Honeybees & Pesticides

honeybee_photobucketIf you believe the headlines, honeybees may soon be endangered, pesticides are to blame, and regulations offer an easy solution. Yet headlines belie the truth of the matter: Some honeybees have left their hives to never return, but we really don’t know why.

Referred to as “colony collapse disorder,” the disappearance of honeybee colonies raises concerns that it will be increasingly difficult to produce food without enough of these pollinators. Ironically, the proposed “solutions” involving banning agro-technologies from pesticides to biotechnology, may do even more harm to agricultural production while not helping the honeybees at all.

A key target of the anti-pesticide crowd is a class of chemicals called Neonicotinoids, which are used on seed, which eventually produce plants that systemically can fight off pests that otherwise would undermine crop production. The beauty of these products is you don’t need to engage in spraying. Evidence is weak that these products have a significant impact on bee colonies in real life settings, as compared to lab experiments.

If we really want to help the honeybees and ensure continued food production, we need to focus on finding out what’s really happening, rather than playing the blame game, banning products, and crossing our fingers that these policies will help. In fact, bans on some products could harm honeybees if the replacements prove less safe. While most of the news stories on the topic push incomplete information and hyped risks, there is some good information out there for those interested in the issue, ranging from research studies to investigative journalism to helpful opinion pieces. Follow the links below and items from our Newsfeed in, which appear in the the sidebar on this page, to learn more about the issue and to get a new perspective.

A Pan-European Epidemiological Study on Honeybee Health, European Union Reference Laboratory on Honeybee Health, April 2014.

Effects of Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments on Bumble Bee Colonies under Field Conditions, The Food and Environment Research Agency, UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, March 2013.

British Beekeeper Association Response to the EAC Report on Pollinators and Pesticides,  April 5, 2013.

What Happened To The Bees This Spring? Part 1: Environmental and Biotic Factors, by Randy Oliver, ScientificBeekeeping.com.

Agricultural Research Service, United STates Department of Agriculture, Colony Collapse Disorder: An Incomplete Puzzle.

Robert Arnason, “Ontario Field Study Finds no Link Between Seed Treatments, Bee Deaths,” The Western Producer, February 21st, 2013.

United States Department of Agriculture, Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health National Honey Bee Health Stakeholder Conference Steering Committee, Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria Hotel Alexandria, Virginia, October 15–17, 2012.

Helen M Thompson, EXTERNAL SCIENTIFIC REPORT: Interaction Between Pesticides and other Factors in Effects on Bees, Food and Environment Research Agency, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ.

Annual reports on honey production and number of colonies in U.S., National Agricultural Statistics Service.

 

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  1. […] worried about honey bee survival should read the piece by Canadian beekeeper Lee Townsend in the Guelph […]

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