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The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Bees

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Decline of the Honey Bee

Colony collapse disorder causes honeybees to inexplicably flee their hives.

Since 2006, commercial beekeepers have reported unprecedented annual losses of 29-36% of bees, more than double what is considered normal. In some areas, losses reach as much as 85%. And it spreading around the world.

There are numerous stresses on honey bees including habitat loss, loss of flowering plants to monoculture farming, and parasites, but the weight of evidence points to certain pesticides.

A class of pesticides called neonicotinoids seems to be the root problem. "Studies, in U.S. and in Europe, have shown that small amounts of neonicotinoids - both alone and in combination with other pesticides - can cause impaired communication, disorientation, decreased longevity, suppressed immunity and disruption of brood cycles in honeybees.

The use of neonicotinoids skyrocketed (five-fold) at the same time colony collapse symptoms were first reported in the US in 2006.

This class of systemic, neurotoxic pesticides, which entered the market in the 1990s, has rapidly taken over the global insecticide market, and are a common ingredient in home gardening products too. It coats 142 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton seeds in the U.S. alone.

It can persist for years in the soil, and, as systemics, they are absorbed by the plant's vascular system, contaminating the pollen and nectar which bees encounter on their rounds.

Neonics are a nerve poison that disorient their insect victims and appear to damage the homing ability of bees, which may help to account for their mysterious failure to make it back to the hive.

Pesticide manufacturers like Bayer, are using "tobacco strategy" to prevent bans on the product. They deliberately sow doubt to delay policymaker action by discrediting dozens of independent studies.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently accepted Bayer-sponsored studies instead of those by its own scientists, allowing the company to continue selling the products.

US commercial beekeepers filed an emergency legal petition with the EPA to suspend use of Bayer's pesticide immediately. It is backed by over one million citizen petition signatures.

Monsanto and genetically modified (GMO) crops are also in the picture. Its GMO Mon810 corn was banned in Poland this week after beekeepers proved the link with colony collapse disorder.

Interestingly, Monsanto recently bought Beeologics, who the US Dept of Agriculture and other agencies rely on to research the disorder. Could it be to stop researching the links with GMOs, which have been implicated for years?

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/23698

Honey bees are dying.

This is a global phenomenon and a worldwide problem affecting food availability. Like climate change, the decline of honey bees is not unprecedented. There were great die offs of honey bees reported as early as the year 950 A.D. in Ireland, called the “Great Mortality of Bees”. This repeated in Ireland is 992 and 1443. The great die-off crossed the pond in 1903 when 2,000 colonies died in Cache Valley, Utah. Three years later, 100% of hives died on the Isle of Wight, UK. And then, in 1996 and again in 2006, Pennsylvania beekeepers reported alarming numbers of honey bee die offs. These die-offs are continuing today, but under the auspice of a new name, Colony Collapse Disorder.

Researchers still don’t know why honey bees are disappearing. The strangest part of this story is the lack of dead bodies, vanishing into thin air. They’re simply gone. Some of the world’s best researchers, from the USDA to the European Union, are working diligently to solve this mystery. But as any stellar sleuth knows, a mystery is always harder to solve without a body.

http://whatsnext.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/11/the-mysterious-case-of-the-disappearing-bees/?hpt=hp_c4

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