Much recent news has focused on the science & politics surrounding the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees. Neonicotinoids are infused into seeds and pervade the plant's vascular system, so that pests who feed on the plant are killed. When these pesticides were invented, the hope was that they would efficiently kill pests, help limit the need for spraying, yet spare "beneficial insects" like honey bees. However, research has raised serious concerns about the effect of sub-lethal doses of neonicotinoids that bees take in through feeding on & storing nectar & pollen from affected plants. Below are summaries of recent stories & links to complete articles.
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“Scientists may have finally solved mystery behind honey bee decline”: 21 July 2014, St. George News: A four year international study by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides has found “clear evidence of harm sufficient to trigger regulatory action” of neonicotinoid pesticides as the driving force behind honey bee decline. Among the chronic damage that the task force found even sublethal doses of neonics to cause bees are: “impaired sense of smell or memory; reduced fecundity; altered feeding behavior and reduced food intake including reduced foraging in bees; altered tunneling behavior in earthworms; difficulty in flight and increased susceptibility to disease.” Farmers spend $2.6 billion per year on neonics, which are injected into seeds and infuse all tissues as the plants grow, to eliminate pests and maximize crop yields, often using them as a preventative measure rather than in response to pest infestation.The task force urges legislators to take immediate steps to phase neonics out of agricultural use. To read more, visit: http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2014/07/21/kss-scientists-may-have-finally-solved-mystery-behind-honey-bee-decline/#.U9KGKP10zIV
“Bee Foraging Chronically Impaired by Pesticide Exposure: Study”: 10 July 2014, American Bee Journal
A joint Canadian / British study has found that “long-term exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide hampers bees' ability to forage for pollen.” Scientists attached “tiny radio frequency tags,” like those used to track packages in the mail, to bumbles to track their daily behavior, “including pollen collection and which flowers worker bees chose to visit.” Imidacloprid and pyrethoid seem to stop bees from learning foraging skills. Tracking “when individual bees left and returned to the colony, how much pollen they collected and from which flowers,” they discovered that “bees from untreated colonies got better at collecting pollen as they learned to forage. But bees exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides became less successful over time at collecting pollen.” Even though the colonies increased forager numbers to compensate, colony pollen collection dropped. The neonic-exposed bumbles chose different flowers than untreated bees did. To read more, visit: http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5fd2b1aa990e63193af2a573d&id=a76fdfe404&e=e9ff21e0bb.
Further details published by CBC include how the study strove to replicate field conditions: scientists turned loose “40 new, young colonies of bees to forage in the wild for four weeks at a time, but later in the growing season when their exposure to pesticides from farm fields should normally be very low. The pesticide levels were designed to be similar to what bees would be exposed to from pesticide-treated crops. A control group of 10 colonies were offered plain sugar water. The researchers found that the bees chose to drink all the sugar water, regardless of whether it contained pesticides or not.” In an earlier analysis of how neonics affected colonies, the researchers discovered “that colonies exposed to neonicotinoids had 25 per cent fewer workers and were significantly smaller at the end of the study period.” The researchers urge that long term, sublethal effects of neonics be considered in protocols for approving or renewing approval of these pesticides. For details, see http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/bee-foraging-skills-impaired-by-neonicotinoid-pesticides-1.2700266
“Decline in birds, not just bees, linked to neonicotinoid pesticides: pesticides likely affect birds by causing a decline in insects they use to feed their young”: 14 July 2014, CBC News
Silent Spring de ja vu: A Netherlands study has shown that bird populations decline when imidacloprid is present in “high concentrations” in lakes, streams, and other “surface waters.” Only 5% of imidacloprid applied to plants actually enters the plant’s vascular system: the rest is taken up by wind and run-off. 15 bird species were found to have declined between 2003 and 2010. The study, published in Nature, showed that “where concentrations of the pesticide were more than 20 nanograms per litre, populations of birds such as barn swallows, tree sparrow and common starlings fell 3.5 per cent a year, compared to the average population trend for their species.” Since neonics have not previously proven toxic to birds, the scientists believe that neonics kill insects that these birds need to feed their young, but they have not ruled out direct poisoning. A 2013 Canadian study showed that “a single kernel of imidacloprid-treated corn can kill small and ‘blue jay-sized birds,’ and sicken larger ones.” To read more, visit: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/decline-in-birds-not-just-bees-linked-to-neonicotinoid-pesticides-1.2706542.
“US Fish & Wildlife begins complete elimination of bee-killing pesticides in Pacific Region”: 15 July 2014, Greenpeace Blogs
Some good news on the neonicotinoid front: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has implemented at plan to phase out neonicotinoids in the Pacific National Wildlife Refuge Systems by 2016. Washington and Idaho are among states affected. USF&W cited “potential broad-spectrum adverse effects to non-target species” as the trigger for this move. Among the effects that USF&W noted even from sublethal doses are: “reduced fitness; reduced production of new queens and workers; decreasing production of females (more than decreasing the production of males); increased parasite loads; suppressed response to diseases and parasites; reduced feeding and/or impaired feeding behavior; delayed nest building; fewer eggs; reduced life span and worker biomass; altered learning ability and orientation/navigation.”
Though neonics are not normally used in wildlife refuges, because of wind drift and runoff, they can pose dangers to these areas. USF&W further found that prophylactic use of neonics does not fit the practice of integrated pest management. Between now and 2016, those planning to use neonics on refuge land will have to submit a proposal calculating an acceptable application rate; starting in 2016, these applications will no longer be honored.
For links to USF&W’s memorandum, including a very detailed explanation of just how neonicotinoids work, visit: http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2014/07/15/us-fish-wildlife-begins-complete-elimination-bee-killing-pesticides-pacific-region/
“Home Depot to label plants exposed to bee-killing pesticide: Evidence mounts against neonicotinoids”: 10 July 2014, CBC News
Not only U.S. Home Depot stores, but also those in Canada will label plants they sell that “have been exposed to neonicotinoids.” The retailer’s step in part responds to a “Friends of the Earth study that found home garden plants, including "bee-friendly” plants such as Shasta daisy and salvia, contain neonicotinoids.” The province of Ontario’s agriculture minister announced that Ontario will investigate ways to limit use of neonics by its farmers of corn, canola and soybeans: farmers warned that such a move could reduce food production.
To read more, visit: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/home-depot-to-label-plants-exposed-to-bee-killing-pesticide-1.2701353
“EPA is Advancing Pollinator Science and Sharing Useful Information with Growers and Beekeepers”: 20 June 2014, American Bee Journal
Spurred by the White House Pollinator Health Task Force initiative, The EPA has unveiled an online “Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance” site aimed at helping “risk managers” evaluate dangers to bees and other pollinators, analyzing the impact of neonicotinoids on not only individual bees, but colonies. EPA is now revisiting the data that pesticide registrants are required to submit but expects that it will be years before “full-field studies” data are available. Meanwhile, to help farmers choose among pesticides, EPA “has also posted our Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality (RT25) Data online. Bees may be susceptible to harm from direct exposure to pesticides sprayed on flowering plants, but pesticide residues generally decrease in toxicity as the spray dries and time passes. Farmers and beekeepers can use EPA's RT25 data to gauge the amount of time after application that a particular pesticide product remains toxic enough under real-world conditions to kill 25 percent of bees that are exposed to residues on treated plant surfaces.” To read more, visit: http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=5fd2b1aa990e63193af2a573d&id=aaf778205c&e=e9ff21e0bb
“White House Task Force To Save Bees Stirs Hornet's Nest”: 27 June, 2014, NPR.org
President Obama’s initiative in part responds to the 2013 "Saving America's Pollinators Act" (sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.). This bill would have forced the EPA to “suspend neonicotinoid licensing while additional research was conducted.” The bill was “stalled” after lobbying by pesticide manufacturers, Bayer and Syngenta among them, Monsanto, and “a number of farming groups”; however, this June, 3 California congressmen, concerned about dangers to the almond industry from bee die-offs, have co-sponsored the bill.
The president’s directive effectively requires scientists to prove further that neonicotinoids are dangerous to bees rather than ban them based on existing evidence, as the EU nations did in 2013. Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups criticized the president’s initiative, saying that it “does not go far enough.” Citing a May 2014 Harvard School of Public Health study linking the neonicotinoids imidacloprid and clothianidin and colony collapse disorder, FOE argues that “the administration should prevent the release and use of these toxic pesticides until [they are] determined safe." [To read about the Harvard School of Public Health study, visit: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/study-strengthens-link-between-neonicotinoids-and-collapse-of-honey-bee-colonies/ ]
Neonicotinoids have become a cornerstone of pest prevention in large scale agriculture: for example, more than 90% of U.S.-grown corn seeds are infused with the chemicals. The companies lobbying against “Saving America’s Pollinators Act” have invested in “bee-oriented public relations effort[s] — Monsanto hosted a "Honey Bee Health Summit" in St. Louis last summer, while Bayer has opened "Bee Care Centers," first in Germany as the EU considered its ban, and then in North Carolina last April.”
