Image credit: wolfpix, used under Creative Commons license.
The puzzle of the red bees of Brooklyn may now be solved, but conclusive answers regarding the larger honeybee mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder remain elusive. Nevertheless, in my roundup post about the epic fight to save the bees, I noted that the British Beekeepers Association had voted to stop endorsing pesticides that may be linked to the phenomenon. Now US beekeepers are honing in on pesticides too, asking the EPA to remove one particular pesticide after a leaked study showed that field trials were severely flawed. According to PR newswire, a group of beekeepers and anti-pesticide activists are stepping up calls for the EPA to remove approval for clothianidin (product name "Poncho") after a leaked EPA memo dated November 2nd identifies a core study underpinning the registration of the insecticide as being unsound. The pesticide has been widely used on major crops across the country under a "conditional registration" while the manufacturer, Bayer Crop Science, was supposed to conduct a field study assessing the insecticide's threat to bee colony health.
According to the activists the original guidelines, which Bayer failed to satisfy, were themselves inadequate, and the field test evaluated the wrong crop, over an insufficient time period and with inadequate controls. James Frazier, Ph.D., professor of entomology at Penn State, argued that until proper field trials can be conducted in collaboration with practicing beekeepers, it would be sensible to take the pesticide off the market:
"Among the neonicotinoids, clothianidin is among those most toxic for honey bees, and this combined with its systemic movement in plants has produced a troubling mix of scientific results pointing to its potential risk for honey bees through current agricultural practices. Our own research indicates that systemic pesticides occur in pollen and nectar in much greater quantities than has been previously thought, and that interactions among pesticides occurs often and should be of wide concern."
More on Bees, Beekeeping and Colony Collapse Disorder
Colony Collapse Disorder and the Epic Fight to Save the Bees
Vanishing of the Bees: A Documentary
Honeybee Disappearances Finally Solved?
Honeybee Mystery Solved? Not Quite, Say Experts.
National Wildlife Federation's List of Tips to Help the Honeybee