Environment: Honeybees take another big hit

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off.

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off. @bberwyn photo.

Annual survey shows disturbing rise in summer bee colony losses

Staff Report

FRISCO — Commercial beekeepers took another big hit last summer, reporting that they lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the past year. Summer losses were higher than winter losses for the first time in five years, stoking concerns over the long-term trend of poor health in honey bee colonies, according to University of Maryland scientists. Continue reading

Environment: Neonicotinoids kill bees’ brain cells

‘Neonicotinoid pesticides are a risk to our bees and we should stop using them on plants that bees visit’

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A bumblebee visits wild fireweed to gather nectar and pollen. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say that neonicotinoid pesticides prevent bees from learning, feeding and reproducing by killing their brain cells.

“It is ironic that neonicotinoids, pesticides developed to preserve the health of plants, ultimately inflict tremendous damage on plant life,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D. “These chemicals destroy the insect communities required by plants for their own reproduction.” Continue reading

Study: Neonicotinoids taking a toll on wild bees

A bumblebee

New research links neonicotinoid pesticides with declines in wild bee populations. @bberwyn photo.

Evidence piling up that pesticides are big factor in global bee decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — Treating seeds with systemic neonicotinoid pesticides has a significant impact on wild bee populations, Swedish scientists reported last week in the journal Nature.

The field research showed that, when neonicotinoids are used as a seed coating, it reduces wild bee density, solitary bee nesting and bumblebee colony growth. The researchers concluded that the “contribution of pesticides to the global decline of wild bees may have been underestimated.” Continue reading

Study tracks huge surge in use of bee-killing pesticides

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria.

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Treatment of corn and soybean seeds driving the increase

Staff Report

FRISCO — Penn State researchers say the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides spiked in the mid-2000s, not in response to a documented crop threat, but as a prophylactic treatment against uncertain insect attacks.

The growth is primarily due to the use of neonicotinoids in the treatment of corn and soybean seeds. In 2000,  less than 5 percent of soybean acres and less than 30 percent of corn acres were treated with an insecticide, but by 2011, at least a third of all soybean acres and at least 79 percent of all corn acres were planted with neonicotinoid-coated seed. Continue reading

EPA dials back use of dangerous systemic pesticides

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Pesticide-free sunflowers thrive on this organic farm in Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Agency says it won’t permit any new uses until pollinator safety studies are done

By Bob Berwyn

*More Summit Voice stories on pesticides and honey bees here

FRISCO — Under persistent pressure from the public and environmental activists, the EPA today started dialing back the use of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides that have been implicated in the decline and collapse of honeybee colonies around the world.

In a notice to entities using those pesticides, the EPA said it would not be accepting any new applications: “EPA believes that until the data on pollinator health have been received and appropriate risk assessments completed, it is unlikely to be in a position to determine that such uses would avoid “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” as required by federal environmental regulations, the agency wrote in its April 2 letter to registered users. Continue reading

Environment: What’s killing our honeybees?

A bumblebee

What’s killing our bees? bberwyn photo.

New study suggests a common pesticide is “safe” at normal exposure levels

Staff Report

FRISCO — While many recent reports have shown that systemic pesticides are decimating honeybee populations, new research suggests that imidacloprid, the world’s most common insecticide, does not significantly harm honey bee colonies at real-world dosage levels. Continue reading

New map IDs pesticide pollution hot spots

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Pesticide pollution hotspots are identified in a new map.

Global warming could exacerbate pesticide woes

Staff Report

FRISCO — The world has a long way to go to come to grips with pesticide pollution say scientists who recently created a global map showing which areas are most susceptible.

Their modeling suggests that streams across about 40 percent of the planet’s surface are at risk from the application of insecticides, with the Mediterranean region, the USA, Central America and Southeast Asia among the hotspots.

On average, farmers apply about 4 million tons of agricultural pesticides  annually, equating to an average of 0.27 kilograms per hectare of the global land surface. Continue reading

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