Tag Archives: Colony Collapse Disorder

UN Report Warns of Low Numbers of Bees and Pollinators

Last Friday, a new examination of several studies on the decline of pollinators was approved by a congress of 124 nations meeting in Kuala Lumpur. The report was conducted by a team of scientists from around the world who worked with the United Nations for more than two years to assess the Earth’s biodiversity.

The study will help provide world leaders with an idea of what is happening to the Earth’s biodiversity and what can be done to prevent a loss of diversity. The researchers found that many species of wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators are quickly moving towards extinction.

“We are in a period of decline and there are going to be increasing consequences,” said report lead author Simon Potts, the director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research at the University of Reading in England.

One of the consequences would be a loss of food that is dependent on pollinators including fruits, vegetables, coffee, and chocolate. The report states that 2 out of 5 species of invertebrate pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are on the path toward extinction. Vertebrate pollinators, such as hummingbirds and bats, are facing extinction at a rate of 1 out of 6 species.

The report pointed out a handful of sources for the decline in biodiversity, including pesticide use, habitat loss to cities, disease, parasites and pathogens, and global warming.

“The variety and multiplicity of threats to pollinators and pollination generate risks to people and livelihoods,” the report stated. “These risks are largely driven by changes in land cover and agricultural management systems, including pesticide use. Pesticides, particularly insecticides, have been demonstrated to have a broad range of lethal and sub-lethal effects on pollinators in controlled experimental conditions.”

One of the more controversial class of pesticides are known as neonicotinoids. The “neonics” are a class of pesticide that has previously been linked to declines in bee populations. Neonics were developed in 1991 and commercial use began in the mid-1990s. Several studies have indicated that neonics may cause harm to local pollinators.

Commercial beekeepers began reporting around 2006 what is now known as colony collapse disorder, where entire colonies of bees die off with no obvious cause. The disorder has been reported in commercial colonies all over the world.

Potts did state that the number of managed hives has risen slightly from 2.5 million in 2012 to 2.7 million in 2016. Between 1961 and 2012, the United States saw an estimated loss of 3 millions hives due to colony collapse disorder.

Although pesticides are only one of several possible sources responsible for the threat to pollinators, it should be noted that the United States has experienced controversy over neonicotinoid research.

In May 2015, Truth In Media reported that 25 organizations representing farm workers, food safety organizations, and the environment sent a letter to officials with the USDA and Environmental Protection Agency. They called for an investigation into claims that scientists are facing pressure and retaliation for research that presents the controversial neonicotinoid insecticide in a negative light.

The groups said they were concerned about a report from Reuters that detailed threats to scientists who spoke out about the dangers of the pesticide. These threats included suspension without pay and threats of damage to careers. The scientists filed a petition in March 2015 seeking more protection.

Will the United Nations report affect the United States’ use of pesticides? What steps can individuals take to remedy the situation? These are important questions for each of us to ponder. The loss of biodiversity and subsequent loss of food diversity is a reality that all humanity will soon have to face. The more prepared and educated we are the more likely we will be able to care for and protect our families well into the future.

Another Study Finds Common Pesticide Causing Harm to Bees

Researchers with Lund University in Sweden found that wild bee populations exposed to a class of neuro-active, nicotine-based systemic insecticides known as Neonicotinoids had a reduction in density, less reproduction and colonies that did not experience growth.

The “Neonics” are a class of pesticides which have previously been linked to declines in bee populations. They were developed in 1991 and commercial use began in the mid-1990s. Around 2006 commercial beekeepers began reporting what has become known as colony collapse disorder— entire colonies of bees died off with no obvious cause. The disorder has been reported in commercial colonies all over the world. Several studies have implicated Neonics, which are used to kill insects harmful to crops.

The Swedish scientists conducted the study in the wild, the first of its kind. They examined 16 patches of land with canola seeds, half of which were sprayed with the pesticide and the other half which were not sprayed. The researchers found that wild bees displayed negative health effects while honeybee populations, which pollinate crops with assistance from humans, did not display the illness. A second study found that in laboratory tests bees are not deterred by the pesticide but may in fact prefer crops sprayed with the chemicals. This could indicate an addiction to the nicotine in the pesticides. Both studies were published in the journal Nature.

The study’s lead author Maj Rundlof  said the reduction in bee health was  “more dramatic than I ever expected. Rundlof  told Reuters that the bees sprayed with the pesticide also had not gained any significant weight when compared to the normal colonies.

David Fischer, director of pollinator safety for neonicotinoid manufacturer Bayer CropScience, said the study was faulty, accusing Rundlof and her team of using “an overdose” of the pesticide. However, Rundlof said the dosages used came from recommendations in Bayer CropScience documents.

Although Rundlof’s study marks the first time the effects of Neonics on bees in the wild were analyzed, the pesticides have previously been linked to a number of health issues for the bee population.

In July 2014 Dutch researchers published a study in the journal Nature which found a strong correlation between pesticides measured in surface freshwater and lower population growth rates of 14 species of birds in the Netherlands. The study suggests the bird population may be drinking infected water or feeding their offspring infected insects.

Twenty nine scientists from four continents spent five years researching eight hundred published studies that examined the effect of Neonics on ecosystems that support food production and wildlife. Their research was published in the journal Environment Science and Pollution Research. The Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and  Ecosystems (WIA) was produced by Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. The Task Force was formed in response to concerns about the impact of systemic pesticides on biodiversity and ecosystems. ”

The team said their study was, “the single most comprehensive study of Neonics ever undertaken”. The scientists research found that the Neonics are as great a risk to the environment as the previously banned DDT. In some cases the effects were found to be 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT.