Researchers Report Honeybees at Risk

AUSTIN, TX – February 5, 2013 – Researchers have been troubled by the die-offs in honeybee populations in recent years, and are unfortunately no closer to finding a cause. Beekeepers have seen winter deaths of honeybees come in at around 30%, triple what beekeepers generally consider to be an “acceptable” level of mortality. Some hives are simply abandoned, in a syndrome known as “colony collapse disease” (CCD), while other researchers have noted attacks by the phorid fly, a parasitic fly that causes bees to leave their hives in the night and die. Researchers have been careful about drawing a connection between the phorid fly and CCD, but it’s suggested that the fly could be a vector for other diseases.

Other researchers have pointed the finger at chemical pesticides. The USDA’s Colony Collapse Working Team was formed in 2007 to look into a chain of CCD incidents; their testing found a strong presence of pesticides in the colonies, both in the pollen and honey. Neonicotinoids in particular have been linked to die-offs of honeybees in Europe (these chemicals have been popular as a sprayed pesticide and as a coating on GMO seed). Even lower doses of neonicotinoids have been shown to cause memory loss, navigation problems, paralysis and death in honeybees. These suspected links have been backed up by a rebound of the honeybee population in Italy, after the country issued a 2008 across-the-board ban of neonicotinoids. has also noted that beekeepers in citrus areas never saw CCD incidents until neonicotinoids were used to head off citrus greening, a bacterial disease that can wreck a citrus crop.

Penn State researchers, on the other hand, have seen a possible cause in miticides called fluvalinates, often used by beekeepers to prevent mite infestations in their hives. The fluvalinates make it into brood nest wax and pollen, while the mites have built a resistance to it; the new formulations of the miticide have been classified by the EPA as toxic to honeybees.

Still, Americans consume a staggering 400 million pounds of honey yearly reports “That poor plastic honeybear is probably the most abused icon out there,” according to Meme Thomas of Baltimore Honey. “We know that industrial agricultural just doesn’t work. Stop monocropping, get the wheels of the hives, and bring hives back into communities.”


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