Bee Colony Collapse Rapidly Accelerates – Pesticides Blamed

The alarm has been sounded by great documentary films like The Vanishing of the Bees, but governments around the world are still failing to protect our bees and therefore our food supply from the ravages of agrochemicals. Today’s New York Times claims that as many as half of the United States’ beehives have collapsed:

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.

A conclusive explanation so far has escaped scientists studying the ailment, colony collapse disorder, since it first surfaced around 2005. But beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor.

The pesticide industry disputes that. But its representatives also say they are open to further studies to clarify what, if anything, is happening.

“They looked so healthy last spring,” said Bill Dahle, 50, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont. “We were so proud of them. Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”

In a show of concern, the Environmental Protection Agency recently sent its acting assistant administrator for chemical safety and two top chemical experts here, to the San Joaquin Valley of California, for discussions.

In the valley, where 1.6 million hives of bees just finished pollinating an endless expanse of almond groves, commercial beekeepers who only recently were losing a third of their bees to the disorder say the past year has brought far greater losses…

[continues in the New York Times]

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  • emperorreagan

    Introducing anything new, no matter how well researched, will lead to unintended consequences.

    But that’s not what this is. The myopic pursuit of growth and profit is willful ignorance.

  • Town Destroyer

    Without pollinators humanity will become extinct. Bees are a keystone species. Once they go we go. True there are other pollinators but they appear to be on the way out too. Butterflies have also seen a massive acceleration in their rate of decline. Things don’t look good for the life on this planet

    http://science.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/13/17302569-scientists-see-ominous-decline-in-mexicos-monarch-butterflies?lite

    • InfvoCuernos

      The sooner we kill ourselves off, the better. Too bad we had to take so many other species with us.

      • moremisinformation

        I don’t really understand why people who take this attitude, don’t just start by killing themselves? If you feel that you are this big of a problem, doesn’t suicide provide an obvious solution.

        Bear in mind, I don’t believe suicide is a solution. Not least because I don’t believe that all of humanity is a problem. Don’t kill yourself.

        • InfvoCuernos

          Thanks, you talked me down off the ledge! But seriously, just killing myself would be less than a drop in the bucket. Even if I decided to go crazy and kill everyone I could, what would that be, 30-40 at the most? More likely 10-15. Still nowhere where we need to be to become sustainable. No, even a massive war wouldn’t turn the tides like what would need to happen to save the planet, especially since nowadays war causes much more harm to the environment. No, the death of humanity will be some drawn out wimperfest in which all the ostriches with their heads in the sand will wonder how this was allowed to go this far. Its pretty well established that resources are finite and we are detrimental to the global environment. You can deny global warming and site climate changes in the ice, but that mass of plastic the size of Texas floating in the Pacific is real and all us, and its getting bigger by the day. Just keep breeding and making more little consumer/fecal manufacturers and it will all just sort itself out. sure.

          • moremisinformation

            So basically, you’re not willing to walk your walk – just complaining? I understand.

          • InfvoCuernos

            pray tell, what exactly is my “walk”? I doubt that you do understand. If I wanted to do some wild extrapolation from one or two lines in a post, then I might assume you feel we would all benefit if tomorrow there was a pill that would make all humanity immortal. Would you like that? To grant all humans immortality so that we can all do those great things we have inside us that we held back from doing because we just didn’t have enough time? Besides breeding more mouths, what do most people claim to do that actually helps anything? Don’t worry too much about that pill, I am sure if something like that existed most of us would never even hear about it. We all die. I don’t have to do anything in order for that to happen. I just like stirring up some people that think we have some “divine spark” that grants us immunity to thinking we are part of the ecology.

          • ishmael2009

            Infvo – your argument sounds a lot like the Finnish ecologist, Pentti Linkola. Your position that millions (or billions?) need to die is an unpopular one, but then i guess it always would be.

            http://www.penttilinkola.com/pentti_linkola/ecofascism_writings/humanflood/

          • InfvoCuernos

            Thanks for the link. Its very unpleasing to come to this conclusion, but I think I agree with Pentti Linkola.

  • Andrew

    I can’t say it’s been nice knowing you.

  • godozo

    Wonder if this is also affecting the africanized bees and their hybrids. If so we’re talking pesticides, if not maybe the collection of diseases that have made it over in the past thirty years has finally gone past the tipping point.

  • Jonathan Gauthier

    people treat this like the end of humanity, yet the Chinese have had declining bee population for nearly 50 years, know what they did? They started pollinating by hand, which is mostly usable on high yield crops like apple orchards but there are other ways and I quote “There are simple solutions; studies in Europe and North America have found that planting strips of wildflowers on farms, and leaving patches of natural vegetation such as forests, can greatly boost pollinator populations. These practices can also increase populations of natural predators, decreasing the need for pesticide sprays.” Its not the end of the world, but stop acting like species havent risen and fallen before. This planet has a remarkable ability to adapt, so stop treating it like a delicate flower, it’ll outlive us all.

