Bee harming pesticides: strongest ever evidence to bees.
Landscape-wide research by former UK government agency on oilseed rape fields in England and Wales shows link between neonicotinoids and honeybee colony losses
The study found the increased use of imidacloprid pesticide on oilseed rape crops in England and Wales over an 11 year period correlated with higher bee mortality during that time. Photograph: Richard Becker/AlamyAlison Benjamin
Thursday 20 August 2015 15.56 BSTLast modified on Thursday 20 August 2015 16.22 BST
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A new study provides the first evidence of a link between neonicotinoid pesticides and escalating honeybee colony losses on a landscape level.
The study found the increased use of a pesticide, which is linked to causing serious harm in bees worldwide, as a seed treatment on oilseed rape in England and Wales over an 11 year period correlated with higher bee mortality during that time.
The research, published in Nature scientific reports on Thursday, combined large-scale pesticide usage and yield observations from oilseed rape with data on honeybee loses between 2000 and 2010.
The total area of land planted with oil seed rape in England and Wales more than doubled from 293, 378 hectares (724,952 acres) to 602,270 hectares over that time and the number of seeds treated with the imidacloprid pesticide increased from less than 1% of the area planted in 2000 to more than 75% of the area planted with oilseed rape by 2010.
Comparing the pesticide usage data with honeybee colony losses, scientists led by Giles Budge at the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) in York - a former government agency that was outsourced to the private sector earlier this year - and US entomology professor Keith Delaplane at the University of Georgia, found a link between imidacloprid usage and honeybee colony losses. Losses varied between regions and low spring temperatures were also linked to higher bee losses in Wales.
The study, also found that famers who used seed pesticide treatments reduced the number of applications of other insecticides, but that the long-term benefits of treating oil seed rape seeds with imidacloprid on crop yields were negligible.
The honeybee is the most important commercial pollinator, globally responsible for pollinating at least 90% of commercial crops. They are the most frequent flower visitor to oilseed rape. The report’s authors said: “As long as acute toxins remain the basis of agricultural pest control practices, society will be forced to weigh the benefits of pesticides against their collateral damage. Nowhere is this tension more evident than in the system with the world’s most widely used insecticide, the world’s most widely used managed pollinator and Europe’s most widely grown mass flowering crop.”
The authors call for more large-scale field-based research to determine the impacts on pollinators of the use of a newer generation of neonicotinoids.
The UK government has always maintained that neonicotinoid pesticides do not threaten bees. It has laid the blame for high honeybee losses on the parasitic varroa mite which spreads viruses, and wet summers that prevent bees from foraging.
A European-wide two year ban on a number of pesticides linked to bee deaths came into force in December 2013. Last month, the UK government temporarily overturned the ban on two pesticides on about 5% of England’s oilseed rape crop. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the emergency authorisation did not apply to imidacloprid. It added that the use of this particular pesticide had fallen dramatically in the UK, down from 43,900 kilos in 2005 to just 7,250 kilos in 2013.
A Defra spokesperson said: “This paper provides evidence that neonicotinoid seed treatments can reduce the need for more pesticide use on crops. Large-scale field studies are needed to fully understand their effects on the environment. The government makes decisions on pesticides based on the best available scientific evidence.”
It added: “The EU commission has now begun a review of the science relating to neonicotinoids and bees, and the UK will contribute fully to this review.”
Paul de Zylva, senior nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth said the Fera study added to the growing evidence showing the harm neonicotinoid pesticides do to pollinators. “The pesticide industry can’t continue to maintain that there is no effect of their products on honey bees and wild bumblebees and solitary bees,” he said.
But Julian Little, a spokesman for Bayer Cropscience, manufacturer of imidacloprid, said the study’s findings were “at odds with several other field studies which showed no impact on honeybees under properly controlled testing”.
See original article at:
March 5, 2013
Author: Kirsten Bradley
Sun Hives are a hive design coming out of Germany and now gathering interest in Britain. They’re part of the world-wide movement towards ‘apicentric’ beekeeping – beekeeping that prioritizes honeybees firstly as pollinators, with honey production being a secondary goal.
