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Weyler reports: "We know what is killing the bees. Worldwide Bee Colony Collapse is not as big a mystery as the chemical companies claim. The systemic nature of the problem makes it complex, but not impenetrable."

Honey bees at work (photo: EcoWatch)
Honey bees at work (photo: EcoWatch)



Worldwide Honey Bee Collapse: A Lesson in Ecology

By Rex Weyler, Greenpeace

12 June 13

 

e know what is killing the bees. Worldwide Bee Colony Collapse is not as big a mystery as the chemical companies claim. The systemic nature of the problem makes it complex, but not impenetrable. Scientists know that bees are dying from a variety of factors - pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming and so forth. The causes of collapse merge and synergize, but we know that humanity is the perpetrator, and that the two most prominent causes appear to be pesticides and habitat loss.

Biologists have found over 150 different chemical residues in bee pollen, a deadly "pesticide cocktail" according to University of California apiculturist Eric Mussen. The chemical companies Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, Dow, DuPont and Monsanto shrug their shoulders at the systemic complexity, as if the mystery were too complicated. They advocate no change in pesticide policy. After all, selling poisons to the world’s farmers is profitable.

Furthermore, wild bee habitat shrinks every year as industrial agribusiness converts grasslands and forest into monoculture farms, which are then contaminated with pesticides. To reverse the world bees decline, we need to fix our dysfunctional and destructive agricultural system.

Bee Collapse

Apis mellifera - the honey bee, native to Europe, Africa and Western Asia - is disappearing around the world. Signs of decline also appear now in the eastern honey bee, Apis cerana.

This is no marginal species loss. Honey bees - wild and domestic - perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind, but the best and healthiest food - fruits, nuts and vegetables - are pollinated by bees. Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops, which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees.

Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, calculates that bees "contribute more than €22 billion ($30 billion U.S. dollars) annually to European agriculture." Worldwide, bees pollinate human food valued at more than €265 billion ($350 billion). The bee collapse is a challenge to human enterprise on the scale of global warming, ocean acidification and nuclear war. Humans could not likely survive a total bee collapse.

Worker bees (females) live several months. Colonies produce new worker bees continuously during the spring and summer, and then reproduction slows during the winter. Typically, a bee hive or colony will decline by five to 10 percent over the winter and replace those lost bees in the spring. In a bad year, a bee colony might lose 15-20 percent of its bees.

In the U.S., where bee collapse first appeared, winter losses commonly reached 30-50 percent and in some cases more. In 2006, David Hackenberg, a bee keeper for 42 years, reported a 90 percent die-off among his 3,000 hives. U.S. National Agriculture Statistics show a honey bee decline from about 6 million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million hives in 2008, a 60 percent reduction.

The number of working bee colonies per hectare provides a critical metric of crop health. In the U.S., among crops that require bee pollination, the number of bee colonies per hectare has declined by 90 percent since 1962. The bees cannot keep pace with the winter die-off rates and habitat loss.

Europe Responds, U.S. Dithers

In Europe, Asia and South America, the annual die-off lags behind the U.S. decline, but the trend is clear, and the response is more appropriate. In Europe, Rabobank reported that the annual European die-offs have reached 30-35 percent and that the colonies-per-hectare count is down 25 percent. In the 1980s, in Sichuan, China, pear orchard pesticides obliterated local bees, and farmers must now pollinate crops by hand with feather dusters.

A European Food Safety Authority scientific report determined that three widely used pesticides - nicotine-based clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam - pose "high acute risks" for bees. These neonicotinoid pesticides - used in soils, on foliage and embedded in seeds - persist at the core of the toxic pesticide cocktail found in bee hives.

