Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chemicals in the Environment

The world that you and me and the honey bees live in is being sprayed, coated, and drenched with chemicals. Agricultural fields, lawns, and golf courses are treated with chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to produce larger crops, and greener, weed-free grass. The visible effects of this level of chemical use can be measured in more food crop yield per acre of farmland, less fuel consumed tilling the soil, crops available for conversion into alcohol for fuel, and greener lawns and golf courses. Some of the less visible effects of today’s chemical use include weeds becoming resistant to herbicides; pests becoming resistant to insecticides, miticides, and other pesticides; water quality affected by chemical run-offs; soil damaged by persistent chemicals; increased monoculture farming; the loss of pollinator forage and habitat; and the compromising of honey bee immune systems.

While the recent report of one scientific study of honey bee health pointed to a lethal combination of Nosema disease and Invertebrate Iridescent Virus, beekeepers who have been following the CCD investigation are asking questions about the findings. Particularly troubling to some is the lack of mention of certain insecticides that have been suspected of damaging the honey bees’ immune systems. Many beekeepers in Europe and North America feel that the neonicotinoids, like Imidacloprid, have not been proven to be safe for honey bees. To add to the lack of trust among beekeepers, some are questioning the conflict of interest between researchers and chemical companies. For example, see Regardless, any scientific investigation must be able to stand up to scrutiny. Confidence in tests is built by repeating the tests and increasing the number of samples taken. The association between Nosema disease and IIV Virus in collapsing honey bee colonies needs further study. The connection between sub-lethal exposure levels of Imidacloprid and honey bees’ immune systems certainly needs independent study. Today’s photo: An aerial applicator sprays insecticides to kill soybean loopers. Insecticides and fungicides are questioned as having weakened honey bees.

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