Forbes article separates fact from fiction on bee deaths

April 16, 2013

From: Ag Professional

Colleen Scherer, Managing Editor, Ag Professional

A recent Forbes article claims to shed light on the real story behind neonicotinoids and mass bee deaths. The article, published April 11, lays out the history of bee deaths and points out multiple discrepancies in today’s popular myths about what’s causing bees to die off.

The article points out how activist community has been quick to rally behind one explanation: neonicotinoid pesticides. However, scientists have a wide range of explanations, and in the scientific community, there is no real consensus on the true cause.

What the activist groups fail to explain is how some countries that use neonicotinoids haven’t seen any sign of Colony Collapse Disorder. Those countries include Canada and Australia. In addition, the article points out that periodic occurrences of CCD have been documented as far back as 1869.

Activists are unable to explain why bees in Canada have not been impacted when neonicotinoids are used widely on canola. “Some 80 percent of Canada’s honey crop is from canola, amounting to 50 million pounds per year of Grade No 1 white honey. Approximately 300,000 colonies harvest open pollinated canola,” the article explains.

It is also explained that Britain’s rapeseed crop, which has a higher acid content than canola, has not experienced serious bee losses either. In addition, Australia is one of the world’s largest users of neonicotinoids and yet it has some of the healthiest bee colonies in the world. But what is not found in Australia is the Varroa mite, which has long been a concern for bees since they disseminate and activate a number of bee viruses.

The article cautions against hastily banning neonicotinoid pesticides when there is no consensus over what is causing the bee deaths and if these pesticides are involved. Rushing to ban this class of chemistry without a regard for balancing costs and benefits could do more damage than good. For example, older, more toxic pesticides would be reintroduced, and those are known to be more harmful to bees.

Read the Forbes article here.

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