Are Bees Caught in a Genetically Modified Downward Spiral?

By Paige Bennett for Fractured Paradigm

beesOur bees are dying off at an alarming rate. Just this past winter, bee losses were reported at 31.1% by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, which is consistent with average bee losses of 30.5% for the past six years[1]. Bees, of course, are essential to our food supply, because they serve as pollinators for our crops. So the big question is – what’s happening to the bees?

Back in the 1970’s it became common practice for commercial beekeepers to feed their bees High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) to replace the honey being taken out of the hives. Since then, new pesticide products have been developed and put into use, and it nows appears the bees immune systems have been compromised. This is not to say HFCS itself is toxic to bees, but researchers suggest by their findings that bees are not being exposed to chemicals necessary for them to fight off the toxins contained in pesticides[2]. From an article on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by entomologists at the University of Illinois:

“Specifically, they found that when bees are exposed to the enzyme p-coumaric, their immune system appears stronger—it turns on detoxification genes. P-coumaric is found in pollen walls, not nectar, and makes its way into honey inadvertently via sticking to the legs of bees as they visit flowers. Similarly, the team discovered other compounds found in poplar sap that appear to do much the same thing. It all together adds up to a diet that helps bees fight off toxins, the researchers report. Taking away the honey to sell it, and feeding the bees high-fructose corn syrup instead, they claim, compromises their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to the toxins that are meant to kill other bugs.”

Which brings us to another bee-related issue – pesticides. Many pesticides contain neonicotinoid products which are linked to bee harm, and this has lead to a recent ban on their use within the European Union.[3] Unfortunately, they’re still heavily used in the United States, and there’s no indication of the practice stopping here. Companies such as Monsanto are major producers of such products, as well as RoundUp Ready crops that are engineered to withstand such abusive chemicals. These crops, of course, include corn (in fact, nearly 90% of corn grown in the United States in 2011 was genetically modified[4]), which is used to make HFCS, and in turn fed to the bees. Too bad a study in 2012 found that genetically modified corn is nutritionally dead when compared to organic corn[5].

When looked at all together, it seems all too possible that our use of toxic pesticides to grow our genetically modified corn to create HFCS has turned into a downward spiral for our bee populations.

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.”

Dying Bees in Oregon

dying beesA bee kill-off is making headline news around the country. Fifty thousand bumblebees were killed in Oregon thanks to a landscaping company’s use of an insecticide. On June 22, The  bees were falling dead all around the Wilsonville, Oregon area.

“They were literally falling out of the trees. To our knowledge this is one of the largest documented bumblebee deaths in the Western U.S. It was heartbreaking to watch,” said Rich Hatfield, a conservation biologist. For animal-lovers and environmentalists, this really is heartbreaking. Sadly, the bees died due to a preventive measure taken to stop something else.

The bee kill-off responsible for 50,000 bumblebees killed was due to an insecticide used on various surfaces in a Target parking lot. The landscaping company used a potent “dinotefuran” in the area to get rid of “honeydew” produced by aphids. Come to find out, honeydew can be controlled by simply spraying some soapy water on them.

Instead, the company hired to take care of the “problem” (which really wasn’t a problem — no customers even complained according to The Epoch Times) took out a ton of bumblebees and likely other insects that weren’t hurting anyone.

The bumblebees killed in the bee kill-off prompted the trees in the area to be covered with netting in hopes of sparing lives of other bees.

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