Dead European honeybees have almost 57 different pesticides detected, according to a new paper in the Journal of Chromatography.
Should that be a concern? Not really. The great thing about modern technology is that we can detect parts per trillion, orders of magnitude what can be harmful. When we review the affects of radiation poisoning to humans there is abundant research, not only the survivors of Hiroshima/Nagasaki but also several generations beyond. While the affects of low doses over protracted period of time remain unclear. Similarly proponents of low-dose effect, like environmental groups and researchers enabling them, will want to claim that being able to detect something means it must be bad.
The use of antibiotics in humans such as penicillin which was first introduced in 1942 which proved a miracle to disease control but also witnessed bacterial resistance demanding more potent pharmaceuticals to combat the same diseases as time moved forward. The use of anti Varroa Mite medications have incurred the same need for fourth of fifth generation retardants. I personally perform a ‘sugar shake’ test for mites before and after to validate the need for treatment and effectiveness post treatment.
Nutritional stress undermines colony health through a variety of mechanisms, including immune system harm and reduction in reproductive viability. One key component of nutritional stress for honey bees includes habitat loss that results in a less varied and therefore less nutritious diet. Habitat loss has been occurring steadily for the last 50 years with measurable effects on bee health. For instance, regional differences in ratios of open to developed land have been traced to higher colony losses. One key driver of recent habitat loss is the increased use of broad-spectrum herbicides that accompanies herbicide-resistant, genetically engineered crops.
Pathogens like parasitic mites, viruses and a gut fungus have garnered the most media attention as causal factors in CCD. Multiple studies have confirmed, however, that there is no single pathogen associated with the disorder. In an analysis of studies published as of early 2009, two leading U.S. researchers noted that “…no single pathogen found in the insects could explain the scale of the disappearance. In other words, the bees were all sick, but each colony seemed to suffer from a different combination of diseases.”xi Parasitic mites of the genus Varroa are the most important pest to honey bees globally and act as vectors to transmit a number of viruses that significantly weaken colonies. Deformed wing virus and a trio of related paralysis viruses have also emerged as important to colony losses, as has a fungal gut pathogen of the genus Nosema. Emerging microbiota research points to the possible disruption of normal, symbiotic bee gut cultures by a combination of stressors resulting in increased susceptibility to pathogens.
Pesticides have been known to cause large-scale bee deaths since the early 1900s, many through direct poisoning during aerial sprays. These types of acute bee die-offs are not at issue in CCD, although they do still happen. Sub-lethal effects, less studied and understood than acute effects, have become a key concern as systemic neonicotinoid pesticides —present in small amounts throughout plant tissues from seed to harvest—have become an important and rapidly growing segment of the global insecticide market since their introduction in the 1990s. Other pesticides of concern include those used by beekeepers to control pathogens, and certain fungicides thought to be safe for bees which have recently been found to act synergistically with some neonicotinoids, increasing the latter pesticides’ bee toxicity by 200- to 1,000-fold.
What is to be surmised from all this. It is easy to jump to conclusions or glob onto to the most recent study; fact is with science many factions must examine from opposing directions to bring “truth” to the surface. Dr. Dewey Caron’s presentation recently brought the differences in colony loss of commercial beekeepers (11%) while backyard beekeeper incurs 30-35%.
We have much to learn!