A Bad Winter and Pesticides Spell More Trouble for Honeybees

bee pollen public domain photo.jpg

Photo: pdphoto.org

TreeHugger has reported in the past about the mysterious honeybee decline due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Without any discernible explanation, entire hives of honeybees have been abandoning their hives and dying. There are likely many reasons for CCD, including: parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition, and pesticides. CCD has destroyed roughly 30% of the hives in the U.S. over the past four winters, a loss of billions of bees. Although there were signs of improvement in 2009, a recent federal survey and scientific report have indicated the problem has actually gotten worse.An informal USDA survey of commercial bee brokers has shown that one-third of those surveyed had trouble finding enough hives to pollinate California's blossoming nut trees. A more formal survey will be completed this April. According to the Associated Press, Jeff Pettis, research leader of USDA's Bee Research Laboratory in Maryland, has said the problem for honeybees "has gotten so much worse in the past four years." The losses were three times higher than in 2009. One beekeeper shipped his hives from Idaho to Merced, California to pollinate his blossoming almond groves. When he checked on them, he found hundreds of the abandoned and a third of his bees gone.

Furthermore, a new study published last week in the journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) suggested pesticide use may play a larger role than previously thought. The study found that 60% of 259 wax and 350 pollen samples from 23 states had at least one systemic pesticide. The PLOS study found 121 different types of pesticides and metabolites within 887 wax, pollen, bee and associated hive samples. The 98 pesticides and metabolites detected in mixtures in bee pollen alone represented a remarkably high level for toxicants in the brood and adult food of bees. Exposure to pesticides reduces honey bee fitness. None of the pesticides in the study were found tat high enough levels to kill bees, but it is the combination of factors that is problematic. The pesticides are not a risk to honey sold to consumers, federal officials say.

EPA officials said they are aware of problems involving pesticides and bees but environmental groups don't think the EPA is stringent enough on pesticides. In 2006, the EPA reviewed Bayer Crop Science's studies of their new pesticide and its effects on bees. In 2008, the EPA gave Bayer conditional approval to sell the product, but their label now has to include a warning that it the pesticide is potentially toxic to honey bee larvae. NRDC sued the EPA, arguing the agency failed to give the public timely notice for the new pesticide application. Earlier this month, judges upheld a December 2009 federal ruling banning the pesticide's sale. Bayer Crop Science disputes that their product is harmful to honeybees. Pesticides are not the only problem for the bees, multiple viruses makes it tough to propose a single solution. For our sake, since we depend on honeybees for 1/3 of our crops, we hope a solution is found quickly.

More on Bees
Is Bees Thirst Leading to Their Demise?
Blogger Writes about Colony Collapse Disorder from his Backyard
UK Beekeepers Demonstrate to Demand Government Action on Colony Collapse Disorder
Bees Rejoice One Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder Identified

Related Content on Treehugger.com