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UNEP report says world's food stocks at risk as bee colonies dying out

A MIXTURE of chemicals found in modern pesticides may be killing bee colonies around the world, according to a UN report. Seeds are being coated in systemic insecticides that spread throughout the plant, from the roots to the flowers and into the nectar and pollen. The report says that the highly toxic chemicals in the insecticides, collectively known as neonicotinoids, can cause loss of the sense of direction and memory on which bees rely to find food. The UN Environment Program (Unep) report says that when neonicotinoids are combined with certain fungicides, the toxicity becomes 1000 times stronger.

Ultra low dose of systemic insecticide fipronil impairs foraging behavour of honeybees

A new scientific study that marked honeybees with radio-id chips to measure the impacts of ultra low dose of neurotoxic systemic insecticides on the flight behavior of honeybees found significant effects of the insecticide fipronil (marketed under the names Mundial, Goliath, Regent TS and produced by BASF) on the number of foraging flights and on the time to return to the hive.
The experiment was carried out in a outdoor tunnel (8 m x 20 m, 3.5 m high) covered with an insect-proof cloth (2 mm 9 2 mm mesh) and a ground covered with plastic. The distance between the hive and the sucrose syrup feeder was 18 meter.
The median lethal dose of fipronil is 6 nanogram per honeybee. In this experiments the bees were given a single one-time ultra low dose which is twenty times below the deadly dose: 0.3 nanogram fipronil per honeybee.
The researchers found that even this single ultra low dose significantly reduces the number of foraging trips of honeybees. They also observed that their time to return to the hive increased with 30 seconds. The percentage of bees returning within one minute reduced from 77% (no treatment) to 51% (0.3 ng fipronil per bee). Earlier studies (e.g. Yang e.a. 2008)where bees were marked with paint in stead of radio-id chips and counting and measuring was done by humans with stopwatches observing the bees at the hive and the feeder showed similar effects for imidacloprid. The radio-id chip method enables much more precise analysis of the so called sub-lethal (sub=below, lethal=deadly) effects of pesticides on pollinators.
In The Netherlands the systemic insecticide fipronil is authorised for seed coating and phytodrip in (Dutch crop names) Chinese kool, bloemkool, boerenkool, broccoli, rodekool, savooienkool, spitskool, spruitkool and wittekool to protect these cabbage crops to damage by the cabbage fly (koolvlieg), and for the elimination of cockroaches.
Fipronil is systemic, it enters the plantsap and contaminates pollen and nectar of treated plants and also of nearby growing wild flowers, trees, and weeds and contaminates water on which honeybees forage.

Current Biology on neonicotinoids and bee decline

New fears over bee declines
Around the world, losses of bee colonies and wild pollinators continue. Emerging explanations are complex and call for more research, but the case against systemic pesticides is gaining strength. Michael Gross investigates.
Read the full article in Current Biology 22 Feb 2011

Varroa Mite and Neonicotinoid Pesticides

[From Buzzaboutbees.net Feb 2011]
Varroa mite is one of the biggest threats to honey bee colonies. In the UK, it was first discovered in 1992. Exposure to this pest causes viruses and diseases to be transmitted to honey bees, such as Deformed Wing Virus. But could it be that neonicotinoid pesticides play a role in Varroa too?

National Union of French Beekeeping takes legal action to ban thiamethoxam (Cruiser®)

On 24 Jan 2011, The National Union of French Beekeeping (UNAF) announced victory at the Council of State for France, against authorization of the pesticide CRUISER® (active substance: thiamethoxam). UNAF requested the cancellation of three annual decisions to allow CRUISER 350, and the condemnation of the Ministry of Agriculture, at a Special Public Hearing of the Council of State of France.

Insecticides playing Russian roulette with our economy

The world’s bee populations are under an increasing – and perhaps under-estimated range of threats. These threats comprise a suite of problems including new exotic pathogens, loss of diverse forage, a new generation of insecticides, the stresses we place on our hives through moving them, and introducing chemical controls for existing pathogens like the Varroa bee mite. We cannot eliminate pathogens like Varroa once they are here, but we can do something about another major challenge facing honeybees - the new generation of insecticides called neonicotinoids.

