Behives might be abandoned because of Neonicotinoides

From an article in the St. Pete Times, published April 4, 2007:

“David Hackenberg and many of his fellow beekeepers think they know what is killing their bees: an increasingly prevalent class of insecticide called neonicotinoids that they suspect for the following reasons:

  • Neonicotinoids have been strictly limited in France since the 1990s, when they were implicated in a similar mass die-off.
  • The use of neonicotinoids has spread rapidly in recent years as the hives began collapsing.
  • Neonicotinoids are artificial forms of nicotine that act as neurotoxins to insects, entomologists say. That may account for worker bees neglecting to provide food for eggs and larvae, and for a breakdown of the bees’ navigational abilities.”

Unfortunately, the U.S., like many other nations, suffers a lot from “not invented/discovered here” syndrome and as such seems to quite often have to reinvent the wheel itself, even though ample research has already been conducted in other countries and potential solutions have already been identified.

What’s worse is that common sense also does not seem to be applied. After all, think about any smoker (nicotine addict) who is going cold turkey without a cigarette or other source of nicotine for a while. What is the result? Stress, disorder, nervousness, also, typically the immune system is affected. Now, compare that to the typical reporting on what now has been termed “Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)”. Not much of a difference, huh?

According to an article at Public Opinion – Chambersburg, PA, the

“EPA identifies nenicotinoids as highly toxic to bees. Combined with certain fungicides, neonicotinoids become 1,000 times more toxic, according to a North Carolina study.”

A toxicity profile of neonicotinoide pesticides at the University of Flordia states that “both imidacloprid and thiamethoxam are highly toxic to honeybees.”

An EPA Fact Sheet on Dinotefuran states under the heading Risk to nontarget insects that

“Dinotefuran parent is highly toxic to bees and since this chemical is an insecticide, protection of pollinators is a concern. The turf and leafy vegetable uses in this assessment are not expected to include areas highly associated with pollinating insects. Therefore potential kill events via direct spray or nontarget spray drift on pollinating insects in these areas appears to be minimal.”

Unfortunately, potential side effects from indirect absorption outside the spraying event do not seem to be discussed.

However, under the sub-heading Precautionary Statements/Environmental Hazards it is clearly stated that

“This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees are visiting the area”. Also, “this product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees are visiting the treatment area.”

While such a warning can be stated with ease, its implementation strikes me as next to impossible. As a result, it is virtually unavoidable that this pesticide ends up in a bee hive, is fed to the queen and ultimately produces weakened off-spring who will be further affected with each subsequent visit and exposure to areas that have previously been sprayed.

The aforementioned fact sheet includes ample amounts of references to studies analyzing the toxicity of nicotinoides to honeybees.

A similar EPA Fact Sheet on Clothianidin, another member of the nicotinoid family, states under the heading Ecological Characteristics

“Clothianidin is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute contact basis (LD50 > 0.0439 μg/bee). It has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen. In honey bees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects in the queen.”

The fact sheet also includes references to treated seeds, which have become more prevalent on the market in recent years, as well as the lack of a life cycle and queen impact study for honeybees:

“To address ecological concerns, labeling will be required that mandates treated seed bags be printed with advisory language regarding hazards to wildlife and will include specific instructions to cover or collect clothianidin treated seeds that are spilled during loading. In order to fully evaluate the possibility of chronic exposure to honey bees, a complete worker bee life cycle study will be required, as well as an evaluation of exposure and effects to the queen.”

The conditional registrations for these two members of the nicotinoid family were granted in September 2004 and May 2003, respectively. Is it just a coincidence that ever since, the dying of the bees and abandonment of the hives in large numbers seems to have primarily occurred after these substances were brought to market and have gained more wide-spread use? If not, calling this a “Disorder” is misleading and it should rather be dubbed “Poisoning”.

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