A Greenpeace scientific report identifies seven priority bee-killer pesticides - including the three nicotine culprits - plus clorpyriphos, cypermethrin, deltamethrin and fipronil. The three neonicotinoids act on insect nervous systems. They accumulate in individual bees and within entire colonies, including the honey that bees feed to infant larvae. Bees that do not die outright, experience sub-lethal systemic effects, development defects, weakness and loss of orientation. The die-off leaves fewer bees and weaker bees, who must work harder to produce honey in depleted wild habitats. These conditions create the nightmare formula for bee colony collapse.

Bayer makes and markets imidacloprid and clothianidin; Syngenta produces thiamethoxam. In 2009, the world market for these three toxins reached over $2 billion. Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont control nearly 100 percent of the world market for genetically engineered (GE) pesticides, plants and seeds.

In 2012, a German court criminally charged Syngenta with perjury for concealing its own report showing that its genetically modified corn had killed livestock. In the U.S., the company paid out $105 million to settle a class-action lawsuit for contaminating the drinking water for more than 50 million citizens with its "gender-bending" herbicide Atrazine. Now, these corporate polluters are waging multi-million-euro campaigns to deny responsibility for bee colony collapse.

In May, the European Commission responded, adopting a two-year ban on the three neonicotinoid pesticides. Scientists will use the two years to assess the recovery rate of the bees and a longer-term ban on these and other pesticides.

Meanwhile, the U.S. dithers and supports the corporations that produce and market the deadly pesticides. In May, as European nations took action, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the neonicotinoid pesticides, in spite of a U.S. Department of Agriculture report warning about the dangers of the bee colony collapse.

Also in May, President Obama, signed the now infamous "Monsanto Protection Act" - written by Monsanto lobbyists - that gives biotech companies immunity in federal U.S. courts from damages to people and the environment caused by their commercial compounds.

Solutions Exist

Common sense actions could restore and protect the world’s bees. Experienced bee keepers, apiculturists, farmers, the European Commission and the Greenpeace report, Bees in Decline have outlined these solutions:

  • Ban the seven most dangerous pesticides
  • Protect pollinator health by preserving wild habitat
  • Restore ecological agriculture

Ecological farming is the over-arching new policy trend that will stabilize human food production, preserve wild habitats and protect the bees. The nation of Bhutan has led the world in adopting a 100 percent organic farming policy. Mexico has banned GE corn to protect its native corn varieties. In January, eight European countries banned GE crops, and Hungary has burned over a 1,000 acres of corn contaminated with GE varieties. In India, scientist Vandana Shiva and a network of small farmers have built an organic farming resistance to industrial agriculture over two decades.

Ecological or organic farming, of course, is nothing new. It is the way most farming has been done throughout human history. Ecological farming resists insect damage by avoiding large monocultures and preserving ecosystem diversity. Ecological farming restores soil nutrients with natural composting systems, avoids soil loss from wind and water erosion, and avoids pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

By restoring bee populations and healthier bees, ecological agriculture improves pollination, which in turn improves crop yields. Ecological farming takes advantage of the natural ecosystem services, water filtration, pollination, oxygen production and disease and pest control.

Organic farmers have advocated better research and funding by industry, government, farmers and the public to develop organic farming techniques, improve food production and maintain ecological health. The revolution in farming would promote equitable diets around the world and support crops primarily for human consumption, avoiding crops for animal food and biofuels.

Ecosystems

The plight of the bees serves as a warning that we still may not quite understand ecology. Ecological farming is part of a larger paradigm shift in human awareness. The corporate denialists appear just like the Pope’s shrouded inquisitors in 1615, who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope to see the moons of Jupiter. Today’s denialists refuse to recognize that Earth’s systems operate within real limits. However, the state religion in this case is money, and the state religion won’t allow it. The denialists cling to the presumed right to consume, hoard, and obliterate Earth’s great bounty for private profits. But hoards of money won’t reverse extinction, restore lost soils or heal the world’s bee colonies.

