There maybe a lot of Brussels bashing going on at the moment but they do do some things right – such as the precautionary restriction in 2013 of the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on crops which are attractive to bees and other pollinators. Their action was based on research which suggested that neonicotinoids could be the primary cause of the disastrous bee colony collapse which is threatening bee populations world wide.
In the US where there is no restriction on the use of neonicotinoids, the annual bee survey has just found that nearly a quarter of the bee population died over last winter. Should this rate continue it would be catastrophic for farmers and food production world wide. “More than three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators, such as bees, to reproduce, meaning pollinators help produce one out of every three bites of food Americans eat,” the US Department of Agriculture said in a statement reported in RT QuestionMore. “Pollinators, such as bees, birds and other insects are essential partners for farmers and ranchers and help produce much of our food supply. Healthy pollinator populations are critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the USDA statement.
Now, between concern at the death rate and the publication of new research in the Bulletin of Insectology (see the abstract below) which appears to show pretty convincingly that neonicotinoids are heavily implicated in colony collapse disorder, maybe the USDA will see the light and make a serious effort to ban their use, not only on pollinate-able crops, but everywhere!
Honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colony collapse disorder (CCD) that appeared in 2005/2006 still lingers in many parts of the world. Here we show that sub-lethal exposure of neonicotinoids, imidacloprid or clothianidin, affected the winterization of healthy colo- nies that subsequently leads to CCD. We found honey bees in both control and neonicotinoid-treated groups progressed almost identically through the summer and fall seasons and observed no acute morbidity or mortality in either group until the end of winter. Bees from six of the twelve neonicotinoid-treated colonies had abandoned their hives, and were eventually dead with symptoms resembling CCD. However, we observed a complete opposite phenomenon in the control colonies in which instead of abandonment, they were re-populated quickly with new emerging bees. Only one of the six control colonies was lost due to Nosema-like infection. The observations from this study may help to elucidate the mechanisms by which sub-lethal neonicotinoids exposure caused honey bees to vanish from their hives.
Bulletin of Insectology 67 (1): 125-130, 2014