Bee decline more complex than blaming pesticides

Bee decline more complex than blaming pesticides

One recent morning I had some nice whole wheat frozen waffles for breakfast, slathered with honey. It was quite tasty. Not certain of the nutritional value, but it was pleasing to the palate.

I often eat honey on pancakes, waffles, biscuits and peanut butter sandwiches. I’ve always liked honey. My grandfather was a beekeeper and kept us supplied with the sweet goodness of home-grown honey. I liked to chew on the honey comb, a sight better tasting than chewing gum.

Consequently, I like bees. I appreciate their contribution to my sweet tooth, to the environment, and to the good of mankind. Without their activity, plant pollination would be severely diminished; crop production would be imperiled, and the world would not be a fit place to live.

That’s why Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) should be of concern to us all. It’s something we should take seriously as it could affect life on earth. It’s why we need to put our best science to work to find out what causes the disappearance of whole colonies of bees and then find ways to prevent that from happening. It’s also why we need to make certain that the actions we take are not counterproductive, based on emotion and misinformation and that create more problems than they solve.

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Pesticide use, of course, is the first “usual suspect” to be rounded up and blamed for CCD. Neonicotinoids come in for the closest scrutiny. Pesticides may play a role, but, based on recent reports, studies and ongoing research, the problem is far more complex than pesticide use. In fact, a recent report from Australia may indicate that neonicotinoid use has led to an "overall reduction in the risks to the agricultural environment from the application of insecticides." 

Australian agriculture uses neonicotinoid insecticides. But Australia does not have been decline.

I sat in on a pollinator discussion recently that included representatives from an environmental group, University research and an agricultural commodity association. Backgrounds were different.  The ultimate goal, however, was not. No one wants to see bee populations decline. It’s not good for society; it’s not good for the environment; it’s not good for agriculture.

The upshot of that particular discussion was, as was the case with the Aussie report, the issue is much more complex than a conclusion that one-culprit is guilty of all bee killing. In fact, evidence indicates that pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, may have less effect on colony collapse than was first believed.

Other factors, specifically varroa mites, apparently have a bigger influence on bee decline.  Disease, climate, stress and bee hive management all likely play roles in bee health.

Ag interests, meanwhile, are taking seriously the possibility that some practices may have negative effects on bees and other pollinators and are trying to find where and when bees and insecticides intersect. Knowing more about bee behavior, they say, will allow agricultural interests to develop programs that target applications to when bees are less active in the fields.

Bee decline results from multiple stressors

A hopeful sign is that diverse groups are working together to do the research and to develop systems to protect crops, protect the environment and to save bees.  Now that’s a sweet deal.


Also of interest:

Cooperation needed for pollinator protection challenge

Honey bees run the world

Partnerships help conserve water resources

TAGS: Management
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