“Our Bees, Ourselves: Bees and Colony Collapse”: 14 July 2014, The New York Times
Mark Winston, a biologist and the director of the Center for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, urges human beings to study honey bee collapse to help us avert our own. “[A] core lesson from the bees that we ignore at our peril [is] the concept of synergy, where one plus one equals three, or four, or more. A typical honeybee colony contains residue from more than 120 pesticides. Alone, each represents a benign dose. But together they form a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases.” The writer draws a parallel with pharmaceutical drug interactions in people and comments: “[p]esticides have medical impacts as potent as pharmaceuticals do, yet we know virtually nothing about their synergistic impacts on our health, or their interplay with human diseases.”
Winston’s laboratory studied canola farms and found that “crop yields, and thus profits, are maximized if considerable acreages of cropland are left uncultivated to support wild pollinators. A variety of wild plants means a healthier, more diverse bee population, which will then move to the planted fields next door in larger and more active numbers. Indeed, farmers who planted their entire field would earn about $27,000 in profit per farm, whereas those who left a third unplanted for bees to nest and forage in would earn $65,000 on a farm of similar size.” Winston’s findings are about to be published in Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive.
To read more, visit: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/07/15/opinion/bees-and-colony-collapse.html?referrer&_r=0
“Bee-friendly” plants sold at Wal-Mart, Home Depot actually contain bee-killing pesticides”: 26 June 2014, Salon.com
The Pesticide Research Institute and Friends of the Earth announced that “[m]ore than half of the purportedly “bee-friendly” plants sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart garden centers across the U.S. and Canada actually contain neonicotinoids.” If you are a home gardener concerned about this, see the next story, and you can find more resources on LCBA’s website: http://www.lewiscountybeekeepers.org/plant_for_bees
Researchers bought “71 bee-friendly plants—including daisies, lavender, marigolds, asters and primrose—at 18 Lowe’s, Walmart and Home Depot outlets across the United States and Canada. For more than half of the plants, the researchers measured neonicotinoid residues in the flowers at levels between 2 and 748 parts per billion.” To put this in context, University of Minnesota exo-toxicologist Vera Krischik explains that “a dose of 192 parts per billion is enough to kill a honeybee . . . and dozens of studies have found impairments in bee navigation, memory and foraging ability at between 4 and 30 parts per billion.” Wild pollinators with smaller hive populations, like bumblebees, are also at risk from garden plants infused with neonicotinoids.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature” conducted a four-year study comparing results of research on neonicotinoids: their conclusion is that neonicotinoids are not only “a key factor in the decline of bees,” but cause other environmental dangers (for more about this study, visit http://www.iucn.org/news_homepage/?16025/Systemic-Pesticides-Pose-Global-Threat-to-Biodiversity-And-Ecosystem-Services ). “One scientist with the task force called the chemicals the “new DDT” — except worse, because they wipe out the bottom of the food chain, and they’re 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic.” To read more, visit: http://www.salon.com/2014/06/26/bee_friendly_plants_sold_at_wal_mart_home_depot_actually_contain_bee_killing_pesticides/?source=newsletter .
“US National Pesticide Center beefs up mobile presence”: 14 May 2014, OSU News
Oregon State University’s National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) now offers apps for smartphones and tablets that answer your questions about pesticide use: the apps have been funded by a $5 million EPA grant. The Pesticide Education and Search Tool (PEST) “offers quick, bulleted information on more than a dozen common pests.” Not only this, the apps “suggest alternatives to pesticides for common urban pests, like fleas, rodents and bed bugs.” To visit NPIC's website and download mobile apps, go to: http://npic.orst.edu. To read more, visit: http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2014/may/national-pesticide-information-center-beefs-mobile-presence-5-million-award .
“Scientists May Have Finally Pinpointed What's Killing All The Honeybees”: 13 May 2014, Yahoo News
A hotly contested Harvard University study connects colony collapse disorder to sub-lethal doses of neonicotinoid pesticides.” Dr. Chensheng Lu and his team examined “how low doses of two neoniotinoids — imidacloprid and clothianidin — affected healthy bee hives over the course of a winter.” The paper was published May 9 in the Bulletin of Insectology.
Since Lu found no difference in the number of infections between colonies that didn’t have long-term exposure to neonicotinoids and those that did, he concluded that rather than “compromising the bees’ immune resistance to pathogens, . . . [the pesticides] are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD.”
In the 2012-13 study, researchers fed colonies “high fructose corn syrup laced with” imidacloprid and clothianidin, then compared their winter survival to those not exposed to the pesticides. By spring, half the neonicotinoid-exposed colonies “had abandoned their hives” and those that still had bees were in bad condition, with “very small” clusters “either lack[ing] queen bees or developing bees.” In contrast, “only one of the untreated colonies was lost, and in that case the bees' bodies were actually inside their hives and showed symptoms that appeared to be caused by a type of parasite.”
These findings replicate a 2010 study by Lu that tested just imidacloprid: 94% of those colonies died out, but that could have resulted from 2010’s “colder winter, which stresses the bees and exacerbates the effects of pesticides.” Lu and colleagues suspect that the neonicotinoids contribute to CCD through "impairment of honey bee neurological functions, specifically memory, cognition, or behavior,” making bees unable to find their way home and explaining the lack of corpses in the home colony.
Other researchers dispute Lu’s findings, citing the “small sample size” and arguing that bees abandon hives for many reasons not controlled-for in the study. Others argue that commercially available HFCS doesn’t contain neonicotinoids: Dr. May Berenbaum, University of Illinois’ head entomologist, said that "undermines the premise of bees being exposed to pesticides through the food provided by beekeepers." Other critics note that though the French banned neonicotinoids in 2009, French beekeepers still lose hives to CCD. The New York Times article, above, reported Bayer’s criticism that Lu “used dosages of the pesticide 10 times greater than what bees might encounter in the wild.” Lu countered that “Bayer should reveal what it believes an “environmentally relevant” level of the pesticide should be.”
To read more, visit: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/scientists-may-finally-pinpointed-whats-221000439.html
“What Happens In Almonds Doesn’t Stay In Almonds. This Year’s Devastating Bee Kill In California Hurts Apples, Cranberries, Blueberries…and Beekeepers” 3 Apr 2014, Bee Culture
Misapplied pesticide tank mix may have resulted in 60% losses among honey bee hives hives placed in affected almonds, according to the Pollinator Stewardship Council. On March 24, representatives of the EPA, PSC, and American Beekeeping Federation met: over 70 beekeepers attended (some in person, some via conference call). PSC reported that “a poll taken of the seventy-five beekeepers at the meeting showed 80,000 colonies damaged: 75% of them severely damaged. Additional reports place an average loss of 60% of hives in almonds were impacted. Of that 60%, 40% lost adult bees and had dying brood, 20% of the hives were dead completely. These losses were experienced by beekeepers who wintered in California, as well as those who brought their bees into almonds from southern states.”
At issue: labeling language for neonicotinoids and fungicides. The tank mix suspected of the bee kills was applied “per the label,” but other bees may have been damaged from drift. Also, although less damage to pollinators results from applying pesticides and fungicides at night, “this year some practices changed, and bees were heavily impacted.” PSC reported that “one beekeeper who pollinates Washington apples after almonds was short 1200 hives due to his losses during almond pollination.”
At the meeting, according to the PSC, “EPA listened politely, but made no promise to do anything, stating that changing label wording is a long and drawn out process, and one that cannot be done quickly. Beekeepers did make promises: promises to add a pesticide surcharge to pollination contracts next year; promises that if no enforceable change to labels is made before next years’ pollination to stay in Georgia or Florida and make honey in a safe environment rather than risk another season of severe hive damage. Beekeepers asked EPA for two things: adding a statement on the label instructing applicators when and how to apply pesticides to not damage pollinators; and curtail the use of tank mixing.”
To read more, visit: http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2014.04.03.11.49.archive.html
Eugene, Oregon Passes Resolution Banning Neonicotinoids 05 Mar 2014; eNews Park Forest
In March, Eugene, Oregon banned neonicotinoid pesticides from use on city property. Eugene is the first city in the U.S. to take this step, one week following the Oregon State Legislature’s passage of a pollinator protection bill from which anti-neonic provisions were removed. Eugene’s resolution also requires integrated pest management practices. This is the latest in a series of steps that Eugene has taken to protect pollinators and responds in part to the Wilsonville, OR bumblebee kills in summer 2013, when dinotefuran was improperly applied to linden trees, but applicators were fined just 6 cents per dead bee.
