Honeybees: Neonicotinoids and the Spiral of Death
Originally posted on Top-Bar-Beehives.com:
After leaving Wisconsin on Sunday morning, I traveled to Lake Carlos State Park, near Alexandria, MN. As I drove, I passed through multiple downpours and grey clouds filled the sky all they way to the lake.
At Lake Carlos, I found myself in an almost deserted camp ground where I enjoyed exploring the quiet trails along the lake and through the red oak woods. After a night’s rest, I headed out on Monday morning to meet with Jeff Anderson of California-Minnesota Honey Farms in Eagle Bend. As Jeff and his wife Christine ate breakfast, we discussed the changes occurring within beekeeping and the current state of their multi-generational pollination and honey operation. One of the primary foci of our talk was the impacts of neonicotinoids (one class of systemic insecticide) on their bees. Within the last year, Jeff reported a total loss of 67% of his family’s operation; a loss that if repeated, may force them to sell the business that Christine’s grandfather established.
Because neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning they become part of every cell of plant (and are now also in the soil and water), the impacts of these insecticides are somewhat different than the older poisons that have historically been used and therefor more attention needs to be given to these chemicals by beekeepers. Unlike the older chemicals that killed bees instantly in the field, neonicitinoids are being brought back into the hive by foragers, lengthening the brood time (intensifying varroa mites), reducing the Queen’s ability to lay fertile eggs and causing workers to become disorientated (due to the irreversible binding to the bees central nervous system).
Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co., who I met with in the afternoon, also spoke to me about the detrimental effects of neonicotinoids and described the current situation as a “spiral of death,” which has the capability of wiping out most pollinators, including the honeybee. Acknowledging the industrial agricultural system that our society relies on, a reduction of honeybees would greatly affect the world’s supply of almonds, cranberries, blueberries, carrots and other monocrops that are dependent on migratory beekeeping. Unlike the European Union who has recently banned some of the neonicotinoids, the EPA here in the US does not adequately regulate the use of these poisons, forcing Steve Ellis and others to sue the EPA over this issue.
While the outcome of Steve’s current lawsuit is yet to be determined, it is evident that we are in a dangerous situation worldwide. Unfortunately, we discussed previously on this blog, the use of these chemicals is widespread, jeopardizing both rural and urban honeybees, other pollinators, birds, humans and everything else that comes into contact with the poisons.
Like the other interviews I’m currently conducting, the videos with Jeff Anderson and Steve Ellis will be posted soon so please check back soon. This afternoon I will be meeting with Wendy from Its All About Bees and tomorrow I have the opportunity to get together with Michael Bush. More updates to come 🙂