Rabobank report on Honeybee decline

A new Rabobank report titled ‘The plight of the honey bee’ examines the importance of honey bee colonies to global agriculture. The steep decline in bee colonies since 2006 threatens production of crops from apples and almonds to cocoa, melons and soybeans. “Crop pollination by animals, particularly bees, currently supports around approximately a third of global food production” says Ruben Verwijs of Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory.“As demand for these crops grows, we have to find sustainable methods to maintain crop pollination by honey bees.”

Pesticide linked to bee deaths should be suspended, MPs told

A new generation of pesticides is implicated in the widespread deaths of bees and other pollinators and should be suspended in Britain while the Government reviews new scientific evidence about their effects, MPs were told yesterday. Neonicotinoid pesticides are linked by "a growing weight of science" to insect losses, and the assessment regimes for them are inadequate, the Labour MP Martin Caton told the House of Commons.

Peter Melchett (The Soil Association): There is a terrible sense of history repeating itself

Your shocking revelations about the impact of neonicotinoids on pollinating insects ("Poisoned spring", 20 January) confirms the worst fears of scientists, conservationists and organic farmers. There is a terrible sense of history repeating itself, as government scientists, politicians and chemical companies deny the impact of this new set of chemicals, just as they did with DDT in the 1960s. Back then it took the disappearance of many of our birds of prey before the problem was recognised. It looks as if the same is going to happen to bumblebees and honey bees.

EPA sued over pesticides

Environmental conservation groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday to force it to tighten regulation of pesticide use, arguing that the agency was not consulting wildlife officials.

Call to ban pesticides linked to bee deaths

The House of Commons is to debate the impact on bees and other insects of the new generation of pesticides that has been linked to bee mortality in several countries. The Government will be called on to suspend all neonicotinoid pesticides approved in Britain, pending more exhaustive tests of their long-term effects on bees and other invertebrates. The subject will be raised in an adjournment debate in the Commons next Tuesday on a motion tabled by Martin Caton, the Labour MP for Gower. Mr Caton said: "We're talking about a threat to our whole ecosystem, when invertebrates are being lost at the sort of rate that has happened in recent years."

Bees facing a poisoned spring

A new generation of pesticides is making honeybees far more susceptible to disease, even at tiny doses, and may be a clue to the mysterious colony collapse disorder that has devastated bees across the world, the US government's leading bee researcher has found. Yet the discovery has remained unpublished for nearly two years since it was made by the US Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory.

'They’ve turned the Environment into the Experiment – and WE are all the experimental SUBJECTS'

Colorado bee-farmer Tom Theobald has a 5 minute video up on Youtube - made by a professional film maker in the USA. It is a statement of the struggle that he has been forced to undertake since he discovered the controversy surrounding the registration and licensing of Clothianidin; the nicotinoid that is suspected of annihilating 3,000,000 American bee colonies in the last four years. This neonicotinoid has been planted on 88 million acres of corn in America - every year since 2003 - , but it appears that it was never 'legally' registered as the study which was submitted by Bayer was invalid.

Cell death localization in situ in laboratory reared honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) larvae treated with pesticides

Abstract: In this study, cell death detected by DNA fragmentation labeling and phosphatidylserine (PS) localization was investigated in the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) midgut, salivary glands and ovaries after treating larvae with different pesticides offered via an artificial diet. To do this, honey bee larvae reared in an incubator were exposed to one of nine pesticides: chlorpyrifos, imidacloprid, amitraz, fluvalinate, coumaphos, myclobutanil, chlorothalonil, glyphosate and simazine. Following this, larvae were fixed and prepared for immunohistologically detected cellular death using two TUNEL techniques for DNA fragmentation labeling and Annexin V to detect the localization of exposed PS specific in situ binding to apoptotic cells.
Untreated larvae experienced 10% midgut apoptotic cell death under controlled conditions. All applied pesticides triggered an increase in apoptosis in treated compared to untreated larvae. The level of cell death in the midgut of simazine-treated larvae was highest at 77% mortality and statistically similar to the level of cell death for chlorpyrifos (65%), imidacloprid (61%), myclobutanil (69%), and glyphosate (69%) treated larvae. Larvae exposed to fluvalinate had the lowest midgut columnar apoptotic cell death (30%) of any pesticide-treated larvae. Indications of elevated apoptotic cell death in salivary glands and ovaries after pesticide application were detected. Annexin V localization, indicative of apoptotic cell deletion, had an extensive distribution in the midgut, salivary glands and ovaries of pesticide-treated larvae.
The data suggest that the tested pesticides induced apoptosis in tissues of honey bee larvae at the tested concentrations. Cell death localization as a tool for a monitoring the subclinical and sub-lethal effects of external influences on honey bee larval tissues is discussed.