Other states are looking at legislation to regulate neonicotinoids more strictly. California beekeepers are promoting a bill that would require California to evaluate the impact of neonicotinoids now, instead of on the EPA’s timetable: the EPA’s review is not slated for conclusion until 2018. A Maryland a bill would have restricted neonicotinoids, but was withdrawn before a vote; the New York and New Jersey legislatures are considering restrictions. At the federal level, H.R. 2692, the “Save America’s Pollinator Act,” remains in committee: the bill would “suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators.” To read more, visit: http://www.enewspf.com/latest-news/science/science-a-environmental/50703-eugene-oregon-passes-resolution-banning-neonicotinoids.html
“Beekeepers Must Move Bees” if neonicotinoids are to be used in their area: Catch the Buzz E-zine
Late in 2013, the Pollinator Stewardship Council and the National Honey Bee Advisory Board asked the EPA to clarify ambiguities in the new pesticide label to be used in application of major neonicotinoid pesticides. First, the “new label will only be required for foliar applications of clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and the two new products tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole.” Second, the EPA’s answer clarifies five conditions that “supercede the ‘do not apply’ statement”:
“The application is made to the target site after sunset.
“The application is made to the target site when the temperature is below 55 degrees F.
“The application is made in accordance with a government-initiated public health response.
“The application is made in accordance with an active state-administered apiary registry program where beekeepers are notified no less than 48 hours prior to the time of planned application so that the bees can be removed, covered or otherwise protected prior to spraying.
“The application is made due to an imminent threat of significant crop loss, and a documented determination consistent with an IPM plan or predetermined economic threshold is met. Every effort should be made to notify the beekeepers no less than 48-hours prior to the time of the planned application so that the bees can be removed, covered or otherwise protected prior to spraying.”
The PSC comments: “The bee industry has its answer . . . Beekeepers must move their bees. No clarification was provided by EPA on what constitutes notifying a beekeeper to move their bees, if a State has a voluntary apiary registry program, or for the loss of a honey crop or crop pollination if bees are to be moved. The cost of time, labor, and loss of honey crop will be shouldered by the beekeeper.”
To read more, visit: http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2014.03.20.09.39.archive.html
“Study Reveals that Costs Outweigh Benefits of Toxic Insecticides Implicated in Bee Kills”: 24 March 2014, Catch the Buzz E-zine
The Center for Food Safety has released a review - based on 19 peer-reviewed studies – which “reveals that neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments offer little benefit, do not increase crop yields, and cause widespread environmental and economic damage.” The study looks at the connection between treating plants with neonicotinoids and crop yields. 8 studies found no significant yield increase; 11 found “inconsistent benefits.” CFS “cites the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failure to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis and calls on EPA to suspend seed treatment product registrations.” Neonicotinoids are used to treat virtually all U.S. corn seed and half of soybeans. To read more, visit: http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2014.03.24.15.11.archive.html.To read the complete report, visit: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/304/pollinators-and-pesticides/reports/2999/heavy-costs-weighing-the-value-of-neonicotinoid-insecticides-in-agriculture# .
Bumblebees infected with honeybee diseases”: 19 Feb 2014 BBC News; 20 Feb ABJ Ezine
Bumblebees worldwide are suffering population crashes - attributed mainly to habitat loss and pesticide effects – but a new British study suggests that diseases transmitted by managed honey bees may be a contributing factor. Researchers have found evidence that honey bees are transmitting viral matter and spores to flowers that both kinds of bees pollinate. Although wild bumblebees are not hosts for Varroa destructor mites, 11% of bumblebees sampled from 26 sites in England, Scotland, and Wales had mite-transmitted deformed wing virus (compared with 35% of honey bees); 7% had Nosema ceranae (compared with 9% of bees).
The study showed "geographical patterning” that suggests wild bumblebees and managed honey bees are “sharing parasite strains," according to Professor Mark Brown, Royal Holloway University of London. But evidence goes beyond geographic coincidence: the study showed that deformed wing virus is “actually replicating inside” the wild bumblebees, so the bumbles are not simply carriers. Further, “genetic similarities” between the virus in the two types of pollinators make researchers think that honey bees are spreading the virus.
Neonicotinoids may also play a role: another recent study showed that these pesticides are harming honey bees’ immune systems. Dr. Brown noted, "If bumblebees were exposed to neonicotinoids and had the same effect, you would expect the bumblebee viral load to be going through the roof.” The researchers plan to explore this possibility. To read more, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26242960 and http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=5fd2b1aa990e63193af2a573d&id=f4a5d69023&e=e9ff21e0bb
Meanwhile, a University of Massachusetts study explores flowers as “common gathering places,” “major hubs of plant-animal interactions” where all kinds of pollinators may spread disease. Noting 187 studies over the past 65 years that looked into “floral visitors . . . implicated in disease transmission,” postdoc Scott McArt and Professor Lynn Adler “found eight major groups of animal pathogens that are potentially transmitted at flowers, including a trypanosomatid, fungi, bacteria and RNA viruses."
At stake is not only pollinator health, but also “efforts to control economically devastating pollinator-vectored plant pathogens such as fire blight, which affects rose family fruits such as apples and pears, and mummyberry disease, which attacks blueberries.” The researchers plan to investigate the role played by “chemical or physical traits,” as well as whether a pollinator’s simply visiting a plant necessarily means pathogens will be transmitted. To read more, visit the ABJ Ezine: http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=5fd2b1aa990e63193af2a573d&id=6cf81ce8b2&e=e9ff21e0bb. To read the complete study, "Arranging the bouquet of disease: Floral traits and the transmission of plant and animal pathogens," visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12257/abstract.
“Exposure to pesticides at levels bees encounter has subtle impacts, and can eventually make colonies fail”: 31 Jan, 2014
British researchers have shown that being exposed to even low levels of neonicotinoid pesticides – the level found in normal field encounters – make them stop foraging effectively. The impacts on individual bees are “subtle” – and cumulative: ultimately, they can kill a colony. Lead researcher Bryden explained, “Exposing bees to pesticides is a bit like adding more and more weight on someone’s shoulders. A person can keep walking normally under a bit of weight, but when it gets too much – they collapse. Similarly, bee colonies can keep growing when bees aren’t too stressed, but if stress levels get too high the colony will eventually fail.” Co-author Vincent Jansen added, “It is intriguing that the way in which bees work together is the key to their success, but could also contribute to their decline and colony failure.” The researchers hope that policymakers will use this evidence as they consider ways to manage pesticides.
In a related study, bumblebees exposed to low, field-realistic doses of imidacloprid (0.7 parts per billion in sugar water and 6 ppb in pollen) brought back nectar about as often as control bees, but brought back pollen significantly less often than did control bees: in 40% of trips, compared with 63% for control bees. Since pollen helps stimulate queen laying, researchers think that imidacloprid exposure may “provide a causal mechanism behind reduced queen production.”
To read more about the British study, visit: http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=8314a260d85f4354c1ed1a0df&id=7d6e952e96&e=eda990b06a . To read “Field realistic doses of pesticide imidacloprid reduce bumblebee pollen foraging efficiency”: 7 Jan 2014, Springer Science+Business Media, visit: http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=8314a260d85f4354c1ed1a0df&id=7d6e952e96&e=eda990b06a
“EPA Seeks Public Comment on Draft Guidance Documents for Evaluating Pesticide Spray Drift”: Comments needed by 31 Mar, 2014
Proposals Would Further Protect Communities near Fields Where Crops Are Grown
(Docket identification (ID) number EPA-HQ-OPP-2013-0676)
EPA has made two “draft guidance documents” available for public comment. The intent of both is to safeguard communities near agricultural fields. They explain how they would assess impacts of “off-site spray drift” of pesticides on people and the environment. Finalized versions of these guidelines will be posted on the EPA website. EPA’s intention is that “the model-generated values for spray drift fractions [will] provide realistic exposure and risk estimates for both ecological and human health assessments. These policies will promote consistency within EPA, as well as with other federal agencies and international regulatory partners that rely on predicted spray drift values.”
Pesticide drift is defined as “the physical movement of a pesticide through the air at the time of application or soon thereafter from the target site to any non- or off-target site. This does not include pesticide movements by erosion, migration, volatility, or windblown soil particles after application. Drift is dependent on the design of application equipment, size of spray droplets or dry particles, weather conditions, and other factors.” Once airborne, pesticides can land in, or on, places, people, or “nontarget species.”
The documents are titled: “Guidance on Modeling Offsite Deposition of Pesticides via Spray Drift for Ecological and Drinking Water Assessments for the Environmental Fate and Effects Division (Draft dated 11/1/2013) (Ref. 1),” and “Residential Exposure Assessment Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Addenda 1: Consideration of Spray Drift (Draft dated 11/1/2013) (Ref. 2).”
To read the documents, visit: http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=8314a260d85f4354c1ed1a0df&id=7d6e952e96&e=eda990b06a. For instructions on how to comment, visit: http://www.epa.gov/dockets.
Special Request from Willapa Bay Beekeepers: Contact the Washington Department of Ecology As It Considers Granting Permits for Imidacloprid Use in Willapa Bay:
The Willapa River Beekeeping Club writes, “The Washington Dept of Ecology beginning the process for allowing the use of imidacloprid in the Willapa Bay. As you know this is neonicotinoid and harmful to honeybees. We have an active beekeeping group in this area and there are many hobby beekeepers as well as a large number of native bees. We'd like to ask your support by asking your members to help by contacting Ecology at the website below and commenting on the use of imidacloprid. Even if you don't live here, your comments count! Ecology is seeking comments through Feb. 15 on the draft EIS and the draft permit to allow the use of imidacloprid in Willapa Bay. See Ecology’s website -- http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/pesticides/imidacloprid/index.html– for ways to submit comments.”
