The fight to save the bees has taken many twists and turns, but many activists believe that politicians are ignoring the biggest problem: the controversial synthetic pesticide-coated seeds known as neonicotinoids, or neonics.
While neonicotinoids are widely used in the United States, a moratorium has been placed on them in Europe in order to protect the bees and other forms of life that are unintentionally harmed by them.
Could such a moratorium, ban, or other restriction come to the United States anytime soon? New research suggests that might be a good idea if the country is to get serious about protecting its honeybee population.
New Studies Show Evidence of Neonicotinoid Devastation
The studies, conducted in Canada in a combination of large-scale field tests and laboratory experiments, as well as in Germany, Hungary and the UK (in this case costing a whopping 2.8 million pounds over 2 years) to better understand long-term bee colony health, were detailed in a new article from the Los Angeles Times.
Perhaps the most important finding is the damage shown to bees that come into contact with the neonics in the environment. Both studies showed that the concentrations of neonics bees encounter in the field are highly dangerous to their health, echoing earlier studies.
In Hungary and the UK it was found that the more neonics there are in the environment, the smaller the size of honeybee colonies and the lower the fertility rate of wild bees.
According to the Canadian study, a 23% total decrease in lifespan was observed in the study, showing that worker bees died around 5 days sooner than normal. The study also re-confirmed erratic bee behavior (different from unexposed bees) who flew farther away from the hive as if lost, and caused them to make errors in cleaning or removing dead or dying bees from the hive which leads to more disease among colonies.
The exposed hives also had difficulty keeping a laying queen, which can be devastating to a colony leading to a hasty, unexpected collapse.
A shocking 70 to 80 percent of exposed colonies would have died without outside help according to the results of Amro Zayed of York University (Toronto) in the Canadian study.
Other Findings of the Studies: Bad News for Bayer, Chemical Giants
Aside from the clear and devastating consequences of encountering neonicotinoids in the field, other harmful signs and effects were noticed (this may be a big part of the reason why the U.S. lost a staggering one-third of all honeybee colonies in 2016-2017).
The highly profitable neonics made up roughly 80% of all treated seeds as of 2008 and are mostly produced by chemical companies like BASF and Bayer, which work tirelessly to protect their image. Mass protests against the chemical-treated seeds have previously broken out in Europe.
In the two studies, it was shown that bees were exposed to neonics even when far away from actual fields where they were planted or dispersed. The neonics must remain in the environment for longer periods of time than originally thought, the study’s results suggested. It was found that even untreated plants may be sources of contamination for bees as well.
For more on what the two teams of researchers found including how diet impacts honeybee health and the differences between countries, check out the full article by clicking on this link.
The EPA must stop ignoring science and act to protect honey bees (petition that is is nearing its 250,000 goal)