from the honey-we-have-a-problem dept.
They are among America's busiest workers but they've been declining sharply in recent years due to various factors, including pesticides, mite infestations and loss of genetic diversity. Now Faith Karimi writes at CNN that President Obama has created a task force to address the issue of rapidly diminishing honey bees and other pollinators. "The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment," Obama said in a memo was sent to Cabinet secretaries and agency heads.
Friends of the Earth says that the US needs to immediately ban the use of neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides chemically similar to nicotine that has been linked to bee deaths. "The administration should prevent the release and use of these toxic pesticides until determined safe," says Erich Pica whose organization is conducting a campaign and has collected more than half a million petition signatures asking Home Depot and Lowe's to stop selling plants treated with neonicotinoids (neonics). So why isn't the US moving more quickly to ban neonics? Neonics play "a major role in pest management for pest control, agriculture and the ornamental plant protection industries. They serve as a group of highly effective insecticides with low risk to people and birds, which can be applied systemically to the soil," notes a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension blogger. This is a safer, better pesticide than many alternatives.
Another reason to hold off on a ban: There are still doubts that neonics are the principal cause of bee colony collapse. "In other words, while neonics might be one of the precipitating causes, they might not be the principle cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD) in the US and Europe," says David Clark Scott. "Saving the honey bees may require a more complex solution than banning one group of insecticides. And it may require more investigation into other possible causes of CCD, including parasites, viruses, climate change, bee nutrition, lack of genetic diversity and bee keeping practices."
A research team from the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern, from Agroscope at the Swiss Confederation, and from the Department of Biology at Canada's Acadia University [published the results of their study] in an article in the open-access journal Scientific Reports from the Nature Publishing Group [which concludes] that honey bee queens are "extremely vulnerable" to the neonicotinoids thiamethoxam and clothianidin.
[Reprinted in the journal Nature."]
The study shows profound effects on queen physiology, anatomy, and overall reproductive success.
[...] Previous research suggests that exposure to these chemicals [causes] both lethal and sub-lethal effects on honey bee workers, but nothing has been known about how they may affect queens.
The observation that honey bee queens are highly vulnerable to these common neonicotinoid pesticides is "worrisome, but not surprising", says senior author Laurent Gauthier from the Swiss Confederation's Agroscope.
[...] Since there is only a single queen in each colony, queen health is crucial to colony survival.
[...] In 2013, governments in Europe took a precautionary approach by partially restricting the application of the neonicotinoid pesticides thiamethoxam, clothianidin, and imidacloprid, with the mandate to perform further environmental risk assessments.
A new inter-governmental review will take place in the coming months.