Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bee disorder got much worse in 2012; evidence still points to new class of pesticides

"A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables." Michael Wines reports for The New York Times. (NYT photo by Jim Wilson)

"The main symptom of Colony Collapse Disorder is very low or no adult honey bees present in the hive, but with a live queen and no dead honey bee bodies present," the Department of Agriculture reports. "Often there is still honey in the hive, and immature bees are present."

Beekeepers and researchers believe "there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor," Wines writes. "Older pesticides could kill bees and other beneficial insects. But while they quickly degraded, often in a matter of days, neonicotinoids persist for weeks and even months. Beekeepers worry that bees carry a summer’s worth of contaminated pollen to hives, where ensuing generations dine on a steady dose of pesticide that, eaten once or twice, might not be dangerous."

One beekeeper in South Dakota said, "We lost 42 percent over the winter. But by the time we came around to pollinate almonds, it was a 55 percent loss." A coalition of beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency last week, saying it exceeded its authority by conditionally approving some neonicotinoids, Wines writes. We reported Thursday that one group claims the EPA used loopholes to approve 65 percent of pesticides that pose a potential threat to public health.

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