The Sun Hive is modeled in part on the traditional European skep hive, and is aimed at creating a hive that maximises colony health. The main thing I love about this hive and the enthusiasm surrounding it is not the hive itself, but the philosophy behind it, that of apicentric beekeeping.
In brief, the Sun Hive has an upside down skep hive at its base with curving frames in the top section and no frames in the bottom section. The hive is placed well above ground level (optimal for bees – they never choose to create a hive on the ground).
Like a Warré hive, the Sun Hive allows the queen bee to roam freely through the entire hive and lay eggs where she wishes to, which in turn allows the colony to manage the location and progression of their brood nest, which is great for colony health.
The top curved frames of the Sun Hive provide the ability to (in theory) remove each frame, with the free-form comb beneath coming out as well as it is (again, in theory) attached to the frame directly above.
The Sun Hive can also have a super attached to it on a honeyflow (not sure about that, as I assume that means a queen excluder would be used to prevent brood comb being created in said super, which goes against the idea of allowing the queen to roam the hive, but anyway).
As I said, it’s not the design of this hive that particularly gets me going (though it is very beautiful), but the philosophy behind it… putting bees first before honey yields.
Also, this sort of experimenting is important. We cannot keep relying on the industrial style of beekeeping that is currently the norm. Well managed Warré Beehives are one branch of natural beekeeping, and this hive is another.
What we need, right now, is lots of apicentric beekeepers refining, experimenting and progressing resilient beekeeping techniques. Backed up by good information on bee behavior, not just whacky ideas.
Would this hive style work in Australia? I am not sure, but I suspect it might not be ideal for most parts of Australia. And that is ok. Each continent has vastly different conditions – nectarys, climate and other variations that necessitate adaptation for hive design for effective natural beekeeping.
A hive design developed on the other side of the world, no matter how groovy, is not necessarily going to result in a happy and healthy honeybee colony over this side of the world. There’s seasonal differences, the way honeyflows work is different, humidity, etc.
But Natural Beekeeping, in all its global variations, is at the heart of future honeybee health. The Sun Hive is definitely part of that matrix and is causing many in Europe to rethink hive design to ensure colony resilience.
Sun Hive resources:
Lead photo by Heidi Herrmann, of the Natural Beekeeping Trust.
Read more at: http://www.milkwood.net/2013/03/05/the-sun-hive-experiments-in-natural-beekeeping/
A ray of sunshine: Heidi Herrmann has a wide range of hives in her garden Photo: Martin Mulchinock
As colonies collapse around the world, Heidi Herrmann is putting her faith in what is best for the honey-makers, not the consumers.
By Jean Vernon
The honeybee is becoming an endangered species, with the finger of blame pointing in multiple directions. Wild honeybees are nearly extinct in the UK and from 1985-2005 there was a 53 per cent decline in managed honeybee colony numbers. Parasites and disease, climate change and air pollution all have an impact on bee health, but perhaps the most serious of all is the impact of pesticides.
Heidi Herrmann is one of a growing throng of natural beekeepers. She is trustee and co-founder of the Natural Beekeeping Trust, and has been keeping bees for years. Instead of following traditional practice, this movement challenges long-standing methods and processes. Like other members, Heidi has adapted her bee care to suit the bees rather than her own needs.
Heidi, who is German but based in Sussex, used to travel the world as an interpreter, and uses these communication skills to understand her bees. “I speak a few languages, but am most keen to develop the one that my creatures respond to. I guess it is the language of the heart, and that’s hard to learn,” she says.
Now approaching folk heroine status in some beekeeping circles, Heidi has sometimes been described as a shamanic beekeeper. This witch doctor image doesn’t endear her to some traditionalists, but has inspired beekeepers across the world. Today she gives talks and runs workshops for like-minded enthusiasts.
“Bee colonies have very distinct personalities, and I suspect that attributing these differences to the genetics of the queen bee is a little simplistic,” she says. “There is much more involved; grasping the subtle characteristics of a particular colony requires us to make sustained efforts in observation, and to let go of our habitual cause-and-effect thinking.”
Advocates of natural bee-keeping claim better varroa control, and healthier, happier bees, as a result of their hands-off approach. Heidi’s bees are serene, mostly docile and thriving. She rarely wears a bee suit (except when using a lawnmower – bees dislike the vibrations) and regularly collects swarms and handles her bees in her everyday clothes, without being stung. Video clips of her frequent and extraordinary swarm collections abound on YouTube.
