Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lethal Bee Hives


I read, today, about some really chilling findings about the health of honeybees in America. You may have heard of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) a mysterious (and deadly) malady which is affecting honeybees since 2006.

According to a paper published by the Public Library of Science, honeybees are under a lot of stress, because the honeycombs (in which they store their food, and raise their young) is seriously contaminated by agro-chemicals (pesticides used in crop fields and on orchards). Beekeepers had long suspected this to be one of the factors causing CCD.

The findings are -- to my mind -- pretty shocking.

When researchers sampled hives in 23 American states, almost 98% of the honey comb samples were contaminated with pesticides. Likewise, the pollen in sample hives were heavily contaminated with pesticides.

And we're not talking about just one kind of chemical. These hives were a toxic brew. On average, the hives sampled showed contamination by six different pesticides. In some cases, there were as many as 39 different pesticides in a single hive. This study found ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE different pesticides in the 887 hives tested across the nation.

Okay, so let's back up and discuss what a "systemic pesticide" is, and why I think we all need to pay attention to this issue.

According to Wikipedia, "A systemic pesticide moves inside a plant following absorption by the plant." That means that the poison that's sprayed on a tomato plant is absorbed by the entire plant, INCLUDING THE FRUIT, AND THE POLLEN, AND THE NECTAR.

What does it do to other organisms?
Who knows?

So when a bee collects nectar and pollen from a plant treated with a systemic pesticide, that bee is bringing chemicals back to the hive. The nectar is being converted into honey, which is CONTAMINATED WITH PESTICIDES. These pesticides are not merely honey contaminants (poisoning human food sources), but they are also (duh) poisonous to bees.

Bees are known to fly miles, in order to forage, which means that there's no way of keeping bees off of treated crops. Besides, farmers NEED bees to pollinate their crops.

Dead bees = no pollination.
No pollination = no food for humans.

What's most chilling is that some of the newest systemic pesticides which are proving most lethal to bees were rushed to market in 2006 (which coincidentally was the first year that CCD was observed), without the usual scrutiny by Federal regulators.

Bayer Crop Science started petitioning the agency to approve a new pesticide for sale in 2006. After reviewing the company's studies of its effects on bees, the EPA gave Bayer conditional approval to sell the product two years later, but said it had to carry a label warning that it was "potentially toxic to honey bee larvae through residues in pollen and nectar."

The Natural Resources Defense Council sued, saying the agency failed to give the public timely notice for the new pesticide application. In December, a federal judge in New York agreed, banning the pesticide's sale and earlier this month, two more judges upheld the ruling...The pesticide was sold for only about a year and most sales were in California, Arizona and Florida. The product is intended to disrupt the mating patterns of insects that threaten citrus, lettuce and grapes.

I'm dismayed and disgusted by this what this story says about our food supply, and about the lack of oversight on the part of Federal regulators. I could say a whole lot more on this topic (and I'm sure I will), but I've got to get to work.

I welcome everyone's comments on this topic.


Carol said...

Oh I forgot to say ... call congress to ban toxic chemicals... put the number on your auto dial and call often. ;>)

Carol said...

Lisa, I could not agree with you more! It is criminal and why each of us must act and make the commitment to buy organic. I have wild honey bees in one of my large trees... they have been successful for many years now ... great swarms every year which I got to record this last year! Great post!! Carol

Anonymous said...

Bees were the front page story in our newspaper today. Hope this link works:


Anonymous said...

I'm actually starting two hives in a month...just a drop in the bucket of a huge problem, but it's a start.

Leapin' Lizards

lkw said...

Excellent post, and think about all of our native insect pollinators, too (native bees, butterflies, flower flies, etc.) and beneficial insects being subjected to this onslaught of chemicals.

Not a uplifting thought at all!


Profg42 said...

I'm curious about one thing. IF CCD was first observed in 2006, but the pesticide that was used and an example wasn't given "approval" for use until 2008, are there any examples of similar pesticides that were in in use prior to 2006?

Elephant's Eye said...

Reply to your previous comment. Yes of course there were. Remember Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. And she herself died of cancer, after blowing the whistle for us. All those years ago! Book was published in 1962, and her research started with DDT in the 1940s.

Anonymous said...

A hive in the back of my barn would be the bee's knees!

My Pennsylvania dutch neighbors dont use and pesticides, so it's long overdue, I suspect!


Di said...

Hopefully the thousand of honey bees we have here speak to our "friendly" garden and surroundings. ;) I just posted an update on the honey bees we found in January and thought you might be interested. Happy Spring and weekend!


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