For more background, visit: http://www.dailyastorian.com/free/plan-for-spraying-in-willapa-bay-signals-fight-to-come/article_6b1b13b0-7d3a-11e3-95ec-001a4bcf887a.html and also see: http://oregonsustainablebeekeepers.org/references/
“The label that was meant to please everyone, but still kills bees: the “exceptions” allow for honey bees and native pollinators to now be legally killed”: 03 Jan 2014, Pollinator Stewardship Council
The EPA has unveiled its new neonicotinoid label, but ambiguities and exceptions leave many wondering how effectively it will protect bees. The neonics labeled will be imidacloprid, clothianidin, thaimethoxam, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, and thiacloprid. The EPA plans, however, to “harmonize” the label’s language “across all chemistries.”
The Pollinator Stewardship Council charges that the label’s bee (see above) “does not imply that the product harms bees” and criticizes its five exceptions to the “do not apply” restriction: first, “the application is made to the target site after sunset”; second, “the application is made to the target site when temperatures are below 55 degrees Fahrenheit”; third, “the application is made in accordance with a government-initiated public health response”; fourth, “the application is made in accordance with an active state-administered apiary registry program where beekeepers are notified no less than 48-hours prior to the time of the planned application so that the bees can be removed, covered or otherwise protected prior to spraying”; and fifth, “the application is made due to an imminent threat of significant crop loss, and a documented determination consistent with an IPM plan or predetermined economic threshold is met. Every effort should be made to notify beekeepers no less than 48 hours prior to the time of the planned application so that the bees can be removed, covered or otherwise protected prior to spraying.”
Among concerns that PSC raises are: what constitutes “every effort” to “notify beekeepers”? Can bees feasibly be moved? What happens to native pollinators? Does the label imply that cumulative, sublethal effects will not occur?
PSC states: “The new pesticide label language allows for honeybees and native pollinators to be legally killed. The “mandatory language” in the new label can be ignored if one of the five conditions is met. It is critical that beekeepers understand the new pesticide label language. . . . EPA registrations run on a 15-plus year cycle, and historically EPA will not make substantive changes during that time.” Further, PSC asks: “Can your bees suffer more exposure to bee toxic pesticides for another 15 years? Let us work for you. Help us protect your bees.” To read more, visit: http://us6.campaign-archive1.com/?u=8314a260d85f4354c1ed1a0df&id=d4f5f64ffa&e=eda990b06a
“Exposure to Pesticides Results in Smaller Worker Bees”: 19 Jan 2014, American Bee Journal E-zine
University of London researchers have found that bumblebees “exposed to pyrethroid pesticides for four months or more . . . hatch out at a smaller size,” and do not catch up as they grow. Smaller size translates to less effective pollen and nectar collection, threatening colony health. Further studies will be needed to show whether honey bees may be similarly affected. ABJ reports that “Pyrethroid pesticides, derived from the chrysanthemum, are touted as relatively “natural,” but have proven highly toxic to beneficial as well as pest insects.”
“Penalties of $2,800 Issued For Wilsonville Bee Deaths” (20 Dec. 2013, Northwest Public Radio)
After misapplied pesticides killed bees in four separate 2013 incidents, Oregon’s Department of Agriculture has imposed “civil penalties and notices of violations” on Collier Arbor Care. The pesticide company drew fire for misapplying the neonicotinoid dinotefuran (Safari) to linden trees blooming in a Target parking lot in Wilsonville, killing 50,000 bumblebees. A fine of $555 was handed down to the company collectively, as well as to each of four employees. Collier Arbor Care is appealing; meanwhile, the ODA is working to “better educate commercial pesticide companies,” requiring a recertification with questions testing “knowledge of pollinator protection.” Oregon is the first state to prohibit pesticides with imidicloprid and dinotefuran from use on trees of the Tilia species, which contain “their own natural toxicity” and is requiring label language about the chemical interaction.
“Beekeeping Industry Challenge to EPA: Reevaluate Toxic Bee-Killing Pesticide” (“Catch the Buzz” Bee Culture e-zine, Dec. 2013)
The Pollinator Stewardship Council (formerly, the National Pollinator Defense Fund), National Honey Bee Advisory Board, American Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation, and three individual beekeepers are taking the EPA to court for approving Sulfoxaflor, one of a new sub-classification of neonicotinoids acknowledged by the EPA as “highly toxic.” They charge that EPA “violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (which “requires the EPA to “determine that a pesticide does not pose an unreasonable risk to the environment or to economic interests”) by granting the pesticide full registration for most crops, dismissing the input from their risk assessors that the field tests supplied by the manufacturer Dow Chemical were insufficient to adequately determine pollinator safety.” Among other concerns, the groups have targeted EPA’s labeling requirements for providing inadequate protection to bees and not taking into account the cost/benefit risks to both the beekeeping industry and the crops it pollinates.
“Environmental advocates target possible flaws in EPA pesticide system,” 17 Dec 2013, Tri-City Herald
The General Accounting Office (GAO) has joined those scrutinizing the EPA’s system for approving pesticides: “conditional registration,” which green-lights products for sale before adequate testing has been completed. As early as 1986, the GAO criticized the FDA’s “confusing recordkeeping system for tracking pesticides.” Conditional registration started in 1978: as a condition of speedy approval, it requires companies to report by a date certain that the pesticide does not pose “any unreasonable risk to the environment” and “the use of the pesticide is in the public interest.”
With each manager at the Office of Pesticide Programs responsible for keeping track of 800 of the 16,000 pesticides registered with the EPA, the agency’s record-keeping is not systematized, so the GAO learned that the agency couldn’t actually give current, accurate information. While the EPA can only grant conditional registration if “public interest” exists, some question how “public interest” is defined, while the Natural Resource Defense Council, which sued the EPA over nanosilver products in 2012, argues that “treating ourselves like guinea pigs” runs counter to that interest. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with NRDC that no “substantial evidence” supported the EPA’s claim that nanosilver products were safe.
In the case of clothianidin, a neonicotinoid that has been a prime suspect in sublethal effects on honey bees, Bayer CropScience got conditional registration in 2003: after missing their deadline for required data by three years, Bayer still got full registration for clothianidin in 2010. Both Bayer’s and the EPA’s websites state that field-realistic studies have yet to be conducted to determine this neonicotinoid’s effects on pollinators.
To read more, visit: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2013/12/17/2733806/environmental-advocates-target.html
“Accused of Harming Bees, Bayer Researches a Different Culprit,” 11 Dec. 2013, The New York Times
Meanwhile, at the Bayer CropScience Bee Care Center in Germany, the company’s “strategic messaging” officer, Gillian Mansfield, reports that “Bayer is strictly committed to bee health” while producing clothaniadin and other neonicotinoids. Bayer, Syngenta, and BASF are suing the European Union to overturn its temporary ban on these pesticides. In the U.S., the EPA has said that it shares European regulators’ concerns – in fact, “[a]n internal E.P.A. document leaked in 2010 said the “major risk concern” of one of the pesticides, Bayer’s clothianidin, which is used to coat cotton and mustard seeds, “is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees),” calling it “highly toxic” – but the EPA has not moved toward stricter regulation.
Though most scientists now think that a combination of factors, including pesticides, has caused the massive honey bee die-offs of the past 7 years, Bayer argues that varroa mites, not pesticides, are the leading threat to bees. The corporation funds studies on mites – and markets “CheckMite.”
“In October, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined how Bayer’s clothianidin “adversely affects the insect immune response and promotes replication of a viral pathogen in honey bees bearing covert infections.” Bayer’s response to studies like this: “they are, at the end of the day, laboratory results” without replication in the field.
“Bee killing pesticides may also harm human brain development,” 18 Dec 2013, Salon.com
A new study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggests that neonicotinoids “may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory.” EFSA urges that dosage maximums be reduced until more is known. The study focused on acetamiprid and Bayer’s imidacloprid. Research done on newborn rats showed that rats exposed to imidacloprid “suffered brain shrinkage, reduced activity of the nerve signals controlling movement, and weight loss. Another rat study found that exposure to the other pesticide, acetamiprid, led to reduced weight, survival and response to startling sounds.” The EFSA “concluded [that] ‘neonicotinoids may adversely affect human health, especially the developing brain.’” For acetamiprid, EFSA recommends that the “acceptable daily intake” and “acceptable operator exposure level . . . should be cut by two-thirds,” and that the “acute reference dose – the amount of a substance that can be ingested over a day without an appreciable health risk – should be cut by three-quarters.” EFSA urges cutting imidacloprid’s operator exposure and acute reference levels by a quarter.
