A new study published in the American Chemical Society’s journal of Environmental Science and Technology creates a stronger link to what many scientists have already expressed concern over; the relationship between insecticides and mass die offs of honey bees.
Since seed coating with neonicotinoid insecticides was introduced in the late 1990s, European beekeepers have reported severe colony losses in the period of corn sowing (spring), according to researchers.
The study, entitled Assessment of the Environmental Exposure of Honeybees to Particulate Matter Containing Neonicotinoid Insecticides Coming from Corn Coated Seeds, focused on the technology used to plant the seeds and the use of neonicotinoid insecticides coated on corn seeds, which are commonly used because they’re believed to be less toxic to non-target animals.
Scientists believe the mass die offs may be caused by particles of the insecticide that reach the air when the drilling machines that are used for planting suck the seeds in and expel air, which contains the toxins. Researchers used different seeding methods and insecticide coatings, but all were found to kill bees that flew through the area.
“Experimental results show that the environmental release of particles containing neonicotinoids can produce high exposure levels for bees, with lethal effects compatible with colony losses phenomena observed by beekeepers,” according to the study.
France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have all suspended the use of neonicotinoids, and a recent report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is calling the loss of honey bees a global crisis that could affect 70 percent of the world’s food supply, yet the EPA continues to allow their use in the U.S.
“Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. “Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature’s services in a world of close to seven billion people.”
Photo credit: billhinsee