Tuesday, July 30, 2013

There's *Another* Chemical Type Involved in CCD?!

I've talked about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) a few times in the past, and I honestly thought I'd be giving it a rest for a while.

I mean, there are only so many times that I can talk about it before it becomes repetitive and dull, after all.  People need breaks.

But then I caught an article on Treehugger.com.  

Jaymi Heimbuch brought up something vastly different from what I had heard before.  The article was entitled, Scientists discover another cause of bee deaths, and its really bad news.

In this article, Heimbuch discussed a study that was recently published in PLOS One that pointed to fungicides as a major contributor to massive bee deaths.  In this study, it was found that bees exposed to high loads of two different fungicides, esfenvalerate and phosmet, were more susceptible to Nosema infection.

Nosema is a digestive infection that causes high die-offs of adult bees, mostly away from the hive, with only a few found near the hive entrance.  When the spores that produce this infection are ingested, they germinate within only 30 minutes.  The infected cells of the stomach lining are shed, but instead of producing normal stomach juices, they produce more spores.  The eggs of queen bees in infected hives may not mature.  Nurse bees stop producing honey to feed the larvae. Bees become more likely to develop dysentary. Life span of bees is reduced by half. 

Don't worry... Monsanto isn't off the hook.

Neonicotinoids are still a strong factor in CCD.  The huge bee die-off still occurred in a Target parking lot after pesticides were used.  Nobody is trying to redirect attention.  For that matter, the study even pointed out that these chemicals were found in collected pollen.

But it also points out that the problem is worse than we think.  You see, we hadn't considered fungicides to be a problem before now.  We thought they were relatively harmless to bees, and yet, two specific fungicides seem to be a very big problem.


The first step is acknowledgement.  Now that we see there's a problem, we can take steps to fix it. Indeed, that step was deemed necessary in the study's abstract, as well.
"While fungicides are typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees, we found an increased probability of Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load. Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees placed in an agricultural setting are exposed to." (full PLOS One study)
But what can the rest of us do, while the scientists are working at their end?

Garden organically.  Learn companion planting methods.  Go permacultural, even!

That may not seem like much, but if non-farmers like us stayed away from pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, total use of these chemicals would drop significantly.  These chemicals are overused in people's yards, anyway, since we have to habit to drown weeds in chemicals, rather than simply apply the necessary dosage.

We can blame the chemical companies all we want, but it'll do no good unless we change our own habits.

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