One of her most firmly held beliefs is that swarm suppression, a universal technique employed by most conventional beekeepers to prevent bees from leaving the hive and taking honey with them, is not just wrong, but has played a huge part in the decline of the bees.
“Swarming is the natural way for bee colonies to reproduce; it’s their basic strategy for survival and for diversifying the gene pool,” Heidi says. “The motives for its suppression are questionable, and mostly spring from viewing the bees as honey production units. Meddling with the natural forces of reproduction is misguided, I believe,” she warns.
Last summer the Natural Beekeeping Trust hosted a conference at Emerson College in Sussex, drawing together 100 or so like-minded enthusiasts to learn about new ways of understanding bees. The highlight of the conference was the launch of the sun hive.
Heidi has a range of a handpainted hives in her garden (Pic: Martin Mulchinock)
Queen of the sun
Heidi and a friend, beekeeper and biodynamic farmer Peter Brown, spotted the hive on a documentary film called The Queen of the Sun. Both were mesmerised by the idea. A chance encounter with the film’s producer put them in contact with its creator, Guenther Mancke, a German sculptor and master beekeeper. His sun hive is a womblike object that mimics a natural colony.
“When you open a sun hive you confront the archetypal form of a bee colony. There is nothing square in bee life, after all. It makes sense for them to be housed in a container that mimics their true shape,” says Heidi.
The sunhive is ingenious. Based on two skeps, hand-woven from biodynamic rye-straw that fit together like a giant Easter egg, with a board that connects them, it allows the bees to build their combs as they would in the wild. Its unique construction makes the hives fully inspectable – an important advance on the traditional straw skep.
Crucially, the hive is intended to be positioned at least 2.5 metres above the ground. Here it receives more warmth and light than it would at ground level. This height is immensely practical, because the bees can come and go freely. After 20 years of researching the nest-site preferences of the honeybee, author Thomas Seeley found that when a swarm chooses its own site it settles at a height between 2.5 to six metres – and never on the ground.
The fact that you can’t readily buy a sun hive is part of its appeal. To obtain a hive like this requires a certain effort, as it does not lend itself to a production line. The hive is made by hand from rye-straw and it needs a shelter, to protect it from weather. People come together to make hives in special workshops.
Heidi's sun hives in the bien house (Pic: Martin Mulchinock)
An undividable entity
Within the boundaries of her beautiful biodynamic garden on the Sussex Downs, Heidi hosts a great variety of different bee hives, all hand-painted. Centre stage is what she calls the bien (pronounced bean) house. The bien house is a handi-painted, multicoloured, hexagonal shelter. The bien is a German expression and refers to the being of the colony. “The colony is an undividable entity and none of the different parts of the colony makes sense by themselves. They draw their validity out of the totality,” she says. Hanging high up in the roof space, the bien houses a number of what look like giant, egg-shaped sculptures. These are the sun hives.
Elsewhere, there’s a bee room where natural beekeeping classes are held and more recently, workshops to build the new biodynamic sun hive. There’s a bee garden full of flowers and forage, with a flow form that energises the water, another essential element for the bees.
Heidi started out with conventional National hives and still has some of this type, complete with bees. When it comes to natural beekeeping, it is the way that the bees are looked after that makes the critical difference.
Traditionalists might scoff at some of her methods, but the proof of Heidi’s work is in the bees themselves. Each hive houses a healthy colony. Of the 30 colonies that faced last winter every single one survived. Most beekeeping groups reported winter losses in the order of 30 per cent .
The lesson for gardeners
Heidi believes that gardeners can be important defenders of bees: “We need a zero-tolerance policy with bee and wildlife-damaging substances,” says Heidi. “It would be so helpful if we could learn to love a more 'messy’ garden in which our own desires are not so strongly imprinted on nature. The life of the garden becomes so much richer. We need to cultivate meadows wherever we can, and take more interest in the provenance of the seeds and plants we buy.