Though temporarily banned in the EU, these chemicals, conditionally approved by the EPA, are on sale at Home Depots across the U.S. as the agency waits for “conclusive evidence” (see story above).
“North Dakota develops honey bee protection plan,” Dec 2013, Associated Press
While the EPA awaits conclusive data on pesticides, North Dakota, U.S. honey production leader, has become the first state to answer the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s call to bring beekeepers and farmers together to develop guidelines to protect bees from pesticides and “other farming practices while minimizing the impact of doing so on agricultural production.” The 8 page plan, based on “best-management practices,” is “non-regulatory” and “voluntary.”
Forage poses a particular challenge for North Dakota’s bees because of monocrop agriculture and cattle range land. Thus the “Pollinator Plan” stresses that “beekeepers work more closely with landowners on hive placements to ensure they are in prime spots for honey production while not disrupting crops or rural roads. The plan encourages farmers to seed plants that bees like, and to help ensure that applications of any pesticides do not harm hives. Commercial chemical applicators are coaxed to make bee safety a priority.”
To read more, visit: http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2013.12.24.12.48.archive.html
“Pollinator Protection and the Farm Bill”: WSBA Newsletter, Nov 2013 (20-21):
H.R. 2642, the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, contains a specific provision to protect pollinators: Sec. 11315. As of the end of October, 58 organizations had voiced support for this provision, which would “greatly improve federal coordination to address the dramatic decline of managed and native pollinators. In addition, the government would have to regularly monitor and report on the health of pollinators.” The bill would require agencies (1) to coordinate better when pollinator health is implicated, (2) form a “USDA task force on bee health and commercial beekeeping,” (3) require that federal agencies “provide guidance on issues related to pollinator health,” (4) track and report the condition and numbers of not only managed, but native pollinators, and (5) “assess feasibility of new bee research labs.”
WSBA asks that those concerned contact Washington’s representative on the Farm Bill Conference Committee, Suzan DelBene (202 225 6311), to urge continued support for these protective measures for both managed and native pollinators. To email DelBene, visit http://delbene.house.gov/ .
Two websites that list pesticides containing neonicotinoids:
Quite a few LCBA members have asked for up-to-date lists of garden pest-controlling chemicals that contain neonicotinoids. Many thanks to Jon Wade for sending these links! First, the Center for Food Safety’s very clearly laid-out list:
California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation has a quite detailed list, as well:
Britain’s “government rejects science behind neonicotinoid ban,” 10 Sept 2013, BBC News
Great Britain is distancing itself from the EU’s ban on two neonicotinoids, saying that while the government accepts the ban, it “rejects the science behind the moratorium,” arguing that an "increasing number of field-realistic studies have failed to find an effect of neonicotinoids on bees." The Environmental Audit Committee is trying to make the case for a U.K. ban, whereas the National Farmers Union welcomes the government’s "balanced and sensible" position.
To read more, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24024634.
“Banned pesticides may be having wider environmental impacts,” 13 June 2013 BBC News
A June 2013 report by a Sussex University professor in the Journal of Applied Ecology suggests that neonicotinoids accumulate in soil and water, endangering not only bees but other species (for abstract, visit: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12111/abstract). Dr. Dave Goulson notes,"It seems to me that we may have been focussing far too much on bees and have missed the bigger picture."
Goulson discovered that “90% of the active ingredients in these chemicals go into the soil and leach into groundwater. They can accumulate in soil at concentrations far higher than those that kill bees and persist there for up to 10 years.” Mayflies die from exposure to “less than one part per billion of imidacloprid” in water. In an eerie echo of Silent Spring, Goulson’s study showed that bird species like partridges that eat neonic-coated seeds “spilled during sowing . . . need only eat a few grains to get a lethal dose.”
Goulson acknowledges that more testing is “urgently needed” to determine how significant a threat neonics pose to soil and waterways. He stated,"There is every reason to believe that lots of insects are exposed to them, and we really don't know what harm they might be doing; we should find out pretty damn quick if you ask me."
To read more, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22893619.
“‘Bee-friendly’ plants may be contaminated with pesticides: study found neonicotinoids in potted plants sold throughout the U.S.” 13 Aug. 2013, Salon.com; “Home Gardeners’ New Plants Could Be Killing Off Bees,” 14 Aug. 2013, CBS Minnesota
The Pesticide Research Institute sampled flowering plants sold in the San Francisco Bay Area, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Washington D.C. areas and found that 54% of plants sampled at Home Depot and Lowe’s contained neonicotinoids. “[O]f 13 composite samples (from 45 individual plants), seven tested positive for at least one neonicotinoid, with two testing positive for two residues, and a Gaillardia plant from Minnesota showing measurable levels of three different neonicotinoids.” Other plants that tested positive for neonics included Salvia, tomatoes, and squash. [Another article noted that sunflowers were affected, too.]
Researchers think that the neonics were used on the plants at the nursery level, not at the retailers, which include Home Depot and Lowe’s. Regardless where the pesticides were applied, Lex Horan of the Pesticide Action Network said, “a home gardener who thought they planted a bee friendly landscape in their backyard may end up planting a bee toxic garden instead.” The neonics remain in the plants for two years.
Home Depot stated, “We have not reviewed the study but we certainly appreciate the importance of the bee population. We will reach out to the study group to find out more about their findings and methodology.”
“Controversial Insecticides To Carry Clearer Warnings To Protect Bees,” 16 Aug. 2013, Northwest News Network; Rep. Earl Blumenthal, D-Oregon, CREDO Action Network
WSBA President Mark Emrich hailed the EPA’s new directive that requires pesticides containing neonicotinoids to be labeled: imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, contained in “more than a hundred different garden products sold under brand names such as Bayer, Ortho, and Scotts.” The EPA’s directive targets “widely used bug killers, rose and flower treatments, and grub controls. Future product labels will have to carry specific warnings under a picture of a bee.” The labels will also have to contain more focused, clear directions: not to use the chemicals on flowering plants or during times when bees forage. Emrich and other beekeepers voiced this complaint to EPA staff earlier this year: “I was very, very pleased to hear they acted on this,” Emrich said.
New labels should be on the shelves by 2014, according to the EPA’s Director of Pesticide Programs Steve Bradbury, though getting the warnings onto labels may be a tight small-print squeeze. Meanwhile, “environmental groups and several Midwestern beekeepers have sued U.S. EPA to suspend the registration of the two most common neonicotinoid pesticides.”
To read more, visit:
“Syngenta, Bayer challenge EU bee-saving pesticide ban”: (AFP) – 27 Aug 2013
Arguing that the European Commission based its two-year ban of several pesticides containing neonicotinoids on “inaccurate and incomplete” research, the Swiss company Syngenta and the German Bayer are separately suing for reinstatement of their products. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg will hear the cases. Syngenta also argues that farmers are suffering from the ban, forced to use less effective pesticides. The company makes thiamethoxam (trade name “Cruiser”), which is infused into seeds or soil, or sprayed on plants.
Bayer’s spokesman argued that it can’t function without "'dependable basic conditions with regard to future investment decisions'" and claims that “'No new facts had come to light since the products' approval', he argued . . . In our opinion there are no new scientific findings.'” [For research studies published since the EC’s ban was implemented that document sublethal effects of neonicotinoids on honey bees, see LCBA's August newsletter - “Bees in the News” column.]
Officials from the EC said that the lawsuit would not stop the ban and countered that its action was based on research. Last month, the European commission expanded its ban to include another pesticide made by BASF.
“Silence of the Hives: America’s honey bees are dying in droves, and colony collapse disorder is the least of our worries,” 6 Aug. 2013, Pacific Northwest Inlander.
Deanna Pan’s well-written article provides a comprehensive overview of how commercial beekeepers and researchers have responded to honeybee dieoffs since 2011, featuring the perspectives of beekeepers Mike Durst, Eric Olson and his colleagues, as well as scientists Dennis van Engelsdorp, Jeffery Pettis, and Steve Sheppard.
Pettis, who works at the USDA, comments, “We are one poor weather event or high winter bee loss away from a pollination disaster”; van Engelsdorp, University of Maryland entomologist, notes that “We’re right at the brink of having shortages of movable colonies in the U.S,” he says. “One in every three bites we eat is directly or indirectly pollinated by honey bees. … If we do have that [shortage], we won’t be able to produce apples, almonds and a whole variety of crops in this country.”
The story reviews earlier bee die-offs, the impact of bee population decline on commercial agriculture, and the array of potential culprits, such as “pesticides, fungicides, viruses, cellphone radiation, genetically modified crops, global warming and even, as the New York Times reported in 2007, ‘a secret plot by Russia or Osama bin Laden to bring down American agriculture.’ ‘Everyone was hoping for this one single answer,” says Washington State University entomologist Steven Sheppard. ‘But by about 2009, 2010, people realized there doesn’t seem to be a single answer. … There’s no smoking gun.’”
