Posts Tagged ‘Colony Collapse Syndrome’

Are ‘neonic’ pesticides killing America’s bees?

July 19, 2015


Something is killing America’s bees.  It’s called Colony Collapse syndrome.

honeybee-masterA vendor who sells me honey at the Rochester Public Market once told me the problem is pesticides.  He has relocated his hives to places where there aren’t any pesticides in the vicinity.

Bees are important to pollinating crops, so this has a wider significance than just the honey supply.  It is true that to some extent it is possible to start new hives to replace the ones that mysteriously die, but if things go on as they are, there may be a tipping point where this is no longer possible.


My expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack sent me links to articles that indicate the problem is a nicotine-based family of pesticides called neonicontinoids.  This seems very plausible.

Did Scientists Just Solve the Bee Collapse Mystery? by Tom Philpott for Mother Jones.

Fact Sheet: The Economic Challenge Caused by Declining Pollinator Populations from the White House.

Colony Loss 2014-2015: Preliminary Results by the Bee Informed Partnership.

Groups urge more than 100 garden retailers to stop selling pollinator-toxic pesticides by Kate Colwell for Friends of the Earth.


What is killing the bees of America?

August 18, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

I bought a big jug of honey this morning from a beekeeper at the Rochester Public Market.  I told him I am glad he is still in business in the light of Colony Collapse Disorder, a disease which for the past five years has ravaged the nation’s beehives.

The beekeeper is inclined to blame pesticides.  Other possibilities, he said, are diseases brought in with bee colonies imported from foreign countries.  His hives are recovering, and he thinks it is because he has relocated away from cornfields which are subject to high-altitude pesticide spraying, and away from other beehives.

Click to enlarge.

A recent study by Harvard scientists supports the pesticide hypothesis.  A team of researchers led by biologist Chensheng Lu blame a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which disrupt the nervous systems of insects.  Seeds are treated with these systemic pesticides, and the toxins are taken up into the plants, where they remain through the growing season.  Elizabeth Kolbert reported in the New Yorker that studies by British and French scientists also blame neonicotinoids.

Germany, France and Italy have banned neonicotinoids.  If the United States did the same, it would be a big disruption to the U.S. corn industry, which is the largest part of U.S. agriculture.  Brandon Keim reported in Wired that cornfields sprayed with neonicotinoids cover an area nearly as large as Montana.

Pesticide companies say researchers’ conclusions are uncertain.  I don’t deny the possibility that Colony Collapse Disorder has other causes or additional causes..  But who should get the benefit of the doubt in such cases? Chemicals do not have human rights.  They are not innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  The burden of proof should be on the pesticide companies to show their chemicals are safe.

Click on Colony Collapse Disorder and Pesticides for the full New Yorker article.

Click on Controversy Deepens Over Pesicides and Bee Collapse for the full Wired article.

Roundup: sick bees, tanning tax

March 25, 2010

A couple of years ago vendors of honey at the Rochester Public Market told me about something called “Colony Collapse Disorder” – a mysterious something that caused adult bees to fly off and die. CBS News reported that colony collapse disorder has wiped out 3 million to 4 million beehives in the United States, about 30 percent of the total.  My vendor friends blamed pesticides, and they may be right; many of the dead hives have high residues of pesticides and other chemicals. Many kinds of fruits and vegetables, such as apples and raspberries, depend on bees for pollination. We won’t starve to death without the bees, according to agricultural experts in an article on the Atlantic Monthly web site, but our diet will be a lot less varied.

Books such as Fast Food Nation and movies such as “Supersize Me” put the blame for the nation’s obesity problem on the fast food industry and its ability to manipulate our desire for more.  But a scholar who has studied paintings of the Last Supper says that portion sizes in the paintings have been growing for the past 1,000 years, according to the Los Angeles Times. By comparing the size of the meal to the size of the disciples’ heads, Brian and Craig Wansink determined that the size of the plates increased 67 percent, the size of the entrees increased 70 percent and the size of just the bread increased 23 percent over the past millennium. It is a good thing that people today are bigger, healthier and better-fed than people back then, but you can have too much of a good thing.

The health care reform law contains a 10 percent tax on tanning salon services, but not a 5 percent cosmetic surgery tax that was in an earlier draft. The American Conservative magazine web log says this is a good example of what’s wrong with the Democratic Party. The writer says the Democrats ought not to favor the affluent classes who can afford Botox treatments over the regular folks who patronize tanning salons. I have to agree, although cosmetic surgery isn’t always a luxury; it would be a necessity for someone whose face was disfigured in an accident or because of a birth defect.

The Social Security trust fund will pay out more in benefits this year than it will collect in taxes, the New York Times reports. But it won’t run a deficit, because the interest on the U.S. Treasury bonds it holds will make up the difference. Back in the Reagan years, there was a bipartisan agreement to increase payroll taxes so that the Social Security trust fund would have a surplus when the baby boom generation reached retirement age.  An Associated Press article says the fund consists of  “government IOUs,” as if this was a problem. Should the Social Security trust fund have been invested in stocks or hedge funds?