foods âbee friendly.â And some U.S. cities and states are limiting the use of neonicotinoids.
As consumers, we can plant gardens full of native, flowering herbs and vegetables, and decline to use bee-killing pesticides. As chefs, we can use produce grown on bee-friendly farms and use our menus to educate customers.
As citizens, we can and must pressure our leaders to get far, far tougher on a chemical that is imperiling the very future of an insect that is vital to the food we eat.
In this case, that goal is increased regulation of GMO foods. How do we get there from here?
As I said, colonies of European honeybees are being effected. The most likely culprit is a virus spread by varroa mites, which infest the hives. There is some speculation that pesticides containing neonicotinoid compounds may weaken the bees and cause them to be more susceptible to these compounds. But as of now, there is zero proof that this is acutually happening.
Meanwhile, any reputable environmentalist recognizes that European honeybees are an environmental disaster in their own right. The are an exotic species introduced to this continent almost 400 years ago for farming. Many of these bees escaped and have gone feral. In doing this, they have outcompeted the over 4000 species of NATIVE bees in the US, driving many to extinction. Here is the important part:
Colony Collapse Disorder does not effect any native species that we know of. In other words, we may have stumbled onto a solution to the problem by accident. Any honest environmentalist will tell you that less invasive species and more natives is always a good thing. Especially when so many natives are in danger.
But that is not what this is really about. Farmers pay more for GMO seed because they can use certain insecticides on them. Using GMOs also means that they an use less. This is another win win.
But, instead of admitting all of this the environmental lobby prefers to use lies and scare tactics.
Do you happen to know what products contain neonicotinoids?
“Farmers pay more for GMO seed because they can use certain insecticides on them. Using GMOs also means that they an use less. This is another win win.”
The Monsanto GMO ‘seeds’ already have insecticide in them.
THAT is what is killing the bees.
Are you suggesting that we'd be better off if we'd eliminate all food plants that aren't native to North America as well as cattle and pigs?
Great article on this at Junk Science. Canadian bee keepers are so severely hit THEY HAD A RECORD CROP THIS YEAR.
You left out a really big one...........people.
The bees mostly affected aren’t a native species to North America either.
It’s the mites and lazy beekeeping.
However, the pesticides contribute significantly to weakening colonies.
Good post, but your take home message - that this is not a crisis or problem - is buried.
A broader view....
I saw a beekeeper who recovers bees from houses and other places where they are unwelcome inhabitants. He relocates them to his apiary. He said he never sees colony collapse in these bees, only in hived bees. He, too, thinks it is mites, not the neonicitinoids.
The writer lost me with the mention of Kwanzaa, a made-up “holiday” that almost no one celebrates.
The name "canola" was chosen by the board of the Rapeseed Association of Canada in the 1970s. The "Can" part stands for Canada and "ola" refers to oil. It is not a crop. Canola oil is mainly derived from rape seed.
“The bees mostly affected arenât a native species to North America either.”
There are no honeybees that are native to North America.
We have more honey bees now than ever where we live. So for kicks I did a search, and found more than one article such as:
Which says its a envirowhacko created crisis. As with the polar bear, the spotted owl, the snail darter, global warming, whales, white sharks and I suppose the list is just endless.
Now the point being, let’s suppose there is a genuine crisis. There’s a little story about the boy that cried wolf.
If the bees in a feral colony were to collapse, there would be no need to rettieve them from a house, tree, etc.
I'm not telling you that at all. I'm telling you where the environmentalist's concern is dishonest. She does not care about European honeybees at all.
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