Sheppard and other scientists increasingly see “a combination of long-existing factors — pesticides, fungicides, pathogens, malnutrition, parasites and monocultures weakening . . . domesticated honey bees.” “One way to perhaps think about it is that it’s just been an attrition of quality of life for the bees,” says Sheppard. “The overarching and more important concept is the need to be concerned with colony health.”
The article gives a good synopsis of the developing neonicotinoid story, including questions about field-realistic dosage measures and the “Save America’s Pollinator’s Act,” introduced in Congress this summer by Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. after the now-infamous Target parking lot deaths of 50,000 bumblebees that foraged on linden trees sprayed with Safari, which contains dinoturefan.
Sheppard [together with Whidbey Island Extension agent Dr. Tim Lawrence] is sampling pollen from both rural and urban managed colonies in western Washington in September to trace pesticide levels. [7 LCBA members are participating in this study.] Sheppard’s focus, together with Sue Cobey and colleagues at WSU, is strengthening honey bee genetics in hope of breeding bees that better resist Varroa, nosema, and other challenges.
H.R. 2692: The Save America’s Pollinators Act of 2013
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Third District of Oregon, has introduced H.R. 2692 in the U.S. House of Representatives in response to the bumblebee deaths in Wilsonville, Oregon earlier this summer, as well as recent research on the immediate and sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoid pesticides. H.R. 2692 would “direct[ ] the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend use of the most bee-toxic neonicotinoids for use in seed treatment, soil application, or foliar treatment on bee attractive plants within 180 days, and to review these neonicotinoids and make a new determination about their proper application and safe use. EPA is required to take all peer reviewed data into account when reviewing the use of these neonicotinoids, and to specifically account for any potential impact on the health and viability of pollinator populations.” Most neonicotinoids are not slated for further EPA review until 2018.
The Congressman’s information brief notes that “Save America’s Pollinators Act also instructs the Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, to issue a report on the native bee populations in the United States, any decline in the population levels, and any potential causes of such decline.”
Congressman Blumenauer comments that “[g]iven the recent bee dieoffs in Hillsboro, Oregon and Wilsonville, Oregon and disturbing preliminary research on the impact of these pesticides, they must be evaluated to ensure that their use does not pose an immediate threat to bee populations and the long-term viability of our farms. Until those determinations are made, we cannot risk the potential of putting our farms, food, and families in danger.”
H.R. 2692 is supported by the Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society, NW Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, and other groups. CREDO Action has an online petition that those so moved can sign and send to representatives. CREDO’s petition can be accessed at: http://org.credoaction.com/petitions/tell-congress-stop-the-pesticide-that-is-killing-bees. To read the complete summary of H.R. 2692, visit: http://blumenauer.house.gov/images/stories/2013/Save_Americas_Pollinators_One_Pager.pdf
Crop Pollination Exposes Honey Bees to Pesticides, Which Alters Their Susceptibility to the Gut Pathogen Nosema ceranae
On July 24, Jeffrey S. Pettis, Dennis vanEngelsdorp, and colleagues published a study showing how interactions between fungicides and pesticides weaken honey bees, making them less able to resist Nosema ceranae. The study explored how “field-relevant combinations and loads of pesticides affect bee health.” Researchers gathered pollen from bee colonies in seven major crops –almond, apple, blueberry, cranberry, cucumber, pumpkin, and watermelon – and studied the three strongest foraging hives in three fields of each crop. They then inserted pollen traps to sample from what crops bees were bringing back pollen and study the levels of pesticide and fungicide loads in that pollen.
Three major results have implications for beekeeping. First, just because honey bees were placed in a field of target crops didn’t mean they pollinated those crops. Often, they didn’t bring back any pollen from target crops, preferring weeds and wildflowers. However, the pollen they brought back still contained significant loads of pesticides and fungicides used on the target crops: therefore, beekeepers are urged to look not only at what is sprayed on crops to which they bring their bees, but also drift onto adjacent fields. The two target plants that honey bees did consistently pollinate were almonds and apples: the researchers commented that these are two plants that co-evolved with honey bees as their natural pollinators in the Old World, whereas crops native to the Americas made up a very small portion of the pollen trapped in this study’s samples. The study focused on pollen collected from bees’ corbiculae in traps, not nectar, though, so the bees could have come in contact with pesticides from target crops even when pollen from those crops didn’t show up in samples.
Second, fungicide showed up “at high levels” in both target and non-target plants. Two fungicides in particular, chlorothalonil and pyraclostrobin, and two miticides used against Varroa mites, amitraz and fluvalinate, had a significant impact on the bees’ resistance to infection by parasites. These fungicides also significantly increased bees’ susceptibility to Nosema: bees that consumed these fungicides were “more than twice as likely” to show Nosema infection than bees that hadn’t. A similar rate of susceptibility to Nosema appeared in bees who came in contact with the miticides, suggesting the importance of rotating old comb out of hives to minimize danger to bees and resistance by mites.
Last, this study is the first to document the impact of “real world pollen-pesticide blends” on honey bees. Even pollen from non-target plants was contaminated: 35 pesticides were found, including several whose concentrations were “higher than their median lethal dose.” 22 of the 35 pesticides were associated with a significantly higher than normal risk of Nosema infection in the bees. Also, though neonicotinoids only entered the sample bees’ colonies via pollen from apples, the interactions between fungicides and these pesticides caused problems. Also, when bees are exposed to multiple pesticides, the amount of each required to be a lethal dose drops; multiple exposure also increases queen supersedure. The researchers also noted the pesticides’ “sub-lethal effects on development, reproduction, learning and memory, and foraging behavior.”
To read the original study [PLoS ONE 8(7): 24 July 2013], visit: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0070182#authcontrib
Israeli Pesticide Company That Fights Pests With Bumble Bees Now Launches In India (13 June 2013, Jerusalem Post)
In Israel, a company called Bio-Bee is working to reduce agriculture’s dependence on chemicals, fighting pests via “biologically-based integrated pest management.” Bio-Bee carries out “mass harvesting” of “beneficial insects” that serve as natural enemies to problem pests. Their goal: to create “a balance between the pest population and their natural enemies.” For example, they deploy fruit flies in what they call the “Sterile Insect Technique”: they saturate target crops with sterile male fruit flies, who then mate with fertile females, resulting in “gradual long-term control” through population loss. If this process works, it could lead to substantially less chemical contamination in food crops, as well as healthier environmental conditions for pollinators.
Bio-Bee has taken their integrated pest management project to India, where farmers have trouble exporting produce to European or American markets that require low chemical residues. Bio-Bee agronomists are now working with farmers in Maharashtra and Karnataka to help them reduce dependence on heavy chemical interventions. Bio-Bee spokesmen say that in Israel, 90% of pepper plants and 80% of strawberry fields now use IPM, and that the approach has benefited growers of tomatoes, cucumber and eggplants, where the IPM approach focuses on bumblebees.
“Oregon investigating deaths of 25,000 bumblebees”: Here in the Pacific Northwest, neonicotinoids made headlines when fingered as the killer of what ultimately turned out to be over 50,000 bumblebees. King 5 News reported on June 20 that dead bumblebees “blanketed” the parking lot of a mini-mall off I-5 in Wilsonville. The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Xerces Society, a nonprofit working to educate the public about native pollinators, investigated two smoking guns: pesticides that had been recently applied in the area and the presence of European Linden trees, which have caused bee deaths in Europe. Xerces sent samples to their toxicity lab in North Carolina, concerned both for the bees and the Willamette Valley’s berry crops for which, they noted, “bumblebees are critically important, probably the most important pollinator.”
The next day, while “bee-proof netting” was draped over the Target parking lot’s linden trees in hope that no more bumbles would be attracted to the area, the ODA announced that pesticides applied on June 15 to eradicate aphids were the bumblebees’ killer. Safari, whose active ingredient, dinotefuran, is a neonicotinoid. Scott Hoffman Black, Xerces’ Executive Director, said, "They made a huge mistake, but unfortunately this is not that uncommon. Evidently they didn't follow the label instructions. This should not have been applied to the trees while they're in bloom." As the death count reached 50,000, the dead bumbles’ memorial was set for Sunday, July 1: Xerces and other groups hope to “draw attention to the plight of bees and their importance to life on earth.”
To read more, click on article titles to read “Oregon investigating deaths of 25,000 bumblebees,” 20 June 2013, KING 5 News, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/52260189/ns/local_news-seattle_wa/;
“UPDATE: Cause of bee death determined” 21 June 2013, KMTR-TV , www.kmtr.com; and “Dead bees to get memorial,” 25 June, 2013, KPDX-KPTV Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.kptv.com/story/22688139/dead-bees-to-get-memorial.
To read Dr. Dewey Caron's op-ed piece, "Who Will Speak for Dead Bees?" (Portland Tribune), click here.