“I’d like to persuade garden centres to stop selling products containing neonicotinoids [commonly used garden insecticides]. It’s ridiculous that you go into any garden centre and you see all these wonderful labels that say bee-friendly plants, and then you go into the shop and 80 per cent of the products are killers of all insect life. Gardeners could make a lot of difference here; in fact we all can, by changing our consumer behaviour we can achieve a lot for the bees, and all other wildlife. The bees are really teaching us something important here. And I have a feeling that we are all beginning to listen.”
NATURAL BEEKEEPING TIPS
• Keep bees for the bees’ sake and value them as pollinators first (apicentric), and honey producers second.
• Fill your garden with nectar and pollen-rich plants (particularly in February/March and June), and avoid use of chemicals.
• Allow bees to overwinter on their own honey instead of feeding a sugar substitute. Harvest excess honey only in spring when there is sufficient nectar flow.
• Maintain the nest scent and warmth of the hive by opening it only if really needed.
• Allow the bees to reproduce naturally by swarming (this also helps break the varroa cycle).
• Don’t use chemical treatments for disease and pest control (incl varroa mite).
• Don’t cull the drones (sometimes used for varroa control).
• Choose hives that replicate natural sites used by bees, eg hollow trees and cavities.
• Avoid smoking the bees as this can cause undue stress.
• Read The Bee Friendly Beekeeper by David Heaf (NBB, £24.99). For further information about sun hive workshops, visit naturalbeekeepingtrust.org
Read more at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/beekeeping/9790465/Why-natural-beekeeping-could-save-our-honey-making-friends.html
Popular Weedkiller Deemed Carcinogenic: Herbicide May Cause Cancer, World Health Organization Says
By Ismat Sarah Mangla on March 20 2015 6:33 PM EDT
A display of Roundup, the herbicide that made Monsanto a successful force in the agribusiness, inside Monsanto headquarters in St Louis. The active ingredient in Roundup has been deemed a "probable carcinogen" by the World Health Organization. Brent Stirton/Getty Images
The active ingredient in Roundup, one of the world's most popular weed killers -- and the most commonly used one in the United States -- has been declared a "probable carcinogen" by the World Health Organization. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the WHO, released the results of its review of five herbicides and pesticides on Friday.
The French-based agency ranks cancer-causing agents on four levels: known carcinogens, probably or possible carcinogens, not classifiable and probably not carcinogenic. The herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was classified by IARC as "probably carcinogenic to humans."
But the classification is not binding, said the IARC. "It remains the responsibility of individual governments and other international organizations to recommend regulations, legislation or public health intervention," the agency said in a statement. According to the Associated Press, the United States Environmental Protection Agency said it would consider the IARC's evaluation.
The IARC did clarify that the new ruling is mostly directed at the industrial use of the herbicide, and that use by home gardeners does not fall under the same classification. Glyphosate is employed in more than 750 herbicide products and has been detected in the air, during spraying and in foods, reports the IARC.
The determination is sure to alarm the agro-chemical industry and particularly Monsanto, the agribusiness giant that is the leading producer of glyphosate. Worldwide annual sales of the chemical are estimated at $6 billion. The company put out its own statement Friday: "All labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health," said Monsanto's Phil Miller, global head of regulatory and government affairs.
“We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe,” said Miller. Monsanto requested an urgent meeting with the World Health Organization to clarify the scientific basis of the ruling.
A summary of the agency's findings was published in the British journal Lancet Oncology Friday.
Read more at: http://www.ibtimes.com/popular-weedkiller-deemed-carcinogenic-herbicide-may-cause-cancer-world-health-1854454
Saving bees with new pesticide
By Colin Rickettsimage: http://www.earthtimes.org/eimage/email-author.png
When the honey bee meets the crocus, we have a surprising formulation of spider venom and crocus extract that specifically excludes the pollinator from a pesticide's action; bee image; Credit: © Shutterstock
Erich YT Nakasu and several colleagues collaborated in testing the effects of spider venom-based pesticides on honeybees, with lethal effects on caterpillars, beetles, flies and bugs already observed. They work at The University of Newcastle upon Tyne, The Ministry of Education of Brazil, The UK Food and Environment Research Agency in York and Durham University. Paying full attention towards the efficient pollinators of agricultural crops is desirable given the terrible effects of pesticides such as neonicotinoids on their behaviour and activity. Their paper is to be found in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B as - Novel biopesticide based on a spider venom peptide shows no adverse effects on honeybees.
