EU Honeybees Get Reprieve


B. McPherson

The EU has taken steps to slow the decline of the honeybees by banning the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. The ban will last for two years. The vote for the ending use of neonicotinoids was split, so the time will be used to investigate their effect on the honeybees which have had catastrophic declines.

Delegates from the UK voted against the ban, citing lack of good scientific evidence. The ban will not affect this year’s planting, but start in December. 

Ontario farmers are being urged to work with bee keepers in that province to mitigate bee deaths. Corn seed is routinely coated in the pesticide. The whole plant then carries the poison. Some speculate that the dust from the pesticide becomes airborne and poisons the bees. European researchers found that a high percentage of dead bees contained traces of the pesticide.

Honeybees are important pollinators of crops. Their work is worth billions of dollars in increased food production. While there are many other insects, birds and mammals that also do this job, honey bees have been domesticated. Research on wild pollinators is pointing to a decline in our other helpers as well.

Not all the blame for the decline of the bees can fall on pesticides. Hive collapse has been blamed on parasites, stress and microwaves. The varroa mite, a tracheal mite, a parasitic fly are just a few of the dangers the little honey makers face. The  relatively recent practise of renting the use of bee hives to pollinate crops has the little insects moved throughout the summer, stressing them as they adapt to new surroundings. Another new problem for the bees may be the expanding networks of microwaves. Some researchers have found that placing a cell phone(turned on) in or near a hive will disorient bees and they become lost.

Neonicotinoids are a relatively new insecticide group that mimics the action of nicotine, a well known poison, and is very effective in controlling insects. Using the insecticide makes the whole plant poisonous to insects and makes for a healthy, high yielding crop. They are widely used and banning them will certainly impact on the chemical supply companies.

Pesticide Action Network UK has published a list of brand names that use this insecticide.

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