“Neonicotinoid Pesticides and Bees”: Dr. Tim Lawrence, director of WSU-Extension, Whidbey Island, and Dr. Steve Sheppard, WSU-Professor of Entomology, were asked by WSU Extension to provide a fact sheet in response to Thurston County’s request that WSDA (1) investigate the effects of these pesticides on bees and (2) consider whether urban use by non-licensed pesticide applicators should be prohibited. Their conclusion is that while neonicotinoids clearly do have an impact on bees, we still do not know just how significant that impact is, particularly in urban settings: while neonicotinoids are used on 75% of U.S. farmland, it isn’t clear how much is used in city agriculture and by home gardeners, who might conceivably buy seeds treated with neonics. Another concern is whether studies to date have explored how “field-realistic doses” of neonics affect bees. To read more, click here.
“Balancing Control and Complexity in Field Studies of Neonicotinoids and Honey Bee Health”: A Jan. 2013 study from the University of Wisconsin, published in the journal Insects, argues that much research that originally bolstered approval of neonicotinoids is not legitimate precisely because they looked at bees strictly in labs, rather than in real world sites. Also, the writers criticize industry’s focus on toxicity tests that measure “immediate lethality” (read: kills on contact), rather than studying sublethal effects. The writers argue that while lab studies are important, research needs to look at interactions of factors in real world environments, as Yang et al did (see below). To read the full study, click here; complete URL, www.mdpi.com/2075-4450/4/1/153/pdf.
“Impaired Olfactory Associative Behavior of Honeybee Workers Due to Contamination of Imidacloprid in the Larval Stage”: A November 2012 study published in PLOS One has studied “field-realistic doses,” with the goal of replicating toxicity foragers bring into the hive. What follows is a fascinating detective story. In 2008, Yang et al. had tested sublethal effects of imidacloprid on foraging behavior and found that even low doses affected bees’ foraging effectiveness, delaying their return to the hive; some bees did not return at all. To read the complete 2008 study, click here; complete URL: http://ntur.lib.ntu.edu.tw/bitstream/246246/186257/1/10.pdf.
In their 2012 study, Yang et al. gave bees a range of doses of imidacloprid, from the relatively low amounts typically brought into hives by foragers on up to larger doses. In nature, studies show that concentration of imidacloprid in soil, nectar, and pollen is very low and does not cause immediate death nor behavior modification. However, these studies focused on adult bees, not larvae. Since imidacloprid brought into a hive by foragers will enter pollen/honey stores, it will be in food nurse bees give larvae. So: Yang looked at the long term impact of field-realistic doses on larvae. Their assumption was that since larvae don’t eat raw nectar or pollen, they would be protected by how foragers and nurse bees detoxify food. However, detoxification in honey bee is “deficient”: in fact, bees have only one-third the detoxification genes that other insects have. This means that it is relatively easy for a bee’s system to become stressed by toxins, a factor that clearly has implications beyond studies of neonicotinoids.
What Yang et al. found: The rate of capped brood dropped significantly with imacloprid doses in pollen/honey stores. High doses killed nurse bees, after which larvae starved. However, the initial effect of imidacloprid in food given to surviving larvae themselves was surprising: larvae themselves seemed to tolerate the pesticide better than adult bees did. Why? Larvae lack nAChR, a form of acetylcholine key to neurological impulse transmissions: nAChR is attacked by active ingredients in imidacloprid. Yang found that when these larvae hatched out and grew to become foragers, long-term effects of imidacloprid emerged: olfactory associative behavior in adult honey bees was damaged by larval stage exposure to even smallest doses of IMA in study.
These sublethal doses of imidacloprid did two additional things: first, they raised the threshold of sucrose needed for bees to find a food source acceptable, and, second, they reduced waggle dancing. To read Yang’s 2012 study, click here; complete URL: http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0049472&representation=PDF.
“The Effects of Pesticides on Queen Rearing and Virus Titers in Honey Bees”: Those effects aren’t good. Earlier this year, Gloria deGrandi-Hoffman, University of Arizona-Tucson, and colleagues found further disturbing effects of neonicotinoid exposure. When they tested bees by feeding pollen laced with chlorpyrifos, they found that the neonicotinoid leads to lower rates of queen emergence. Not only that: all emerged queens fed with these test pollens emerged with deformed wing virus, and many had black queen cell virus, as well. This effect was made worse when they added Pristine, a fungicide. To read her article, published in the January Insects journal, click here; complete URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-4450/4/1/71.
“Substances in Honey Increase Honey Bee Detox Gene Expression”: A ray of hope shines from Dr. May Berenbaum’s May 2013 study, reported in ScienceDaily. Although bees, as noted above, have only one-third the detoxification genes that other insects do, honey bees’ diet can help activate those detox genes and help the bees break down pesticides better. Specific components in natural nectar and pollen activate a specific enzyme group to work (cytochrome P450 monoxygenases, for the biochemists among us). These enzymes break down foreign substances – originally phytochemicals in plants – but they also work on pesticides. Honey, pollen, & even propolis contain a component called “p-coumaric acid,” which turns on not only the P-450 enzymes, but “every other type of detoxification gene in the genome . . . [including] honey bee immunity genes that code for antimicrobial proteins.”
One take home message for beekeepers from Berenbaum’s study: since high fructose corn syrup and even pure cane sugar water mixes do NOT have p-coumaric acid, feeding sugar water may provide bees with calories, but it doesn’t help them detoxify. Berenbaum recommends feeding some honey to bees whenever you feed, maybe even all year round. She notes that honey bees are adapted to honey for a reason: this may be one such reason. Still to be tested: whether p-coumaric can help defend against sublethal pesticide effects, as well as viruses, microsporidians like Nosema, and bacteria like foulbrood. To read more about Berenbaum’s study, click here; complete URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130501132051.htm.
“Europe Bans Pesticides Thought Harmful to Bees” (The New York Times, April 29 2013, by David Jolly)
Following January’s recommendation by the European Food Safety Authority to restrict neonicotinoids until studies prove whether or not these chemicals are “contributing to a die-off in bee colonies,” the European Union will ban 3 neonicotinoid pesticides for 2 years, effective December 1. Clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam will be illegal to use on “seeds, soil and leaves on flowering crops attractive to bees, like corn, sunflowers and rapeseed.” Farmers can still use them to treat crops such as winter wheat, considered less attractive to bees; no home gardeners can use them. The original proposal would have banned neonicotinoids outright, but the EU commission did not reach the needed majority.
When plants, even seeds, are treated with neonicotinoids, the chemical becomes part of the plant’s tissues, so that when insects eat any part of the plant, they die. The chemicals become infused in nectar and pollen, and two studies recently showed that “even sublethal doses might hurt bees.” According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “71 of the 100 crops that provide 90 percent of human food are pollinated by bees,” yielding “$200 billion annually.”
While Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, “a Swiss biochemical company,” protest the ban, environmental activists argue that it does not go far enough. The chemical companies question the science behind the new studies, while activists challenge research by the companies that enabled original approval of the neonicotinoids. The EU commission will now re-examine those initial studies.
To read more, click here; complete URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/business/global/30iht-eubees30.html
“USDA and EPA Release New Report on Honey Bee Health” (May 2, 2013)
The U.S., too, has looked into neonicotinoids, but is not enacting any bans at this point. After comprehensive study, the USDA and EPA have identified at least 5 smoking guns in the honey bee die-off mystery: “multiple factors . . . including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.” The study does not rank any one factor above others.
The study stemmed from the “National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health” last October at Penn State, which set out to “synthesize” what’s known about how stressors harm bee health. Among their concerns are miticide resistance, new viruses, and lack of genetic diversity: they recommend that breeders focus on promoting traits like hygienic behavior. To address lack of diverse nutrition, they urge federal and state governments to take bee forage into account when making decisions about land management.
To address pesticide concerns, they suggest that crop producers adopt “best management practices” for pesticide use and work to communicate better with beekeepers. The study urges more research to “determin[e] actual pesticide exposures and effects of pesticides to bees in the field and the potential for impacts on bee health and productivity of whole honey bee colonies.”
Next steps include the Colony Collapse Steering Committee “updat[ing] the CCD Action Plan” in light of the report and “outlin[ing] major priorities to be addressed in the next 5-10 years . . . [to] coordinate the federal strategy in response to honey bee losses.”
To read the EPA’s press release, click here; complete URL: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/E04602A5E7AA060685257B5F004A12D3; to read the report itself, which the EPA says “represents the consensus of the scientific community studying honey bees,” click here; complete URL: http://www.usda.gov/documents/ReportHoneyBeeHealth.pdf
“Study Finds No Single Cause of Honeybee Deaths” (The New York Times, May 2, 2013, John M. Broder)
Reporting on the USDA/EPA study, The New York Times noted that the agencies rejected the European Community’s two-year ban on neonicotinoids, citing insufficient evidence to support an act that might do more harm than good. Jim Jones, acting assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, said that “‘[a]t E.P.A. we let science drive the outcome of decision making. There are non-trivial costs to society if we get this wrong. There are meaningful benefits from these pesticides to farmers and to consumers, as well as for affordable food.’”