The honeybees, Apis mellifera mellifera from York were maintained at Newcastle University during 2012 and foraged freely until being removed indoors for the winter, where they had free access to the outdoors via a pipe. The insecticidal peptide is funnel web spider, Hadronyche versuta venom mixed with crocus lectin carrier protein to enable it as an oral pesticide. Sucrose solutions containing the pesticide were given to anaesthetised bees by injection, oral and by contact. And the effects measured as the individual bees recovered with access to 50% sucrose solution.
The importance of such testing is shown in the lack of change in olfactory learning and memory formation in the adult foraging bees. When larval and adult haemolymph were sampled, the fusion protein pesticide was found to be present, proving it had passed through the gut. It had also reached the brain, so any toxic effect could have been observed in the behaviour. The fusion molecule had been successfully degraded in the gut of larvae but not in the adult.
When the bees were actually injected with the pesticide, 17% died within 48 hours. Caterpillars of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) had a 90-100% fatality with the same treatment. The bee brain must be much more resistant to the processes, or the CNS of the 2 insects are quite different in their reactions. The doses given were greater than expected field exposure for the bees, as the pesticide would be applied as a spray. Nectar and pollen would contain low doses within the bee diet.
Neonicotinoids and organophosphate pesticides both impair the learning abilities and associate olfactory cues with a sucrose reward. This spider pesticide seems an adequate attempt to displace the old wide-action chemicals with much more specific actions. No adverse effects on Apis mellifera from a high dosage of the Hv1a/GNA formulation of venom and crocus lectin were observed. The fusion protein is successfully degraded only by bees. This also means that accumulation is impossible, avoiding the age-old problem of build-up in the food chains.
There only remain the important bumblebees and parasitoid wasps. If they are affected by the fusion protein, then it seems likely that we have to go back to the drawing board. These insects are often more important than the domesticated honey bees, as they function completely without any farmers' input in many regions.
- See more at: http://www.earthtimes.org/scitech/saving-bees-new-pesticide/2612/#sthash.rufU178c.dpuf
Read more at http://www.earthtimes.org/scitech/saving-bees-new-pesticide/2612/#cZbj0WqklEuOXggg.99
Bee brainsWednesday 04 February 2015
Research at the Universities of St Andrews and Dundee has confirmed that levels of neonicotinoid insecticides accepted to exist in agriculture cause both impairment of bumblebees’ brain cells and subsequent poor performance by bee colonies.
The contribution of the neonicotinoids to the global decline of insect pollinators is controversial and contested by many in the agriculture industry. However, the new research, published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, demonstrates for the first time that the low levels found in the nectar and pollen of plants is sufficient to deliver neuroactive levels to their site of action, the bee brain.
Dr Chris Connolly, a Reader in the Division of Neuroscience at Dundee’s School of Medicine, has spent several years examining the risk from neonicotinoids and other commonly used classes of pesticides on both honeybees and bumblebees.
He and his colleagues at Dundee carried out combined laboratory and field studies and the data was analysed by Professor Steve Buckland at St Andrews. The results showed very low levels of neonicotinoids caused bumblebee colonies to have an estimated 55 per cent reduction in live bee numbers, a 71 per cent reduction in healthy brood cells, and a 57 per cent reduction in the total bee mass of a nest.
Dr Connolly says the paper represents the best scientific evidence to date connecting neonicotinoid consumption to poor performance of bees and that the effects of the pesticide must be considered by policy makers seeking to protect the abundance and diversity of insect pollinators.
“Our research demonstrates beyond doubt that the level of neonicotinoids generally accepted as the average level present in the wild causes brain dysfunction and colonies to perform poorly when consumed by bumblebees,” he said. “In fact, our research showed that the ability to perturb brain cells can be found at 1/5 to 1/10 of the levels that people think are present in the wild.
“This is not surprising as pesticides are designed to affect brains of insects so it is doing what it is supposed to do but on a bumblebee as well as the pest species. The bumblebees don’t die due to exposure to neonicotinoids but their brains cells don’t perform well as a result and this causes adverse outcomes for individual bees and colonies.
“This is not proof that neonicotinoids are solely responsible for the decline in insect pollinators, but a clear linear relationship is now established. We can now be confident that at these levels, neonicotinoids disrupt brain function, bee learning and the ability to forage for food and so limit colony growth.
“It may be possible to help bees if more food (bee-friendly plants) were available to bees in the countryside and in our gardens. We suggest that the neonicotinoids are no longer used on any bee-friendly garden plants, or on land that is, or will be, used by crops visited by bees or other insect pollinators.”
Insect pollinators provide essential ecosystem services and make an estimated contribution of $215 billion to worldwide economies every year while supporting much of the world’s food production. Recent years have seen up to 30 per cent annual honeybee colony losses, while the population of butterflies and other insects is also down and similar declines in insect-pollinated wild plants.
Neonicotinoid contamination of the nectar and pollen consumed by bees is around 2.5 parts per billion (around 1 teaspoon in an Olympic swimming pool). There has been wide debate over whether this level is enough to affect the bees. To answer this question, the Dundee-St Andrews team fed bumblebees this low level of neonicotinoid and measured its accumulation at its target site, the bee brain.
At this level, some neonicotinoids were fast acting, shutting down the major site of energy production, the mitochondria, in brain cells. At even lower levels, brain cells become vulnerable to stimulation by the normal neurotransmitter used to transmit information. Under these conditions, brain cells cannot function and bees struggle to learn important life skills, such as recognising that the scent of a flower predicts a food reward, or remembering their way home.
To test if these conditions affected whole colonies, the researchers provided nests with 2.5 ppb neonicotinoid in sugar water, while they were free flying in a wilderness environment in the Scottish Highlands, searching for nectar and pollen to raise their brood. They found that bumblebee colonies exposed to the neonicotinoid performed poorly in terms of nest size, number of bees and condition of the nest.
The findings link environmental exposure levels of neonicotinoids to poor bumblebee performance and indicate that decreased brain function is responsible.
Previous field studies conducted by industry had generated inconclusive results, largely because of the small sample size used. This drew criticism from statisticians at St Andrews who maintained that it is possible to produce robust findings from small field studies and performed with Dr Connolly’s data.
Steve Buckland, Professor of Statistics at the University of St Andrews, said, “Field studies of the effects of neonicotinoids on bees are plagued by small sample sizes and 'pseudo-replication', in which data are analysed assuming that each colony is independent, even though multiple colonies are housed within a single box, and so experience a common environment.
“Small sample size in field trials has been used as an excuse to not carry out formal analysis, and to draw a conclusion that there is no observable effect of neonicotinoids from visual inspection of the data.
“When analyses have been conducted, the problem of pseudo-replication has been ignored. In our field study, we used so-called 'random effects' to allow for pseudo-replication, and hence provide valid tests of the null hypothesis of no effect.
“Despite the limited true replication, we found very strong evidence that low levels of neonicotinoids have adverse effects on bumblebee colonies, with an estimated 55 per cent reduction in live bee numbers, 71 per cent reduction in healthy brood cells, and 57 per cent reduction in the total bee mass of a nest.”
Read article here http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2015/title,254117,en.php
Humans have sprayed all sorts of pesticides to protect their crops since 2000 BC. Yet, after the Second World War, their use increased 50-fold. With so many chemicals left over, manufacturers decided to take the poisons meant to demolish and injure humans, and wage an eternal war against bugs instead.
These chemicals were inexpensive, effective, and enormously popular. For instance, when DDT was discovered as an effective insecticide, it was welcomed and even embraced as a solution against malaria and typhus. While making the bee documentary Vanishing of the Bees, I found footage of chemical trucks rolling through the streets engulfing people with clouds of the stuff. Their logo was even “DDT is Good for Me.” Meanwhile, one farmer in Utah I interviewed recalled how in the ’50s, he and his brother used to playfully chase each other in the fields with hoses that gushed chemicals.
With Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, came the realization that poisons were harming our environment as well as our farmworkers. Typically pesticides were sprayed topically over crops. Systemic pesticides were introduced with the idea that they would cause less toxicity to humans as well as birds and mammals compared to the previously used organophosphate and carbamate insecticides.