UK HOUSE OF COMMONS EARLY DAY MOTION AND DEBATE TO BAN NEONICOTINOIDS

There is a debate on Tuesday 25 January 2011 at 1.30pm - 2pm in Westminster Hall - Effect of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees and other invertebrates - Martin Caton, MP. The debate on the 25th is an adjournment debate and as such there will have to be a response from the Minister on the points raised in the debate. It is open to the public.

Text of the Early Day Motion EDM 1267 tabled by Caton, Martin
IMPACT OF NEONICOTINOID PESTICIDES ON BEES AND OTHER INVERTEBRATES
13.01.2011
That this House is gravely concerned by the contents of a recently leaked memo from the US Environment Protection Agency whose scientists warn that bees and other non-target invertebrates are at risk from a new neonicotinoid pesticide and that tests in the US approval process are insufficient to detect the environmental damage caused; acknowledges that these findings reflect the conclusions of a 2009 `Buglife' report that identified similar inadequacies in the European approval regime with regard to neonicotinoids; notes reports that bee populations have soared in four European countries that have banned these chemicals; and therefore calls on the Government to act urgently to suspend all existing approvals for products containing neonicotinoids and fipronil pending more exhaustive tests and the development of international methodologies for properly assessing the long-term effects of systemic pesticides on invertebrate populations.

Behind the Label: Flea Powder

Fleas and ticks are a profitable market for the chemical/pesticide industry, but ‘convenient’ spot-on flea and tick treatments have come under fire recently. The active ingredients in these pet products used to be organophosphates (such as chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, phosmet, naled, tetrachlorvinphos, diazinon, or malathion) and carbamates (such as carbaryl or propoxur), but these chemicals are being phased out and replaced by newer insecticides such as imidacloprid. Modern ‘spot-on’ products may not harm pets or humans with the initial exposure, or even after several exposures. Exposed in this way it takes longer for negative effects to reveal themselves. Small chronic exposures add up. As with small children, pets cannot report when they’re being poisoned at low doses.

Pesticides are implicated in lower yields of pollinator-dependent crops in India

Wild honey collection in the Kutch region of Gujarat (India) last year fell to 50 tonnes from the usual 300 tonnes in previous years because of the fall in the number of honey bees. The yield of certain native crops like date palms, lemon, papaya and kesar mangoes has also decreased. In Malda, West Bengal, mango honey was once good business, but farmers say bees are now avoiding mango trees. Dr Parthiba Basu, University of Calcutta, has investigated the decline. His research team’s findings show that the yields of pollinator-independent crops have continued to increase, whereas pollinator-dependent crops have levelled off. In an attempt to identify an underlying cause for the pollinator decline, the team is comparing conventional agriculture with ecological farming. Basu states there is an obvious indication that within the ecological farming setting (where harmful pesticides are not used), there is pollinator abundance.

Tea products contain excessive imidacloprid residues

Two out of 20 tea products recently tested in New Taipei City contained excessive levels of pesticide residue, according to the results of a food safety check released by the city's Public Health Bureau. The bureau found that the products contained more than twice the tolerable limits of below 3 ppm and 1 ppm for Imidacloprid and Carbofuran, respectively.

Beekeepers fume at association's endorsement of fatal insecticides

Britain's beekeepers are at war over their association's endorsement for money of four insecticides, all of them fatal to bees, made by major chemical companies. The British Beekeepers' Association has been selling its logo to four European pesticide producers and is believed to have received about £175,000 in return. The active ingredient chemicals in the four pesticides the beekeepers endorsed are synthetic pyrethroids, which are among the most powerful of modern insect-killers.