The Times interviewed May R. Berenbaum (Professor of Entomology, University of Illinois), who took part in the study and reported that when autopsied, dead bees contained “residues of more than 100 chemicals, insecticides and pesticides, including some used to control parasites in bee hives.” She also thought that banning neonicotinoids was premature, noting that it’s hard “‘to predict the effect of removing one of 100 different contaminants. . . .There is no quick fix. Patching one hole in a boat that leaks everywhere is not going to keep it from sinking.’”
To read The New York Times’ coverage, click here; complete URL: http://nyti.ms/ZYgadQ.
“Monsanto, Bayer seek answers to bee losses” (NBCNews.com, May 20, 2013; Carey Gilliam, Reuters)
Under pressure from critics, Monsanto, Bayer, and Sygenta are starting honey bee health initiatives: “Monsanto is hosting a "Bee Summit." Bayer AG is breaking ground on a "Bee Care Center." And Sygenta AG is funding grants for research into the accelerating demise of honeybees.” Responding to the EU’s 2-year ban on key neonicotinoids, the companies counter that viruses, mites, and habitat loss, not pesticides, are the problem. Monsanto and DuPont are use neonicotinoids to coat their signature seeds.
"‘We are concerned... that the science sometimes gets trumped by the politics,’ said Dave Fischer, an ecotoxicologist at Bayer CropScience who is meeting with bee keepers and studying the bee deaths.” The pesticide industry stands to lose many millions of dollars annually if the U.S. were to adopt a ban similar to the EU’s; it challenges recent studies like Purdue’s (2012), which found that dust generated when treated seeds are planted has “very high levels” of the pesticide, which, as wind carries the dust, goes beyond fields where the seeds originally were planted. Pollen contained high levels of the pesticides, which were found in dead bees studied.
The USDA’s concern stems from threats of higher food prices in the wake of the winter of 2012-13, when, their study showed, “nearly one in three managed honey bee colonies in the United States were lost.” over the winter of 2012-2013, “42 percent higher than losses seen the previous winter.”
To read more, click here; complete URL: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/monsanto-bayer-seek-answers-bee-losses-6C9996526
CREDO Action Asks: “Why Won’t the U.S. Protect Our Bees?”
CREDO urges that those concerned about the environment generally and bees specifically sign an Internet petition to “tell the EPA . . . Bee die offs are a serious emergency. Please follow the European Union and immediately suspend the use of the dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides that are killing bees.” CREDO cites evidence that the EPA approved clothianidin “against the warnings of its own scientists in 2003, just a few years before bees began dying off in large numbers.”
If you’d like to sign CREDO’s petition, you can do so by visiting clicking here. Complete URL: http://act.credoaction.com/sign/eu_ban?akid=7852.6619209.pdkwx9&rd=1&t=1001. Their website gives links to news articles they cite to bolster their claims about the impact of neonicotinoids on bees.
“Beekeepers call for state to investigate spike in bee deaths”: 11 April 2013, KING 5 News, Olympia:
The Thurston County Commissioners are asking the Washington State Department of Agriculture to investigate the effect of neonicotinoids in pesticides in light of recent research on the chemicals’ sublethal effect on honey bees. Possible restrictions on sales, such as limiting use of these pesticides to those with up to date pesticide user licenses, could result. To read TCC’s letter to WSDA, click here.
WSBA President Mark Emrich was interviewed about the impact which neonicotinoids in pesticides are having on bees and beekeepers. Mark lost half his hives over the previous winter, despite having examined and treated for mites and other honey bee health challenges. To see the video, click here, or visit: http://www.king5.com/news/environment/Beekeepers-commissioners-call-for-state-to-look-into-bee-deaths-202614581.html.
The state has 60 days to investigate: to sign the Change.org petition to WSDA, click here, or visit: https://www.change.org/petitions/washington-state-department-of-agriculture-restrict-sale-use-and-application-of-neonicotinoid-insecticides<https://www.change.org/petitions/washington-state-department-of-agriculture-restrict-sale-use-and-application-of-neonicotinoid-insecticides?share_id=lnKcGxUnGu&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email
Neonicotinoids implicated in massive bee die-offs in U.S. agriculture (28 Mar 2013, New York Times):
Commercial beekeepers are reporting that 40 to 50 per cent of their colonies have died over the 2012-13 winter. The USDA will report its conclusions in May, though its lead researcher, Jeff Pettis, believes that this past year’s bee death rate will prove “‘much higher than it’s ever been.’” As rising pollination costs help drive food prices up, the pesticide industry claims that the spike in bee deaths since 2005 cannot be attributed to the rise in the use of neonicotinoids that has taken place over the same time frame.
A correlation is not necessarily a cause, but research into “sublethal” effects of these pesticides – “often embedded in seeds so that the plant itself carries the chemical that kills insects that feed on it” – shows that whereas previous pesticides degraded relatively fast, “neonicotinoids persist for weeks and even months.” As Bret Adee, a South Dakota beekeeper who lost 42% of his bees over the past winter, commented, “‘Soybean fields or canola fields or sunflower fields, they all have this systemic insecticide . . . If you have one shot of whiskey on Thanksgiving and one on the Fourth of July, it’s not going to make any difference. But if you have whiskey every night, 365 days a year, your liver’s gone. It’s the same thing.’”
To read the entire article, click here, or visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/science/earth/soaring-bee-deaths-in-2012-sound-alarm-on-malady.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&emc=eta1
“Neonicotinoid pesticides 'damage brains of bees'” (27 Mar 2013, BBC Science):
Two new studies have shown that neonicotinoids and coumaphos obstruct honey bees’ capacity to “learn and remember” and this intensifies when the two are used together. Coumaphos is used to fight Varroa mites, so this research suggests that beekeepers should, at minimum, reconsider that use. Bayer and other manufacturers argue that the neonicotinoid studies don’t “apply to bees in the wild,” but researchers note that the pesticide makers fail to account for sublethal and cumulative effects in their own studies.
The neonicotinoids were shown to make bees’ brains hyperactivated, “an epileptic type activity,” followed by “neuronal inactivation, where the brain goes quiet and cannot communicate any more.” The other study examined bee behavior and found that when exposed to both neonicotinoids and coumaphos, bees lost their capacity to “learn and then remember floral smells associated with a sweet nectar reward.”
To read more, click here, or visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21958547.
Neonicotinoid News: Jan. 2013 study by the European Food Safety Authority finds high clothianidin risk for honey bees:
A risk assessment of neonicotinoid pesticides conducted by the EFSA has shown that the active substance clothianidin poses a substantial threat to honey bees. The study evaluated how clothianidin was used in treating seeds or granules on a range of European crops. Bees get exposed to clothianidin through dust, as well as by ingesting nectar and pollen that have been contaminated by the pesticide. Though the study could not draw conclusions about long term effects, short term effects were profound. Crops in which clothianidin seed treatment poses “a high acute risk to honey bees . . . from exposure via dust drift” include “maize, oilseed rape and cereals.” Those interested can read the complete study by visiting http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/3066.pdf. or clicking here.
“Combined pesticide exposure severely affects individual- and colony-level traits in bees” (Nov 2012, Nature)
This study, done on bumblebees, may have profound implications for honey bees – and the politics of pesticides. Although it may seem intuitively obvious that pesticides brought back to a colony by individual foragers have wider impact on the colony as a whole, evidence establishing that linkage had not yet been found. Complicating matters, though many pesticides are used extensively in commercial agriculture, few studies have looked at how pesticides in combination affect bees.
The Nature study demonstrates that “chronic exposure of bumblebees to two pesticides (neonicotinoid and pyrethroid) at concentrations that could approximate field-level exposure impairs natural foraging behaviour and increases worker mortality, leading to significant reductions in brood development and colony success. We found that worker foraging performance, particularly pollen collecting efficiency, was significantly reduced with observed knock-on effects for forager recruitment, worker losses and overall worker productivity.” Further, they found evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides, when combined with pyrethroids, provide a one-two punch that increases a colony’s chance to die.
For more information, visit Science Daily, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022093148.htm, or Natural News, http://www.naturalnews.com/037676_pesticides_honeybees_destruction.html#ixzz2GOkQe0ix.
To read the complete Nature study, visit: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pollinators/documents/Combinedpesticideexposureseverelyaffectsindividualandcolonyleveltraitsinbees.pdf
EPA Decision on Clothianidin Expected Soon
The EPA closed a 60 day comment window about the controversial neonicotinoid pesticide Clothianidin on September 28; updates will be posted here when available. To visit the EPA's page on this issue, click here; complete URL: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/about/intheworks/clothianidin-registration-status.html. For alternative views, check:
* "Studies fault Bayer in bee die-off" (Christian Science Monitor). Complete URL:
* "2 Studies Point to Common Pesticide as a Culprit in Declining Bee Colonies" (The New York Times). Complete URL:
* "Leaked document shows EPA allowed bee-toxic pesticide despite own scientists’ red flags" (Grist.org). Complete URL:
* "Bee Deviled: Scientists No Longer Bumbling Over Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder" (HuffingtonPost). Complete URL:
"Controversy Deepens Over Pesticides and Bee Collapse" (Wired.com). Complete URL: