Keeping bees alive

dead bee Honey bees have been dying in large numbers in recent years, and there’s new evidence of a drastic increase in the death rate. Some experts say the latest population drop poses a threat to our nation’s food supply.

According to commercial beekeeper James Doan, “A third of all our food is pollinated by honey bees.”

Doan makes a living renting out thousands of hives to farmers up and down the East Coast. His bees are part of a crucial lifeblood to U.S. agriculture. Doan said, “I think people just need to really be aware that bees are so important, not just for honey production, but for pollination in the United States.”

Bees pollinate the majority of our fruit and vegetable supply: from apples and pears to green beans, pumpkins, and squash. And the list goes on.

But something is killing the bees at an increasingly alarming rate. Doan said, “Every day and you’ll look and you’ll see 100 to 200 bees dead in front of the hive. Maybe even to the point of 40 to 50,000 bees laying out in the front of the hive, which is not normal.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers say early indications suggest this winter will mark the highest death rate they’ve ever documented, and consumers could eventually feel the effects.

Doan said, “Without them you’re gonna have higher prices that you’re going to pay for fruits and vegetables. And those higher prices are not going to mean better products.”

Bees used to die at a rate of 5 to 10 percent a year. Then, around 2006, that rate more than tripled in a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. Now, some beekeepers say they’re losing up to 50 percent of their hives.

Many blame a class of pesticide called neonicotinoids, or “neonics.” Doan said, “They block the nerve endings of the bee, and so the bee is paralyzed and then what happens is they starve to death, so you see the bee shaking, and it’s a very horrific way of dying for a bee.”

Doan joined a coalition of beekeepers, environmentalists and consumer groups that recently sued the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to ban these chemicals. The lawsuit claims the “EPA is well aware of recent studies and reports illustrating the risks to honey bees…but has refused to take any regulatory action.”

“We’re finding these chemicals in the beehives,” Doan said. “We know they’re there. We’re finding them in the bees. So we know they’re killing bees.”

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37 Million bees dead in Canada

dead bees

Shortly after 50,000 bees were found dead in an Oregon parking lot, a staggering 37 million bees have been found dead in Elmwood, Ontario, Canada. Dave Schuit, who runs a honey operation in Elmwood has lost 600 hives. He is pointing the finger at the insecticides known as neonicotinoids, which are manufactured by Bayer CropScience Inc. This also comes after a recent report released by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) that recorded its largest loss of honeybees ever.  The European Union has stepped forward, having banned multiple pesticides that have been linked to killing millions of bees.

The loss comes after the planting of corn. Neonicotinoid pesticides are used to coat corn seed with air seeders. This results in having the pesticide dust blown into the air when planted. The death of millions of pollinators was studied by Purdue University. They discovered that Bees exhibited neurotoxic symptoms. They analyzed dead bees and found that traces of thiamethoxam/clothiandin were present in each case. The only major source of these compounds are seed treatments of field crops.

Bee deaths are increasing exponentially. An international team of scientists led by Holland’s Utrecht University has concluded that, “large scale prophylaxic use in agriculture, their high persistence in soil and water, and their uptake by plants and translocation to flowers, neonicotinoids put pollinators at risk. This is some of the research that led to the European Unions ban of the pesticides, as mentioned and referenced earlier.

Can we really debate this much longer? The evidence linking pesticides to bee deaths is overwhelming. It’s not only bees, but an array of other insects as well. The last thing we need is more events to occur that companies can use to push the manufacturing and development or more genetically modified foods. One reason that has been used for justification of GMO’s is a food shortage, and we all know how critical bees are to our food supply. There is a huge conflict of interest here, the pesticides used to spray the crops that are killing the bees are developed by biotech corporations such as Monsanto.

Time to make the connections, time to speak up!

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