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Fwd: [Beekeepers' Guild] Fwd: Bees on the Brink

From: domainremoved <Elizabeth>
Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2014 23:21:43 -0700

Most national movements are started on a local level. Ban the use of
neonicotinoids in Menlo Park - City Wide; by the City, by residents, by
businesses. Be leaders.

Date: Sun, Jun 29, 2014 at 10:17 PM
Subject: [Beekeepers' Guild] Fwd: Bees on the Brink
To: Beekeepers' Guild <sanmateobeeguild_at_(domainremoved)


Begin forwarded message:

 Fantastic article explaining the honeybee situation...
Laurel Hopwood, Coordinator, Sierra Club Pollinator Protection Campaign
<lhopwood_at_(domainremoved)

http://www.startribune.com/local/264929101.html?site=full
Bees on the Brink
by Josephine Marcotty, June 29, 2014
(edited)

The past few decades of farm economics have created a system in which
one-third of the food on our plate now relies on just one pollinator - the
honeybee. And it's dying.

Steve Ellis, one of some 1,300 commercial beekeepers from across the U.S.
who migrate to California each year, along with nearly 2 million hives, for
the single largest pollination event in the world. For Ellis and his
sometimes partner Jeff Anderson, catastrophe could be just one harvest away.

In the past several decades, the number of crops that depend on bees for
pollination has quadrupled, even as the number of hives available to
pollinate them has dropped by half. Every winter, beekeepers on average
continue to lose a fourth to a third of their hives, raising fears that the
gradual decline of these remarkably resilient insects will soon limit the
production of foods that Americans now take for granted.

Repercussions of the flowerless landscape
Springtime used to be a time of rebirth. It was the season when beehives
grew fat and healthy on dandelions, wildflowers, and the sweet clover and
alfalfa that farmers once grew to add fertilizer to the soil. It's what
once made Minnesota part of a Midwestern mecca for beekeepers and long one
of the top five honey-producing states in the country. But in the space of
a few decades, the central Minnesota landscape around Ellis has been
transformed into one that has no room for bees.

When he looks out over the edge of the gravel pit where he keeps his hives,
Ellis sees what he calls a vast agricultural desert of corn and soybeans -
two plants that don't need bees for fertilization. Synthetic fertilizers
have replaced the natural ones, farming has become increasingly specialized
and now about a third of Minnesota's land - and much of the Midwest - is
covered with just those two crops.

Almost all Midwestern crops are now genetically engineered to withstand the
herbicide Roundup, so farmers can kill weeds without harming their yields.
But the widespread use of herbicides has virtually wiped out the milkweed,
clover and wildflowers from Minnesota's vast farming regions. That doesn't
include the millions of acres devoted to grass in urban areas, another form
of chemically intensive monoculture.

For bees - which need 150 million flowers to make enough honey for one hive
to survive the winter - there isn't much left to eat.

What flowers remain are increasingly exposed to a new family of
insecticides that, along with corn and soybeans, have exploded across the
Midwest and the world: neonicotinoids. They come coated on virtually every
seed planted in every major crop across the country - sunflowers, canola,
cotton, soybeans and corn.

Over 90 percent of the seed corn available to farmrs comes precoated with
neonicotinoids.

Ellis sees it every year in May, when his neighbors crisscross their fields
with massive planters that inject the pesticide-coated seeds into the
earth. They have to use a talc to keep the seeds from sticking together,
and as the hydraulic pressure in the machines forces the seeds into the
ground, the contaminated powder escapes and drifts over the land.

But May is also the month when his bees work the blooming willow trees,
shrubs and other flowers around the gravel pit, collecting pollen and
nectar as they play their part in the seasonal reproduction of plants. And
when wind blows the fine powders from corn seeds over the blooming plants
around his yard, many of the bees that return to the hive come back and
die. The sight of thousands of bees twitching and convulsing in front of
their boxes has become a near-annual event for Ellis and other beekeepers
in the same predicament.

Since their introduction, neonicotinoids have sparked a revolution in
agriculture. Because they are considered far safer than their predecessors,
they won fast-track approval by the EPA and are now the most widely used
insecticides in the world. Made from a synthetic nicotine, they are a
neurotoxin to insects.

But it's their delivery system that makes neonicotinoids truly novel.

As the chemical-coated seed germinates and matures, the insecticide moves
into the circulatory system and grows with the plant. As a result, today
all major crops - and even many of the geraniums and petunias at retail
garden centers - are poisonous to insects, regardless of whether they need
to be protected. It's a built-in insurance policy.

Neonicotinoids have become the focus of a national fight that is raging
over the fate of bees, largely because of a new and growing body of
research showing that even at low doses, the compounds can have what
scientists call sublethal effects.

Bees have extraordinary powers of navigation and communication. They fly as
far as 5 miles at a stretch - much farther than most wild pollinators. They
use the sun and an extraordinary innate sense of direction to find their
way home after long foraging expeditions, as well as an intricate "waggle
dance" to tell others in the hive where the flowers are.

But when bees are exposed to low doses of neonicotinoids, some scientists
say, they falter. Like drunks, they can't find their way home. "They can't
remember who they are or where to go," said Vera Krischik, an associate
professor at the University of Minnesota who studies insecticides.

In addition, researchers have found that neonicotinoids can undermine bees'
immune systems, making them susceptible to diseases carried by parasitic
mites, the invasive insect that swept through American hives starting in
the 1980s. "It's like they have AIDS," Ellis said.

Without bees, California would have no almonds. Are there enough bees to do
the job? "We are close to the tipping point, where the bee industry cannot
respond to the needs," Anderson said.
Received on Sun Jun 29 2014 - 23:19:11 PDT

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