Production Blog
Pam Smith DTN\Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

Thursday 05/15/14

May Bee Mystery
The loss of a few beehives may not seem like a big deal unless they are yours. Honey, this is a tough business.[Read Full Blog Post]
Posted at 2:22PM CDT 05/15/14 by Pam Smith | Post a Comment
Comments (2)
The warning klaxons regarding the loss of bees, the relationship with Ag Chemicals, and the consequences have been sounding for a few years-in the EU for longer yet. However, those of us pointing this out generally get dismissed as "Anti-Science", Conspiracy Theorists, or simply unqualified to offer an opinion. Yet, here again we are being justified for our alarm. Simply put-no bees-no crops. Of course, since you CAN buy NEW seeds next year, AND make a profit from subsidies and crop insurance, the Corn and Beans will be fine. It's EVERYTHING else that's at risk. As this excerpt from a recent study posted in the online magazine Quartz suggests: "Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch�s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once. When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite. Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they�re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples. �There�s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,� Dennis van Engelsdorp, the study�s lead author, told Quartz. Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides. Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country�s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that�s not just a west coast problem�California supplies 80% of the world�s almonds, a market worth $4 billion. In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two years in Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But van Engelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health. �The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,� he says. �It�s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.� The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying. �It�s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,� says van Engelsdorp." Perhaps it's time to take some of this seriously as we see the number and potency of resistance increasing and the American Farmer being forced to purchase escalating amounts of chemicals and fertilizers to produce a crop. Ask your friendly Agronomist to explain HOW this can ever be sustainable, and how you make a cherry pie from corn and beans? Article Excerpted from Quartz: http://qz.com/107970/scientists-discover-whats-killing-the-bees-and-its-worse-than-you-thought/
Posted by Ric Ohge at 12:54PM CDT 05/20/14
Maybe I am misremembering something but it seems years ago you could not import bees into the US. When other countries were pushing for import they finally succeeded in getting the right to import. About the same time Israel and Australia were working on a big problem with hive collapse and could not come up with a solution. Anyone else remember that? And what did they do about the problem, if anything.
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 8:59AM CDT 05/22/14
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