A great reckoning awaits humanity if we fail to awaken from our delusions. Earth’s delicately balanced systems can reach tipping points and collapse. Bees, for example, work within a limited range of marginal returns on the energy they exert to collect nutrition for their colonies. When winter bee deaths grow from 10 percent to 50 percent, the remaining bees are weakened by toxins, and the wild habitats shrink that thin, ecological margin of energy return can be squeezed to zero. Surviving bees expend more energy than they return in honey. More bees die, fewer reach maturity and entire colonies collapse. This crisis is a lesson in fundamental ecology.

Rachel Carson warned of these systemic constraints 50 years ago. Ecologists and environmentalists have warned of limits ever since. Bee colony collapse now joins global warming, forest destruction and species extinctions among our most urgent ecological emergencies. Saving the world’s bees appears as one more necessary link in restoring Earth to ecological balance.

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+47 # RnR 2013-06-12 08:47
The US is dithering because the US government is controlled by the private contractors - every single agency/departme nt of it including CIA, NSA etc., all the way down the line.

All the corporations know is how to pay the advertising industry to willingly lie. They're all in bed together. Meanwhile, the planet goes down the tubes.

Monsanto should be dissolved and everyone who works/or worked for them, should lose the right to vote.
 
 
+27 # RnR 2013-06-12 08:52
Someone needs to formulate a gmo-free bee food. You can get organic sugar and make up organic (which is gmo-free) sugar syrup but that only gives them energy. All the bee foods I've investigated can not guarantee that they're gmo-free. Well, gmo's are what's probably 50% responsible for killing them off.

The NAZI Monsanto (and don't kid yourself they are NAZI) bought the largest bee research facility and is probably injecting them with all types of lethal genes. Forget anything truthful coming out of that sector anymore.
 
 
+36 # twocents 2013-06-12 10:03
"Every law not based on wisdom is a menace to the State." It is engraved in stone outside courthouse of the New York State Appellate Division on East 25th Street in Manhattan.

Monsanto et al. take heed.
 
 
+4 # Alternative 2013-06-12 10:13
And here we have yet another article that exclusively blames chemicals but ignores the non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation connection. I am not discounting the problems caused by toxic chemicals but the problem seems to have gotten much worse in the time frame of our expansion of microwaves worldwide.
 
 
+3 # AuntieTom 2013-06-12 10:29
Yes, we need to know the effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which is increasingly pervasive.
 
 
+18 # oakes721 2013-06-12 11:28
Yes, some can build up a defense against a single pollutant, but it's the combinations that are often the knock-out punches. Still, these potent chemical poisons are designed to devastate neurological systems. These makers of weapons of warfare are permanently contaminating massive areas of our Earth. Such greed amounts to criminal insanity.
 
 
-9 # Timaloha 2013-06-12 12:07
I agree. I don't know about microwaves as a factor, but i do know that this is a multi-faceted problem and should be addressed as such. Colony Collapse Disorder has been documented in the USA as far back as the mid-eighteen hundreds, approximately one hundred years before the invention of imidacloprid (the pesticide most under fire for CCD). Clearly then, pesticides alone cannot be the causal agent. This is too important a problem to let emotional reactions to chemicals and Monsanto get in the way of comprehensive research and and the effort to discover and initiate effective solutions.
 
 
+2 # Malcolm 2013-06-13 07:45
Quoting Timaloha:
I agree. I don't know about microwaves as a factor, but i do know that this is a multi-faceted problem and should be addressed as such. Colony Collapse Disorder has been documented in the USA as far back as the mid-eighteen hundreds, approximately one hundred years before the invention of imidacloprid (the pesticide most under fire for CCD). Clearly then, pesticides alone cannot be the causal agent. This is too important a problem to let emotional reactions to chemicals and Monsanto get in the way of comprehensive research and and the effort to discover and initiate effective solutions.