    • ParanoidCoast

      I agree. Monocultures play a significant part in bee colony collapse.

  • bobbiethejean

    There must be a way to deal with pests that doesn’t involve spraying our food with carcinogens and mutagens. There has to be a way. Come on, people. We’ve sent motherfuckers to the moon. We’ve figured out some of the deepest, strangest mysteries to life. DIFFERENTIAL !@#$%^&*ING CALCULUS! We are smart! We can figure this shit out. And if we don’t? Well…… we’ll see where things go. At the moment, not lookin’ so good.

    Now I, despite my stance as an unabashed science enthusiast, will stand up and say that here, a natural approach is probably better. Nature HAS this shit figured out and we came around and tried to “fix it.” Except, you see the problem is that when we “fix it” it’s like trying to “fix” a Jenga tower and you just end up making it worse and worse the more you screw with it. Stand back, let nature do her job, maybe we could try some environmentally friendly way to keep weevils and roaches out of our corn, sure. But what we’re doing now is NOT working. That’s for sure.

    Oh, and just for good measure, FUCK Monsanto.

    • jnana

      “There must be a way to deal with pests that doesn’t involve spraying our food with carcinogens and mutagens. There has to be a way. . ”
      Its called abandoning the industrial model of society, the same model that science has been propping up for hundreds of years, in the name of progress.
      Primitive man isn’t looking so primitive and stupid anymore is he. I would bet the average primitive is more intelligent than the average modern person. Hunting/gathering and limited cultivation may be the answer. And when added to the knowledge we now have, living non-sedentary lifestyles could be a new adventure. A truly sustainable lifestyle in harmony w/ the Earth.
      By the way, ever seen a Dow Chemical commercial? It’s necessary to propagandize the populous because otherwise many would drop out of industrial society. Thousands of whites willingly “turned native” Few, if any, natives willingly entered white society

      • bobbiethejean

        I’m trying to decide whether I should bother writing down the lengthy, logical, reasoned explanation behind why your position is profoundly stupid or whether I should just say “if you hate science so much, go live in a cave, you troglodyte.” Can’t decide. Tough call. I wonder which one will be more likely to penetrate that thick, anti-science plating around your skull.

        • jnana

          I don’t hate science so much as I hate how its applied and interpreted. I also don’t blindly believe in its every edict and dogma. I guess I could say the same thing about religion.

          I do often live outdoors and will again soon. I also support sustainable farming by working on small farms. I do what I can to bring about real transformation and live a moral lifestyle.

          Do you really think we can continue living as we do? Do you really believe we should build a home separate from the earth, protecting ourselves from the scary dark woods, and poop and dirt, and those scary looking animals and trees? Cause that’s really what civilization does. Can’t you imagine what it would be like to live in harmony with the natural systems? Seriously, is it that scary? Is modern civilization so good? Have you not looked outside?

        • Town Destroyer

          Industrial society will cease to exist. It’s not a matter of whether its a good thing or not. Humans will have to revert back to the stone age if they survive. The death of the bees among a myriad other problems will bring this civilization to it’s knees. Two degrees Celsius climate change is the best we can hope for in 100 years and that’s the most optimistic outlook. If you have such faith in “science” look at the laws of thermodynamics. Look at chaos theory. Then look at the literature on anthropology. Your categorization of primitive societies is off base. Societies without large scale agriculture have more freedom and equality and leisure than modern societies. The complex society we live in and the one you want to keep going on the other hand is approaching an omega point from which it will descend into entropy. Fighting it any longer will only make things worse when the inevitable occurs. Using primitive societies as a model for sustainability is the only way to exist in equilibrium in this world.

      • ishmael2009

        Really? Do you know the condition of women in most pre-industrial societies? Despite any romantic ideas you might have about earth mothers and matriarchal societies, it was an endless round of drudgery and often pain.

        • jnana

          do you? or do you just know the propaganda you’ve been taught? did native American women really have it so bad? then why did they prefer their way of life over the Europeans way? why did so many whites turn native but very few if any natives chose civilization? an endless round of drudgery and pain? really? how do you think life is like for the majority of humans alive today? and even those who are “fortunate” enough to live in the 1st world are largely depressed, sick, anxious and insecure. also, I mentioned that the knowledge we have today wouldn’t just be lost should we abandon industrial civilization but it would actually benefit us. see for example, permaculture and sustainable farming and forestry, or the knowledge we have of herbal medicines. i’m not simply romanticizing traditional societies and I don’t believe we should just live like them. I do think, though, that we can learn from them, and they aren’t as ignorant as we are led to believe. and modern civilization isn’t as great as we’re led to believe, either.

