The insecticide clothianidin is believed to be killing many bees and contributing to colony collapse disorder by some beekeepers and scientists. Commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations have banded together to ask the EPA to ban clothiandin – one of the neconicotoids – a group of chemicals that affect the central nervous systems of insects. They also weaken the immune systems of bees, which makes them more susceptible to diseases and death. One beekeeper said clothiandin exposure is like giving bees AIDs, because of the impact on their immune systems.
The EPA apparently has known for some time clothiandin is a problem, as evidenced by one of their memos which was leaked to the public and generated quite a bit of press, “Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis.”
Bayer’s insecticide has already been banned in a number of European countries. Clothiandin is a lucrative insecticide. In 2010 it brought in $267 million for Bayer.
Bees pollinate about one third of the crops in the US, which is a fact often cited in such news stories, but what about all the plants they pollinate outside of human agriculture? Bees are not only valuable to humans, they also pollinate plants used by wild animals.
Image Credit: Kadri Puna