I thought you were wrong about the history of CCD. But here's what wikipedia says: " Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear. While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, and were known by various names (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease), [1] the syndrome was renamed colony collapse disorder in late 2006 [2]"
 
 
+1 # RnR 2013-06-14 06:10
Monsanto has purchased the major bee research facility in the states - forget about any truthful comprehensive research from that agency now.

Just remember pcb's and agent orange and that history proves intent. The biotech industry is not to be trusted, ever. Do some research on the pharmaceutical industry and their falsification/f abrication of vaccine test results - this is the same industry, different office.
 
 
+1 # Capn Canard 2013-06-14 11:46
Timaloha, I tend to agree but I am not willing to take the microwaves/EMF theory off the table. To do so may keep us in the dark. Currently we seem too focused on chemicals/pesti cides/herbicide s etc. while that very well may be the cause, the whole CCD issue didn't really ramp up after cell phone technology got incredibly commonplace. In my book that is just too gawd damned close for comfort so much so as to ignore the possibility that EMFs may possibly be the cause. I think we need the researchers to keep an open mind.
 
 
0 # Lowflyin Lolana 2013-06-14 17:55
It's too much of a coincidence for me, the timing.
But good luck getting anyone anywhere to acknowledge that our precious microwaves might not be a good idea.
 
 
+4 # RnR 2013-06-13 07:47
Absolutely, cell phone towers are a major factor, wireless communications in general effect all beings. Watch "Resonance - Beings of Frequency" for some really good information and it's free online or on Link TV and maybe Freespeech TV frequently.
 
 
0 # Lowflyin Lolana 2013-06-14 17:53
Exactly. As I understand it, the problem with the bees has gotten markedly worse since our cities and towns and countrysides have been blanketed by radio frequency radiation from cell phones and cell masts. Not to mention satellites and HAARP and all the other things that are being done to our atmosphere without regard for potential consequences.
 
 
+13 # AuntieTom 2013-06-12 10:28
I'm not sure banning particular pesticides will do the trick because the companies will simply use instead a new product that hasn't yet been studied. This is what's been happening. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of untested chemical pesticides in use. We've got to stop poisoning the air, land and water.
 
 
+22 # Vardoz 2013-06-12 10:28
Human collapse is next. Bees are responsible for 2/3rds of our produce but our overwhelming drive to do business regardless of the consequences has now brought our extinction closer then ever before. We are clearly not intelligent enough to manage our environment. It seems destruction is the only path mankind knows.
 
 
+16 # Buddha 2013-06-12 10:31
Meanwhile us living in suburbia aren't seeing such issues, we always have healthy populations of wild bees in our neighborhoods doing their voodoo...and that is because we aren't filling our backyard gardens with these cocktails of pesticides as most of us are doing it organically (after all, what is the point otherwise). It is the commercial bee-keepers who are having the problems, because they keep taking their hives into the "belly of the beast" and killing them in the very fields that they are there to pollinate. Perhaps bee-keepers to protect their livelihood should boycot such agribusiness and only take their hives to those who grow sustainably and organically????
 
 
+5 # MidwestTom 2013-06-12 10:43
I am curious about the education of the author; he refers to "genetically engineered chemicals". I would like an explanation of exactly what constitutes such a chemical. We have genetically engineered seeds, and we have chemicals made up of various compounds. I am very concerned about the loss of bees. The farmers around here are concerned, and it is my understanding that they definitely will stop using the 'bad' chemicals if everyone else does.

They argue that today's farm economics demand that they squeeze every bushel that they can from an acre, and chemicals make 5-20 BPA differences in corn and soybeans. They would support a ban and the market would adjust to the slightly lower production.
 
 
+7 # Malcolm 2013-06-13 07:41
What is in Midwest Tom's post that could possibly inspire these thumbs down?
 
 
+3 # phrixus 2013-06-13 12:27
I found myself wondering the same. His post makes sense and seems well thought out. Maybe some people are engaging in a silly ad hominem attack instead of focusing on the issues.
 