The unintended consequences however have been incredibly alarming and have decimated bee populations all over the world. Here are 5 things you should know about these insidious chemicals.
Systemic pesticides are highly water soluble and mobile, which means they can be applied in a number of ways: by drenching the soil; injecting them directly into trees; and even applying them as a seed coating. What is novel here is that the plant actually absorbs these chemicals and circulates it through its tissues. Unlike “traditional’ pesticides,” you cannot wash off systemic pesticides.
To put things in perspective, neonics are 5000 times more dangerous than DDT.
Bonafide Bee Killer
Over the past two decades beekeepers from around the world (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, UK, and the United States) have independently implicated nicotine-based poisons at the root of colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon that has been killing millions of bees consistently for the past nine years.
As these pesticides are translocated throughout the plant tissues, pollinators that visit flowers take back the poisons in the form of nectar and pollen and store it in their cells, which affects future generations.
Honeybees can also come into contact with these pesticides via spray, dust, water, dew droplets, and soil.
They kill insects by inflecting sub-lethal damage. They weaken immune systems, disrupt digestion, impair navigational abilities, and subtly harm the brain. These effects can be particularly detrimental to colonial insects like honeybees. Neonics are one of the most toxic classes of chemicals to bees and will kill bees and other beneficial insects at nanogram levels. Even small levels of neonics affect a bee’s ability to navigate and impairs their ability to detect odors – two crucial factors in their ability to forage for food.
In 2013, the European Union determined that neonicotinoids posed an unacceptably high risk to bees and issued a provisional ban on three different systemic pesticides. And Health Canada recently blamed neonics when millions of bees died due to systemically treated corn.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to allow neonics even though scientific assessments and early reviews from the early ’90s, expressed concerns with the high toxicity of these chemicals not only to honey bees, but to birds, other wildlife, as well as to endangered species. The EPA’s decision-makers overruled the scientists, however, and downplayed their warnings, according to Center For Food Safety.
Meanwhile, makers Bayer Crop Science and Syngenta refuse to take accountability and continue to state their poisons are safe if used — according to their label.
Most Prominent Pesticides On the Planet
With brand names like “Gaucho” and “Poncho,” these nicotine-based pesticides were first introduced in Europe in the mid ‘90s. (Eventually, French beekeepers began reporting massive bee deaths and called the phenomenon Mad Bee Disease. After out ruling the usual suspects they concluded neonics were to blame.) In the United States, neonics became widely used in 2003, not long before the advent of Colony
Today, systemic pesticides are the most widely used insecticides in the entire world, with over 500 different neonicotinoid products on the market, and applications estimated to exceed 150 million acres annually nationwide.
In the U.S., neonicotinoids are currently used on about 95 percent of corn and canola crops; the majority of cotton, sorghum, and sugar beets; and about half of all soybeans. They are also used on apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes. And applied to cereal grains, rice, nuts, wine grapes. and used on trees, turf, and on plants you find at Home Depot or Lowes.
With a turnover of more than $1.5 billion in 2008, they represented 24 percent of the global market for insecticides. After the introduction of the first neonicotinoids in the 1990s, the market grew from 155 million in 1990 to 957 million in 2008. Neonicotinoids made up 80 percent of all seed treatment sales in 2008.
The Toil On Our Soil, Brains, Rivers, And Other Creatures
Bees are just the tip of the iceberg. These poisons also leach and accumulate in our soil and water. In fact, neonics have already seeped into our rivers and have been shown to stay in the soil for years (as they break down, their metabolites are more dangerous than the original parent compound).
Naturally, any pesticide that can persist for many years, builds up in soil, and leaches into waterways is likely to have effects far beyond the pest insects it intends to target. Neonics have been shown to harm beneficial insects such as worms, as well as other pollinators such as butterflies, and possibly bats.
A 2013 Dutch study determined that water containing allowable concentrations of neonicotinoids had 50 percent fewer invertebrate species compared with uncontaminated water.
