(NaturalHealth365) With the release of a new study, evidence is mounting that two commonly used insecticides are responsible for the phenomenon known as ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ (CCD). CCD, in which bees abandon their hives, is significantly affecting the global honeybee population, along with the stores of commercial beekeepers in the United States.
Now, more than ever, we see farmers using toxic chemicals to grow our food, genetically modified organisms and monocropping techniques – at an alarming rate. As a result, we see the numbers of native, wild bees dwindling as well.
Harvard School of Public Health warns the public
In a study published in the May 2014 issue of Bulletin of Insectology, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found that imidacloprid and clothianidin – which are neonicotinoids, chemically similar to nicotine – are associated with colony collapse disorder, and cause significant harm to honeybees during the winter months, with the damage especially pronounced during colder winters.
Researchers studied bee colonies in Massachusetts from October 2012 to April 2013, after first separating the colonies into 12-hive groups and treating one third of the hives with imidacloprid and one third with clothianidin. The remaining third were left untreated.
How do we really know that insecticides are causing serious harm?
As the winter began, the population declined in all colonies – normal for hives in that area. By January, populations in the untreated hives were beginning to rebound; numbers in the insecticide-treated hives continued to decline. By April, six of the 12 treated hives – exactly half of them – had collapsed.
In contrast, only one of the untreated hives failed to survive the winter; the cause was not CCD but a common parasitic infestation. Stating that neonicotinoids impair the neurological functions of bees, the team concluded that it was “highly likely” that the chemicals were responsible for CCD.
Initial theories as to the cause of CCD had focused on the fear that insecticides were causing reduced resistance to mites. However, bees in hives that had been stricken with CCD had the same level of parasitic infestation as the control hives, which did not suffer CCD. Infectious bee diseases and the practice of migratory beekeeping have also been considered as possible causes for CCD.
Honeybees are extremely sensitive to insecticides
Now, well-respected researchers from a very credible institution are stating: there is a high probability that neonicotinoids cause CCD. And this study – although the most recent – is not the only research to link neonicotinoids with CCD. In a HSPH study conducted in 2012 and also published in Bulletin of Insectology, imidacloprid was identified as a likely culprit in CCD.
Minute amounts of neonicotinoids have devastating effects.
This was not the type of study in which researchers bombard subjects with massive doses of substances in order to identify possible dangers. The bees were exposed to less insecticide than they would encounter while foraging normally.
Yet a shocking 94 percent of the neonicotinoid-treated hives collapsed. Researchers attribute the more severe outcomes in this study to the winter of 2012’s colder weather, which apparently intensifies the harm caused by neonicotinoids.
And, in a 2013 study published in PLOS ONE, scientists in the UK reported that imidacloprid affects the genes and developmental processes of honeybees, even at doses as infinitesimal as 2 parts per billion.
Are we heading toward a food collapse?
The common honeybee, scientifically known as Apis mellifera, is an extremely beneficial insect that fertilizes one third of the world’s crops, including fruits, nuts, vegetables and livestock feed such as clover and alfalfa. Bees are also a food source for birds, bears, skunks, raccoons and other wildlife. Since 2006, when CCD began to surface, annual losses due to the phenomenon have been averaging roughly 33 percent.
What are the signs of CCD?
CCD is indicated by large numbers of “disappeared” bees – foraging workers that never return to the hive. Hives are left virtually empty, with only limited food stores and a scattering of young bees within. In contrast with hive collapse caused by natural factors, such as disease or parasites, few dead bees are found at the scene of hives with CCD.
The condition also causes a massive decrease in the number of viable queen bees being produced; as queen bees are essential for the continuation of the hive, it is not surprising that collapse is the result.
Neonicotinoids are already banned in Europe
Once again, Europe outperforms the United States in crafting common-sense responses to threats to the environment. In April of 2013, the European Commission voted to ban the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin – as well as a third neonicotinoid, thiamethoxam – on all flowering crops that sustain honeybees, including corn, rapeseed – the source of canola oil – and sunflowers.
To nobody’s surprise, Bayer Cropscience and Syngenta, manufacturers of neonicotinoids, lobbied the commission strenuously, insisting that the insecticides are safe for bees.
Enough is enough – although these pesticides were designed to be “safer” for the environment than older chemicals, the science is telling us that they are not. If the trend towards colony collapse disorder is not reversed, there could very well be a terrible price to pay.
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