Oops the canaries have stopped singing!
Today we have honeybees dying in large numbers – colony collapse disorder (CCD). Could something as popular as the pesticide imidicloprid be hard on them? What does the die-off mean?
Old-time miners used to carry a caged canary down into the coal mine to check if the air was fit to breathe. The canary would breathe faster than the miners and would feel the effect of low oxygen or poisonous gas much sooner than the miner. It was a sensitive indicator of the environmental condition. When the canary fell to the bottom of the cage, it was time to drop everything and skedaddle out of the mine.
Some believe that the honeybee die-off is synonymous to the canary in the coal mine and an indictment of the way we do agriculture: too much pesticide sprayed on more and more land, destruction of natural habitats, genetically mutated plants that may carry environmental time bombs, and massive fields of one variety of plant – all leading to an unhealthy environment.
Others are suspicious of Bayer’s favorite chemical, imidacloprid, found in Admire, Merit, Provado, Bayer Advanced, etc… It is not an idle guess. This supposedly low-risk pesticide disorients bees at the level of 20 parts per BILLION according to Bayer’s published study. This pesticide is worth hundreds of millions of dollars in sales for Bayer, some of which reaches the pockets of Washington D.C. officials as a thank you for ensuring that the EPA does not release the test data on bees required for registration of the same pesticide. Finally there is talk that the newer generation Bayer pesticide clothianidin, Pancho, may be contributing to bee deaths as well. This new generation pesticide kills and disorients bees at even lower concentrations than imidicloprid.
It’s a shame how far commercial beekeeping has strayed from the roots of gently caring for bees’ needs. Modern beekeeping has to employ toxic chemicals to control diseases and pests in the hive, truck bees all the way across the continent to pollinate almonds in California, all the while exposing bees to toxic pesticides in commercial orchards, and feeding them plain sugar and soy flour after removing all their honey and pollen. Some claim that organic and biodynamic beekeepers don’t have CCD because their bees aren’t exposed to all of these stresses.
Well, there is not enough data to come to a conclusion, so our opinions are as good as the next guy’s. While I work on my next post about the natural remedies I know about, let me know what you think. Let’s discuss some of the organic options for caring for bees.