The pesticides in question are called Neonicotinoids, since they are derived from nicotine (used as a pesticide since the 1700’s). “Neonics” are systemic insecticides, or insecticides that are taken up by a plant’s tissues and circulate within the plant. This makes these pesticides a highly effective and relatively safe insect control method, since only insects that eat the plant will be affected. It also is sometimes the only way to kill insects inside a plant; an insect boring into a tree, for example, can’t be sprayed directly.
Neonicotinoid is a widely used farm pesticide first introduced in the 1990s has caused significant changes to bee populations and colonies and removing it could be the key factor in restoring nature’s army of pollinators, the bee populations, according to two studies released Thursday.
The scientists behind the studies in Europe called for regulators to consider banning the class of chemicals known as neonicotinoid insecticides. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency said that the studies would be incorporated into a review that’s currently under way on neonicotinoid pesticides and the effects on bee populations, however we won’t hold our breath.A pesticide trade group questioned the data, saying the levels of pesticide used were unrealistically high, while the researchers said the levels used were typical of what bees would find on farms, but we take this so called pesticide trade groups statements with a grain of salt as you will find out wait further down in the report.
“Our study raises important issues regarding pesticide authorization procedures,” stated Mikael Henry, co-author of a study on honey bee populations decline. “So far, they mostly require manufacturers to ensure that doses encountered on the field do not kill bees, but they basically ignore the consequences of doses that do not kill them but may cause behavioral difficulties.”
Bee Populations“There is an urgent need to develop alternatives to the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops wherever possible,” added the authors of the second study on bumble bees.
Last week, a coalition of environmental groups and beekeepers asked the EPA to suspend the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides, which is widely used in flowering crops like corn, sunflower and cotton to combat insects.“It was quite massive,” researcher Penelope Whitehorn said of the reduction at a AAAS press conference on Thursday.
“Bumble bees have an annual life cycle and it is only new queens that survive the winter to found colonies in the spring,” the authors noted. “Our results suggest that trace levels of neonicotinoid pesticides can have strong negative consequence for queen production by bumble bee colonies under realistic field conditions, and this is likely to have a substantial population-level impact.”In the honey bee study, radio transmitters were attached to the back of bees to see how they foraged in conditions with and without the pesticide.
The neonicotinoid pesticides, the researchers concluded, impaired the homing ability of bees and exposed bees were two to three times more likely to die while away from the hive impacting bee populations. That “high mortality … could put a colony at risk of collapse” within a few weeks of exposure, especially in combination with other stressors, they noted.
“We were actually quite surprised by the magnitude,” Henry told reporters, however it has been know by some since 2007 and maybe earlier.
CropLife America, a pesticides trade group, said in a statement that the studies “fail to account for the many real-world factors that impact bee populations and colony health, and the researchers used unrealistic pesticide dose levels that are not commonly found in practical field situations in agriculture.”We have gone a little farther and done some research on CropLife America and have found that they are involved in the National Cotton Council of America Vs. U.S. EPA, which is attempting to circumvent the EPA with legislation by Congress:
And that is not the only problem that CropLife America has with the EPA, it also has taken issue with the application and use of the U.S. EPA’s Toxicity Reference Database, and is involved in other actions that would severely Pare EPA Rules. Don’t let CropLife America fool you into thinking that they actually care about you, the bees, the food chain and supply, the environment or wildlife for that matter. They are in fact the trade group for Dow Chemical Co., DuPont, Monsanto Co. and other pesticide makers, whom currently have their targets set on influencing congress on dozens of measures from safe food and drinking water rules to toxic chemical regulations and anti-terrorism laws. In 2010 alone they spent $751,000 on lobbying. Now they are going a step further, and in fact they now want to Poison America’s Heartland!
Pesticide manufacturers, formulators, distributors, sellers, and applicators are holding their breath in hopes that the 112th U.S. Congress will succumb to their long-sought wish to continue certain types of unchecked chemical applications throughout the United States. For years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to close a major gap in environmental protection
laws and has allowed the pesticide industry to apply chemicals without adequate accountability. With mounting scientific evidence of the harmful effects of chemicals on human health and the environment, this industry practice can no longer be tolerated, but in the interest of preserving market share and pro#ts, the pesticide industry continues to fight change. The Industry’s effort to obtain a legislative right to apply certain pesticides from Congress is only its latest campaign at the tail end of a 13-year court battle. In 2010, the Industry lost a major lawsuit when the U.S. Supreme Court denied its petitions for certiorari in National Cotton Council of America v. U.S. EPA, CropLife America v. Baykeeper, and American Farm Bureau Federation v. Baykeeper (collectively, hereinafter National Cotton). In National Cotton, the Industry sought expansion of a Final Rule issued by EPA; this Final Rule had been issued in response to the Industry’s Petition for Rulemaking. Seemingly, this would have been the end of the story. The full story, however, provides a tale of greed, power, politics, and poison.
Dissatisfied with its inability to muscle its way through the court system and unhappy with the gamble it took regarding jurisdiction, within months of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in National Cotton, the Industry backed several pieces of national legislation in an effort to achieve legislatively what the courts refused to grant. The Industry’s request for a legislative exception to pollute should not be countenanced by Congress.
In a match that some would say was made in hell, the nation’s two leading producers of agrochemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2,4-D, one half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War. These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America’s corn belt during the next decade.
Dave Goulson, a University of Stirling researcher with the bumble bee study, countered that the scientific papers “are the closest studies to date to look at the real world situation.”
