An EPA memo that wound up in the hands of veteran beekeeper Tom Theobald identifies a common pesticide as directly harmful to honey bees. Clothianidin was first registered in May 2003 but that registration was dependent on a study being conducted which would show it was safe for honey bees. However, the study was flawed, and the EPA memo that was leaked shows they were aware clothianidin was harmful to bees, yet they had allowed it be sold and used, and in doing so also probably allowed many bees to be harmed or die.
You can read the memo for yourself here. It says, “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.” (Source: Pesticide Action Network)
Colony Collapse Disorder has resulted in the loss of millions of bees since it was observed starting in about 1995. Possible explanations for the massive die-off of bees have ranged from bacteria and viral disease to fungal infections. Of course some also have speculated that pesticides have been the culprit, or the effect of pesticides have made bees sick enough they can’t fight off diseases they normally recover from. Some beekeepers suspected it was the pesticides called neonicotinoids, including clothianidin which attack the nervous system of insects.
Corn pollen is abundant in the United States because corn is the largest commercial crop. Bees use corn pollen for food, and eighty percent of corn seed sold by the top producer contained clothianidin. The EPA’s conditional registration of clothianidin allowed eight growing seasons of commercial crops to be treated with the pesticide, resulting in exposure to a tremendous number of honey bees. Beekeepers and environmentalists have called for the EPA to prohibit the use of the pesticide.
David Hackenberg, Co-Chair of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board said, “What folks need to understand is that the beekeeping industry, which is responsible for a third of the food we all eat, is at a critical threshold for economic reasons and reasons to do with bee population dynamics. Another winter of ‘more studies are needed’ so Bayer can keep their blockbuster products on the market and EPA can avoid a difficult decision, is unacceptable.” (Source: Huffington Post)
Mr. Hackenberg was referring to the fact that each year more and more bees are dying, and the beekeepers are losing their capacity to stay in business at the same time. The product name for clothiniandin is Poncho or Poncho 600 and it is made by Bayer. It has been banned in Germany, Italy, France and Slovenia. Sales of the pesticide generated $262 million in 2009 alone. (Source: thesunbreak.com)
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