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Nicotine-Based Pesticide May Explain Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

The popular TV show, 60 Minutes has profiled the dying bees. The phenomena, called Colony Collapse Disorder, is still a mystery.

Thousands of bees leave the hive never to return leaving behind a box full of honey. No dead bees are ever found.

Much of the research has not materialized because of a lack of funding even though bees are vital for agriculture.

“If there ain’t no bees, there ain’t no food,” says Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida.

Crops depend on insects for agricultural pollination, adding more than $15 billion in value to about 130 crops, especially fruits, berries, nuts and vegetables, according to the USDA.

So two Floridians, Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg, of Dade City, FL and Lewisberg, PA, and Dave Mendes are on their way to Paris to speak before an international beekeeping conference on the syndrome.

Hackenberg first called the Florida Department of Agriculture two years ago after he noticed bees would leave the hive and never return.

Hackenberg told 60 Minutes in the January broadcast, “I mean, I literally got down and crawled around. I mean, seriously, I got down on my hands and knees and crawled around. And there’s no dead bees. There are no dead bees anywhere. I mean, you can’t find any bees. They flew off someplace,” he recalls.

It’s something he says he’d never seen before. Bees have a sophisticated navigation system using sun and landmarks to return them home, even when they travel up to two miles looking for food.

It may be they know more in France than we do in the U.S. There they have banned the use of a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. France, Italy, Germany and Slovenia found that the nicotine-based substance impaired the bees’ navigational and foraging abilities.

The insecticide is sold under the name of Poncho, Gaucho and Cruiser, made by Bayer and Syngenta, and put on the seeds prior to planting. The pesticide then moves through a plant’s vascular system. Bees pick up the pollen from the plants and the theory is that the pesticide affects their immune system and behavior.

Kimberly Stoner, an entomologist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven has a grant proposal out to study pesticide residues, but her $786,000 grant proposal has not been funded by the USDA. And no such research was funded in the federal farm bill’s $28 million in “specialty crop” grants, despite assurances from members of Congress that funding was forthcoming.

Hackenberg says a report from Minnesota this week found corn syrup fed to honeybees contained eight parts per billion of neonicotinoids.

Beekeepers have appeared on YouTube talking about their suspicions about neonicotinoids:

In Europe, they practice the precautionary principle, where a suspicion of harm sparks action, not reaction to the harm.

Bee Loss Linked to Nicotine-Based PesticideStoner tells the Palm Beach Post, “it puts the burden of proof more on people who market pesticides to show that the claim is unfounded. Here you have to show proof of harm.”

Globally, pathogens, parasites, genetically modified foods, cell phones, and environmental stresses which include pesticides have all been considered.

According to USDA statistics, during the winter of 2007-2008, U.S. beekeepers reported a total loss of 36 percent of the honey bee colonies. Other bee keepers report 50 to 90 percent of their colonies are gone.

Click to learn more > “60 Minutes Story on Bees”

Source:  Jane Akre,  Injuryboard News