A leading U.S. researcher said the honey bee study “did use a higher dose than we have seen in pollen and nectar.”
Jeff Pettis of the USDA’s Bee Research Laboratory had this to say:
CropLife America spokeswoman Mary Emma Young said the dose in the bumble bee study was “a high level, but not as excessive” as in the honey bee study, and that “similar studies on bumble bees did not show these effects, so more research may be needed.”
That study is not fatally flawed, but the higher dose must be considered as being a factor in why they saw the loss of bees.”
The bumble bee study, however, used a very realistic dose and the effect on reproduction was the major finding. The bumble bee study was very convincing in my opinion in being realistic and showing a significant impact on reproduction.
In the honey bee study, the authors said they tested the bees at an “intensive cereal farming system” in France and used sub-lethal amounts of thiamethoxam, “a recently marketed neonicotinoid substance currently being authorized in an increasing number of countries worldwide for the protection of oilseed rape, maize and other blooming crops foraged by honey bees.”
Goulson noted that EPA rules don’t require pesticide makers to test the product as bees navigate over natural distances and yet that “is where the problems seem to start.”
The EPA, said it has “begun reviewing the two studies and they will be considered” as part of an ongoing process that reviews chemicals. Non-EPA scientists will weigh in at a special meeting in the fall, it added.The prevailing view among most scientists and regulators is that “complex interactions among multiple stressors” are to blame, the EPA stated. “While our understanding of the potential role of pesticides in pollinator health declines is still progressing, we continue to seek to learn what regulatory changes, if any, may be effective.”
We have a differing opinion on the matter of neonicotinoid pesticides and bee populations however, and more in line with this from Carl Zimmer of the New York Times:
In Thursday’s issue of the journal Science, two teams of researchers published studies suggesting that low levels of a common pesticide can have significant effects on bee colonies. One experiment, conducted by French researchers, indicates that the chemicals fog honeybee brains, making it harder for them to find their way home. The other study, by scientists in Britain, suggests that they keep bumblebees from supplying their hives with enough food to produce new queens…. The authors of both studies contend that their results raise serious questions about the use of the pesticides, known as neonicotinoids.”
The Xerces Society white paper, A Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Bees, with Recommendations for Action, had this to say about bee populations, neonicotinoid pesticides and CCD:
“There is no direct link demonstrated between neonicotinoid and the honeybee bee populations decline syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder. However, recent research suggests that neonicotinoids may make honey bees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens…. which has been implicated as one causative factor for CCD.”
I found the most disturbing piece of the Xerces report on bee populations and neonicotinoid pesticides to be their discovery of how many of these neonicotinoid insecticides are available over the counter to homeowners. Calculating pesticide application rates is one of the toughest parts of farming (or pesticide applicator exams), and Xerces does the math to uncover some startling facts:
Products approved for homeowners to use in gardens, lawns, and on ornamental trees have manufacturer-recommended application rates up to 120 times higher than rates approved for agricultural crops for neonicotinoid pesticides among others.
Many neonicotinoid pesticides that are sold to homeowners for use on lawns and gardens do not have any mention of the risks of these products to bees, and the label guidance for products used in agriculture is not always clear or consistent.
Neonicotinoid can persist in soil for months or years after a single application. Measurable amounts of residues were found in woody plants up to six years after application.
Here are some other interesting facts about neonicotinoid pesticides:
- In 2011, the EPA found that the use of neonicotinoid pesticides is both widespread and catastrophic.
- Neonicotinoids are on average 7,000 times more toxic than DDT, which was banned in 1972.
- Over seventy percent of the global food crops are pollinated by bees.
- DDT was banned because it contributed to the near extinction of birds, including the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon, and is particularly toxic to fish and insect life.
- Despite these facts, the EPA has not halted the manufacture or use of neonicotinoid pesticides, choosing instead to put the products “under review” for the next five years.
What you can do to help save the bee populations:
- Don’t spray pesticides: Pesticides are a major culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder, and the best way to help bee populations and bees is to stop spraying the stuff!
- Buy organic: Support organic farmers who use natural farming methods that are bee-friendly.
- Don’t support industrial honey: Large-scale honey operations are more focused on output and profit than with the health of the bees. If you’re going to eat honey, make sur3. e it comes from a small operation. You can often find small beekeepers at your local farmers market, and they’ll tell you all about their beekeeping adventures!
- Plant a bee-friendly habitat: Pollinators need a place to pollinate, and by providing bee-friendly plants in your yard, porch, or window box, you give them a place to just be. Plants like fruit, herbs, melons, and even some trees can attract bees to your yard or garden.
- Get heard! If we’re going to help save the bees on a large scale, we need to let decision-makers know how we feel. Check out this petition aimed at the EPA calling for a ban on pesticides that harm bee populations.
- Visit CBG Network which is a global effort for a total ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, among other related things.
- Sign the following Change.Org Petition: The EPA must act now to ban the sale of Bayer’s neoniconitoid products!
I for one know of the influence that outside companies have on new EPA regulations, and CropLife America is making sure that those neonicotinoid pesticide makers will fight tooth and nail to continue with business as usual, and in fact go back to the old school way of just spray it.
The bee populations are immensely important as they pollinate roughly 70 percent of our food supplies. Without the bees, there will wind up being a lot more hungry people! Don’t let the likes of Bayer, Monsanto and Dow Chemicals alter our future any further with their toxins and poisons! Please sign this petition to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to help save the bee populations form being wiped out by greedy pesticide companies and their neonicotinoid poisons! Peace my friends!