December 16, 2013 Honeybees Dying In Record Numbers
About 8 years ago honeybees started to die by the billions. In fact, over the past 5 years greater than a quarter trillion honeybees have perished around the globe. Why have we not taken bee deaths more seriously?
Bees pollinate about 40 percent of our food, all our cotton, provide us with 2.65 billion pounds of honey and 44 million pounds of beeswax annually as well as offering powerful drugs to combat pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, moreover bees are helping humans as front line detector for cancers, heart disease and tuberculosis.
According to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) our global food security is now at risk; 7.15 billion people (projected by the UN FAO to reach 8 billion by 2023) cannot exist without healthy bee populations. So what’s holding the ingenious human race from solving the mysterious causes of the disease dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder, which continues to drive U.S. beekeepers into bankruptcy?
Yes, there are a number of factors causing the honeybees in America to die prematurely about three times faster than normal rates. Poor bee nutrition thanks to GMO corn syrup being fed to bees instead of honey, Varroa mites, bee husbandry, bacteria, viruses, brutal air pollution, vicious droughts driven by human-induced climate change, climate-driven mismatches (whereby plants are flowering almost a month before bees awaken in the springtime) are all valid reasons and they’ve all collided to create ‘the perfect storm.’
There is, however, one variable that sticks out like Rudolph’s red nose on a snowy Christmas Eve – above all others – toxic chemicals.
There’s a relatively new group of insecticides called neonicotinoids. There are about 1,000 on the market worldwide and they are highly poisonous to our environment. Dutch toxicologist Dr Henk Tennekes’s latest book: The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making, concisely documented that neonicotinoids are water soluble, mobile in soils and persistent for decades in both soils and water.
Imidacloprid (temporarily banned in Europe) but on the market here and elsewhere around the globe – contaminated Dutch surface waters and killed springtails, beetles, and earthworms, robbing the soils of its necessary beneficial fauna, which decomposes leaf litter and other organic matter and recycles nutrients. Those insects, in turn, are a crucial food source for many common grassland bird species. Moving up the food chain, Tennekes discovered that populations of avian predators like Eurasian goshawks and northern goshawks have likewise fallen, dramatically. The use of these potent neonicotinoids has exhibited a deleterious effect on biodiversity and the web of life throughout Western Europe.
In 1962 Dr Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring because we haphazardly used DDT everywhere and almost wiped out our national icon – bald eagles.
Neonicotinoids are being deployed at a staggering rate – globally we poison the biosphere with 5 billion pounds of insecticides annually, at least one third of them are neonicotinoids. Bees are indeed modern-day canaries in the coalmines – they are vividly showing scientists that we cannot continue to kill our biosphere without devastating global consequences.
Portland-based Xerces Society is asking the EPA to re-assess the safety of neonicotinoids and to ban their use in city- and country-owned lands. Fifty thousand bumblebees died this past summer from neonicotinoids used in Oregon. I suggest that all homeowners in Sierra Madre use only neem-based insecticides, which are bee, butterfly and moth friendly.
We can’t wait five more years for the EPA to make a ruling on neonicotinoids to protect the bees, water and soil. Sign this petition to tell Home Depot and Lowes to stop selling bee-killing neonicotinoids. If the bees die, we die. Tell congress to ban neonicotinoids – now!
Earth Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster and distinguished conservation biologist. His latest book with Chris Maser is Life, The Wonder of it All
Text © by Dr Reese Halter 2013. All rights reserved.