 
+10 # RnR 2013-06-13 07:50
If squeezing every bushel they can from an acre were the real consideration we'd have small, local diversified family farms which have proven to be up to 400 times (yup) **more** productive than big agribusiness mono agriculture.

The issue is not productivity (as with Monsanto the issue is *not* feeding the world). The issue is power/control/p rofits and that is all.
 
 
+22 # tbcrawford8 2013-06-12 10:47
"The chemical companies Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, Dow, DuPont and Monsanto shrug their shoulders..."

Let your reps and the president know how you feel! If we just sit on our hands, we'll get the results we deserve.
 
 
+2 # Lowflyin Lolana 2013-06-14 18:20
Lots of people have done that.
It's not working.
 
 
+13 # jwb110 2013-06-12 11:26
I live in an area in CA that is, for the most part, farming. I live in a mobile home park just yards away from huge strawberry fields, citrus groves and vegetable fields.
I have a small garden and by design, it draws hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. I have had enormous gardens when I lived rurally in PA so I watch for the insect life in my gardens. Since I have arrived in this are, 4 years ago, I have not seen a single domestic honey bee on my flowers. In an area where there is as much food production as here, it is not normal. here should be more domestic bees present and there are not.
I guess that Monsanto's next marketing campaign will be those feather dusters now only used in China.
 
 
+3 # Malcolm 2013-06-13 07:38
"We know what is killing the bees. Worldwide Bee Colony Collapse is not as big a mystery as the chemical companies claim. The systemic nature of the problem makes it complex, but not impenetrable. Scientists know that bees are dying from a variety of factors - pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming and so forth"

TRANSLATION: We don't know what is killing the bees.

BTW, honey bees are doing fine in my unspoiled part of the world. Do others reading this have honeybees on their flowers today? (Assuming it's warm enough, and not too windy)
 
 
+4 # shraeve 2013-06-13 09:39
I have seen very few bees this spring.

What is your unspoiled part of the world?
 
 
+1 # Malcolm 2013-06-13 21:29
Quoting shraeve:
I have seen very few bees this spring.

What is your unspoiled part of the world?


sorry to hear it. SW Oregon. Rural.

How 'bout you?
 
 
+3 # Capn Canard 2013-06-14 11:50
same here ... I've not yet seen one bee, and I am in a rural farming community.
 
 
+1 # EliR 2013-06-14 19:46
My hive is doing fine, but I just raise them as a hobby, for the honey. We're in Utah County, and plenty of people depend on the bees to keep their gardens and fruit trees going.
 
 
0 # CarolynScarr 2013-06-15 18:05
I would like someone to identify these pesticides by brand name, what is written on the outside of the jug as found on the hardware store shelves.
Then I will know what to avoid.
thanks,
 
 
0 # RICHARDKANEpa 2013-06-15 22:44
In the 1980's insecticide was genetically added to corn, called BT corn, cross pollination by the wind spread this new corn throughout the northern hemisphere, see Minimizing Pollen Drift & Commingling of GMO and non-GMO Corn Grain by R.L.(Bob) Nielsen
http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/articles.00/GMO_Issues-000307.html

Way back in 1991 Mexico was angered that their sacred wheat was cross bred out of existence, Google Mexicans angered by spread of genetically modified corn by Mark Stevenson
http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/articles.00/GMO_Issues-000307.html

Bees consuming soda pop get insecticide from the corn syrup except in Canada were corn syrup is banned. Canada doesn't have the problems with honey bee collapse that the rest of the northern hemisphere does.

I post this warning many times, so far not many are listening, Google
Bee Colony Collapse, Hiding from Danger by Richard Kane
http://readersupportednews.org/pm-section/27-27/11025-bee-colony-collapse-hiding-from-danger
 
 
0 # RICHARDKANEpa 2013-06-15 22:53
World wide is the wrong title so far not in the Southern Hemisphere‎ and less in Canada where corn syrup soda cans are banned.
 

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