Honey bee deaths have been soaring with 40 to 50 percent of hives being wiped out due to a mysterious illness. Some researchers and beekeepers say there’s growing evidence that a powerful group of pesticides known as neonicotinoids are responsible for the increase. Beekeepers say they typically lose 5 to 10 percent of their hives each year, but since 2005 those numbers have been growing.
It’s not clear why last year’s bee deaths were so high, but some blame it on drought conditions, others on viruses or bee mites that are resistant to pesticides. There has been a huge growth in the use of neonicotinoids since 2005 and many beekeepers are starting to wonder if the pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide cocktail their bees are dining on is responsible.
The pesticide industry doesn’t believe that their chemicals are playing a part in the decimation of hives, but are indicating that they’re willing to look at more studies. The EPA is looking into the situation further and has visited the San Joaquin Valley in California where bees are used to pollinate almond groves. The Department of Agriculture is also looking at the honey bee deaths and will be issuing their own assessment in May. The truth is this new class of neonicotinoids hasn’t been thoroughly studied and there hasn’t been a study of the combination of chemicals the bees are ingesting as they do their work to pollinate crops. Researchers found 150 trace amounts of chemicals in bee pollen and hive wax.
One of the nation’s largest beekeepers, Adee Honey Farms of South Dakota, had a 55 percent loss. One of the owners, Bret Adee, said he used to feel differently about environmentalists’ concerns, but now he thinks they may have a point–and that they were ahead of everyone else in sounding the alarm over honey bee deaths.
Read the full New York Times article here.
Honey Bees Aren’t Just For Making Honey
Many people don’t give much more thought to honey bees other than to acknowledge that they make honey. But they’re so much more important to our food system. Many fruits and vegetables that are part of the American diet including apples, watermelon, and cherries require pollination to produce fruit.
While industrial bees are eating a soup of chemicals and seem to be facing extinction, local honey bees that pollinate pesticide-free crops are the way to go to ensure the survival of not only the bees, but our local food system. Supporting your local beekeeper is one way you can do your part–buying organic almonds is another. It may be more expensive, but if you can even afford to do it once in a while you’ll still be part of a group of people trying to make a difference.