Michael McCarthy: BBKA oligarchy has buried the truth in its cosy relationship with the pesticide lobby

The saga of the British Beekeepers' Association (BBKA) and its long-term pesticide endorsements is quite extraordinary. For 10 years, the BBKA has been giving its official blessing to four insecticides as "bee-friendly" or "bee-safe" – for example, the May 2001 newsletter BBKA News referred to "the BBKA's endorsement of Fury as a bee-safe product", while another piece in August 2005 said "the products we endorse are bee-friendly when used properly". Yet the active ingredients of these products are among the most deadly substances for bees existing on the planet. Good old bee-safe Fury contains cypermethrin, the second most toxic insecticide to honey bees out of 100 tested.

Open Letter to the British Bee Keepers Association

Since 2001, the British Bee Keepers Association has been receiving in the region of £17,500 per annum from pesticide manufacturers Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and Belchim in return for the BBKA's endorsement of several insecticides as 'bee-friendly'.
The BBKA policy of accepting money from such corporations, taken without consulting the membership, has been condemned by many of its members, other European bee keeping associations and some NGOs as unethical.
While the Executive have now changed their mind again and have dropped the direct endorsement of pesticides, there are still some very important questions that remain unanswered.
And - importantly - they have not ruled out accepting money from the pesticide manufacturers under other pretexts.
We call on the BBKA to sever all financial ties to manufacturers, sellers and promoters of any substance known to be or likely to be toxic to bees or other insects.

Philip Chandler, Friends of the Bees
Dr. Hugh Salvesen, Trustee, Natural Beekeeping Trust
Read the full open letter and the 10 questions

Have we learned nothing since 'Silent Spring'?

The Independent, 7 Jan 2011
Nicotine, found in tobacco, is a deadly substance – and not only for smokers. It has long been known as a powerful natural insecticide, and its presence in the tobacco crop has evolved to deter pests; it is toxic to virtually all of them.
In the great mysterious crash of bee populations, which has been gathering speed around the world for the past decade or so, and which has started to alarm even governments because of the vast worth of bee pollination to the agricultural economy (more than £12bn annually just in Europe), neonicotinoids are increasingly suspect. In the great crash of other insect populations which has similarly been taking place, about which governments do not give a toss but which nonetheless threatens the natural environment with catastrophe (many insectivorous birds are dropping dramatically in numbers), neonicotinoids are similarly in the frame.
Read the full story in The Independent:
www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/nature_studies/nature-studies-by-michael-mccarthy-have-we-learned-nothing-since-silent-spring-2177935.html

Avaaz.org calls for ban on bee-killing pesticides - more than 1,000,000 signatures on 20.01.2011

[NGO Viewpoint] AMERICAN BEE EMERGENCY -- ACT NOW!
Bees are dying off and our entire food chain is in peril. Scientists blame toxic pesticides, and four European governments have already banned them, but the deadly poison is still for sale in the USA. If we urgently get the government to join the ban we could save bees from extinction. Sign the petition and forward this appeal

Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees

Abstract: Bumble bees (Bombus) are vitally important pollinators of wild plants and agricultural crops worldwide. Fragmentary observations, however, have suggested population declines in several North American species. Despite rising concern over these observations in the United States, highlighted in a recent National Academy of Sciences report, a national assessment of the geographic scope and possible causal factors of bumble bee decline is lacking. Here, we report results of a 3-y interdisciplinary study of changing distributions, population genetic structure, and levels of pathogen infection in bumble bee populations across the United States. We compare current and historical distributions of eight species, compiling a database of >73,000 museum records for comparison with data from intensive nationwide surveys of >16,000 specimens. We show that the relative abundances of four species have declined by up to 96% and that their surveyed geographic ranges have contracted by 23–87%, some within the last 20 y. We also show that declining populations have significantly higher infection levels of the microsporidian pathogen Nosema bombi and lower genetic diversity compared with co-occurring populations of the stable (nondeclining) species. Higher pathogen prevalence and reduced genetic diversity are, thus, realistic predictors of these alarming patterns of decline in North America, although cause and effect remain uncertain.

EU beekeeping associations are calling for an urgent revision of pesticide regulations

The European Beekeeping Coordination (EBC), a task force of professional beekeeping associations from across the EU, is calling for an urgent revision of the way pesticides and their active substances are authorised in the EU. In a leaked memo EPA scientists state that “information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects” and they criticise existing approvals research as deficient and request additional tests “for additional chronic testing on bee hive activity (e.g., effects to queen, larvae, etc.).”

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