I’m not sure if any of you out there have noticed it, but there have been tons of news articles over the last couple of weeks that discuss the state of bees on our planet. From pesticides to colony losses and potential food issues, bees are taking centre stage in the news and hopefully the awareness of how critical all of our pollinators are is spreading.
First came the big news from Monday, April 29, that Europe has banned neonicotinoid pesticides for two years in order to study and assess the effect that they have on pollinators.
This article from The Independent talks about the “victory for bees” as 15 of 27 European Union members voted to ban 3 particular neonicotinoids for use on flowering plants for the next two years. It is intended that the effect of these pesticides will be thoroughly studied over this time frame.
The scientific community is gathering support for the ban and calling for more field studies as companies like Bayer and Syngenta who produce these chemicals cite their own studies that show the chemicals to be safe for use.
Neonicotinoids are pesticides that are injected into the genetic material of seeds, which allows the plant to grow with the pesticide in all of the plant’s cells: the leaves, the pollen will all contain this pesticide. While the amounts of the pesticide are generally sub-lethal to honey and bumble bees, some research is showing that bees that are exposed to these chemicals (neurotoxins to insects) start behaving abnormally and lose some of their navigational abilities.
Last year, The Economist had a great article discussing the dangers and current use of neonicotinoids to pollinators.
Perhaps you’ve seen the internet memes that have been floating around Facebook calling for further bans in Canada or the States.
In the meantime, groups of beekeepers, conservation societies and food groups have sued the US Environmental Protection Agency over failing to protect pollinators in the States.
Next, news stories have been floating around that nearly a third of US honey bees have died over 2012.
With the high losses of bees both in the US and Canada this past year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is considering opening the borders to American bee packages. Our borders were originally closed to the import of any packaged bees from the States in 1987 when the risk of bringing bee disease like the varroa mite, or contaminating bee populations with the Africanized honey bee genes, was deemed too high. It was reviewed in 2003 and still determined to be too risky. Now with the extreme losses in bee populations that beekeepers are experiencing and the pressure to be allowed to buy cheaper bee packages from the States instead of New Zealand, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is revisiting the issue.
With all of the bees that have perished this year, there are stories surfacing of potential food shortages coming for this summer: blueberry farmers in the Lower Mainland near Vancouver are panicking that their orders of bee colonies necessary for the growing season haven’t arrived, California almond farmers are missing their needed truckloads of bees and the US expects to have food shortages this summer and subsequent rising prices on our usual fruits and veggies.
On a lighter note, there is a very neat story of urban architecture in Buffalo working to support a colony of bees that had made an old building its home.
Have you been keeping up with the “buzz” lately? Any other interesting studies or articles that have come out recently? Leave us a comment
The Independent: Victory for Bees
Nature: Europe Debates Risk to Bees
The Economist: Subtle Poison
Elizabeth May’s Petition to Ban Neonicotinoids
CBC: Canada wrestles with bee-killing crop pesticides
The Guardian: US Government sued over use of pesticides linked to bee harm
Wired: Third of US honey bees killed last winter, threatening food supply
The Vancouver Sun: Ban on US bees creating buzz in Canada
The Vancouver Sun: Bee shortage threatens lucrative blueberry crop
Wired: Tower for Bees