By R.S. Bailey
The bees have returned to my neighborhood. It’s been almost two years since they disappeared and I was beginning to believe that cell phone transmitters might indeed be the culprit. But the number of transmitters has increased and the bees are back. Two years ago Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was making news in major media. The loss of bees is a serious business for agriculture. A third of the food supply requires their pollinating activity. I decided to see what kind of buzz there might be on the internet about the topic.
The search results indicate that bees living in the cities are a lot safer than bees living on the farm. It seems that the United States and the United Kingdom lost a third of their honeybees in 2010 and Italy lost half. The die offs now include China and India and continue to spread. The thinking current is that CCD is multi-causal. Cell phone transmission is still a concern. So is the transience of bee colonies being constantly moved from one agricultural venue to another?
The greatest concern is pesticides. There are a lot of them out there and they come in different forms. Pesticides are engineered into crops through genetic modification, they are sprayed directly onto crops, and they are coated onto seeds prior to planting. All of which are approved for use by the FDA and the USDA.
Different bacteria, fungi and parasites, some of which are mutating due to genetic modifications made to crops, seems to be in the mix contributing to CCD. It looks like agricultural chemicals that are safe for bees when used alone can be lethal when combined and farmers are combining sprays. These sprays also kill weeds whose pollens contain essential nutrients for bees.
Researchers at Penn State University in University Park, says viruses, including one called IAPV, duplicate the symptoms of CCD in greenhouse studies, but there is no IAPV in the UK. US scientists believe that interactions between nutrition, pesticides and other stressors are converging to kill colonies. They have found 121 different pesticides in samples of bees, wax and pollen. French and German beekeepers who are suffering losses point their fingers at a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids were banned in France 10 years ago but bees are still dying there.
A study done by researchers from Purdue University and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station have found neonicotinoids used to treat seeds in the planting of corn showed up in all the dead bees around hives studied in Indiana but not in the living bees from the hive. This study was initiated as the result of reports of bee kills at Indiana apiaries in spring of 2010. These reports coincided with the peak period of corn planting in the area. Certain neonicotinoids, like clothianidin and thiamethoxam, are highly toxic to bees and used in the US to treat corn seed before planting. It should be noted that these bee deaths take place in conditions with high humidity.
These chemicals have also been found in honey but are deemed safe for vertebrates. Several fungicides that are applied by crop dusting have also been found in bee pollen. Their affect on bees weakened from neonicotinoids is not known. There is no mention of their affects on people.
It appears there is something seriously wrong with worldwide agricultural practices, especially in the US. The USDA and the FDA seem to be contributing to the problem by allowing these practices to continue. It’s understandable that these agencies want lots of corn for food, fodder and fuel and it’s well known that they have been going out of their ways to please companies like Monsanto, Bayer, BASF and DuPont who make these pesticides and do the genetic engineering. But the question has to be asked if it’s worth it to jeopardize the future of a third of the food on our tables.
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