By Brent Fewell
Linking to a report over at ConservAmerica regarding the recent collapse of bee colonies here in the U.S. The cause is still not clear but, since 2006, over 25 percent of domestic colonies have died off from what is being referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder. If this trend continues, it could be devastating to agriculture that depends upon commercial bee hives for crop pollination. New research suggests that feeding bees high fructose syrup, as a substitute for honey, could potentially leave them vulnerable to disease due to a weakened immune system. Another possible explanation is poisoning from pesticides. Given the direct link to food production and prices, this is an issue that warrants more serious attention.
[Update May 18, 2015]: In the interest of providing new updates on this topic as the science develops, an interesting wrinkle that readers must weigh as we sort through the wheat and chaff, which bears on the credibility of some scientists that have raised concerns. It would appear that the IUCN’s neonic task force has engaged in a campaign of sorts that tends to call into question the integrity of some of the recent research and science on the impacts neonic’s are having on bees and other organisms. Although such activist campaigns are not themselves dispositive on the issue of risk and impacts, but they certainly can go a long way to discredit the scientists involved. We will continue to provide you with updates as we receive them. See also this Forbes article by Henry Miller, the New Bee Crisis is Just Like the Old One: Phony.
[Update Aug. 1, 2014]: Have done some more digging on this issue. There is increasing evidence that one of the most widely used insecticides, neonicotinoids, also used in seed-treatments, could be causing the die-off. There is also increasing concern, based on a thorough review by Dr. Pierre Mineau, a distinguished Canadian scientist, on behalf of the American Bird Conservancy, that neonicotionids, while less acutely toxic than prior insecticides such as organophosphates and carbamates, are far more toxic to birds than previously believed. Concerned scientists are now calling upon EPA to conduct additional reviews of neonicotinoids’ impact on birds, aquatic invertebrates and other wildlife and suspend all applications pending further review.]
[Update July 2014]: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced July 17 2014 in this memo that the agency will no longer use neonicotinoids at wildlife refuges]