    • ishmael2009

      Well Rachel Carson recommended irradiating male insects to sterilise them and then sending them out to compete for mating opportunities, thus reducing the species population.

      • bobbiethejean

        Buhhhhhh…….. wouldn’t that make the problem worse? *Headtilt*

    • drokhole

      Well, there are a good deal of techniques and methods we know about and have put into practice that, if they don’t greatly reduce extra petrochemical inputs (like fertilizers and pesticides), they eliminate them entirely. It’s what is generally known as permaculture (or holistic/sustainable farming, or agroecology, etc…). In essence, a systems-wide approach. Stuff like mass-scale composting, biochar, Holistic Planned Grazing, mixed stocking of plants/animals, diverse crops, more frequent crop rotation, scalable hoop houses, etc… Two recently completed (and long-term) studies speak to this very fact:

      – A 9-year study conducted by researchers from the USDA, University of Minnesota and Iowa State University. When paired against the conventional corn/soy rotation, less fertilizer was used. This difference actually increased over the course of the study, indicating the quality of the soil was improving over time, instead of experiencing the depletion of common practices.

      Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health
      http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0047149

      – A study by the University of California, Berkeley. One section of the paper cited research pointing to the positive effects of biodiversity on the numbers of herbivore pests, finding that polycultural planting led to reduction of pest populations by up to 64% (among other benefits).

      Ecosystem Services in Biologically Diversified versus Conventional Farming Systems: Benefits, Externalities, and Trade-Offs
      http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol17/iss4/art40/

      In addition (this article links to another recent study):

      To Kick Climate Change, Replace Corn With Pastured Beef
      http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/04/our-corn-driven-agriculture-vulnerable-climate-change

      GMOs are somewhat of a singular approach (and a bit of a distraction) to the problem. Soil management is the true key long-term investment for farmers and our food/nutrition, and monocultures using petrochemical-intensive inputs (the bedfellows of GMOs) have been proven to erode soil at an incredible rate, with large amounts of it (along with fertilizers/pesticides) washing off into lakes, rivers and oceans, polluting waters and damaging ecosystems along the way. Plus, weaker soils mean weaker plants more susceptible to disease. Not to mention an increase pesticide/herbicide resistant bugs and weeds.

      Biodiverse practices, meanwhile, have been shown repeatedly to not only balance soil nutrition, but to actively feed nutrients back into the soil, leading to a larger mix of micro- and macro-organisms, more robust and resilient plants, a healthier array of forage choices for livestock, a wider variety of nutrition, a higher degree of water penetration and retention, and a more long-term, sustainable balance with local ecosystems. This would not only supply a much more diverse diet, but build healthy soils/ecologies and put power and control back in the hands of the farmers and their communities.

      Another thing to consider is that there are 35 million acres of lawn. That’s area dedicated to nothing but mono-crop turf grass which, aside from being essentially empty spaces, is a resource drain (water and fertilizer):

      Your Yard Is EVIL
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-enGOMQgdvg

      Joel Salatin (among others) have pointed out how this “waste of space” could easily be made useful and converted into edible gardening:

      http://flavormagazinevirginia.com/rebelwithacause-localfoodcanfeedtheworld/

      There’s also the fact that roughly 40% of food is thrown out/wasted in places like the US and Europe.

      We have the skill and the know-how, we just don’t necessarily have the will or the push.

      And here are few other resources, if you’re interested:

      Farmer Joel Salatin Puts ‘Nature’s Template’ To Work
      http://news.virginia.edu/node/9791?id=9791

      Holistic Planned Grazing
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LHoh-OKUfU

      Allan Savory – Keeping Cattle: cause or cure for climate crisis?
      http://vimeo.com/8239427

      Biochar: The Oldest New Thing You’ve Never Heard Of: Wae Nelson at TEDx
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrDOLx57KUU&list=PL0B5EF0DDD67D90EB&index=78

      Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzZzZ_qpZ4w&list=PL0B5EF0DDD67D90EB&index=75

      Regenerative Landscapes: Ben Falk, Whole Systems Design
      http://vimeo.com/33919587

      Soil – Our Financial Institution
      http://permaculture.org.au/2008/08/07/soil-our-financial-institution/

      Giving Soil the Respect it Deserves
      http://www.wunderground.com/blog/gardencoach/comment.html?entrynum=14

    • Will Panos

      There is but
      you cant Paten it, Monsanto has convinced all the farmers that they can just
      spray all their troubles away. Now we are all paying for it.

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