In Gardeners We Don’t Trust
Concerned citizens have responded to colony collapse disorder by planting “bee-friendly” gardens to provide urban foraging grounds. Unfortunately many bee-attractive plants sold at top retailers in the U.S. and Canada continue to use persistent, systemic neonicotinoid insecticides Interestingly, products approved for homeowners to use in gardens, lawns, and on ornamental trees have manufacturer-recommended application rates up to 120 times higher than approval for agricultural crops. Because many products approved for home and garden use can be legally applied at rates significantly higher than the rates approved for agricultural crops, home gardeners may unwittingly be exposing pollinators to toxic levels of pesticides.
And, neonicotinoid pesticides that are sold to homeowners for use on lawns and gardens oftentimes do not have any mention of the risks of these products to bees.
The Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, Big Ag cares about profits way more than bees and beings. Ironically, neonics are not even a critical tool for farmers. In the field, usefulness of neonicotinoid seed treatments for pest prevention depends upon the timing of planting and pest arrival. And studies show that in many contexts, neonicotinoid seed treatments do not provide significant yield benefits.
For instance, the EPA recently concluded that “seed treatments provide little or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations.”
And European countries reported maintained crop yields after regional neonicotinoid bans were implemented. More sustainable agricultural practices, like crop rotations, are known to greatly reduce pest damage without the use of—or with greatly reduced use of insecticides.
So why are we contaminating our food supply and putting our risk at health? The European Food Safety Authority (the equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA) reported that these systemic pesticides, which are neurotoxins, are also dangerous to the human nervous system—especially our noggins.
We must continue to educate ourselves, because this is the first step toward affecting change.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-astonishing-facts-about-bee-killing-systemic-pesticides.html#ixzz3TNgWkgd1
According to a new study, neurotoxic pesticides known as "neonics" are not only wiping out the world's bees, but also killing off butterflies, fish, and birds, threatening to wipe out "the heart of a functioning ecosystem". A new study says neonics -- the neurotoxic pesticides behind colony collapse disorder -- can be 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT.
"We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment," said Jean-Marc Bonmatin of France's National Centre for Scientific Research, co-author of the report. After studying over 800 reports gathered over 20 years, scientists found "clear evidence of harm" "sufficient to trigger regulatory action". Meanwhile, another recent report shows steady bird declines year after year in areas with neonic use.
Thanks to intense lobbying by Bayer, neonics are the most widely-used pesticides on the planet. But we cannot stand by as these pesticides threaten to destroy the natural ecosystem, including the pollinators that maintain our food supply.
The latest study says these pesticides, absorbed by plants, are also harming other insect pollinators, fish and birds as they leach into soil and water. The most affected species were terrestrial invertebrates such as earthworms, which are crucial soil-enrichers. Bees and butterflies were next, followed by aquatic invertebrates, then birds and finally fish, amphibians and certain microbes.
"The combination of their widescale use and inherent properties, has resulted in widespread contamination of agricultural soils, freshwater resources, wetlands, non-target vegetation, estuarine and coastal marine systems," the authors wrote. The report said there was not enough data to determine whether there was an impact on mammals and reptiles, but "the researchers concluded that it was probable." This four-year assessment was carried out by The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which advises the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world's watchdog on species loss.
Immediately following its release, another study came out that found neonic use responsible for a 3.5% decline in bird populations every year. With these mounting studies finding neonicotinoids responsible, the big pesticide companies are starting to engage in tactics they learned from Big Tobacco by pumping out their own research to cast the blame on mites, climate change -- anything other than their own toxic products. We can't afford pesticide companies to subvert science and threaten our global ecosystems.
Neonicotinoids are a set of particularly pernicious pesticides that seeps into every part of the plant, as well as the soil around it. They damages the brains of insects that land to feed on it -- whether they eat the fruit of the plant, or just want the pollen -- and they wash out into the soil where it wipes out most of the surrounding life. At The Story of Stuff, we spend a lot of time focusing on the chemicals in our products. Often, those chemicals have an outsized effect before they even reach us. Millions of tons of pesticides are dumped onto our crops, into our rivers, and carried throughout our ecosystems around the world. This is a clear example of "more" not meaning "better". The more toxins we dump, the more the real pests they are designed to kill grow resistant, and the more the animals we rely on to maintain a clean, healthy planet are endangered. Please join in today in stopping this menace to our food chain.
The Independent: Pesticides linked to mass bee deaths also affect other friendly organisms including birds and fish, June 24, 2014
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