European scientists say they have discovered the problem behind the declining honeybee population, and pesticides seem to be the culprit. Another neonics study revealed that toxic effects of several types of neonicotinoids used at sub lethal doses negatively impact honeybees, birds, aquatic fauna, and human health. Two types neonicotinoids often used on crops in the United States may cause brain impairment and should be restricted, according to the recent study by a team of European scientists.
The study by the journal Ecology Letters states that “extended periods of stress” can cause the failure of a bee colony. Scientists at the University of London believe that when bees are exposed to even low levels of neonicotinoids, behavioral changes occur and work inside the colony ceases. A report by Off The Grid News states that neonicotinoids are one of the primary chemical ingredients in Monsanto agricultural products.
The European scientists believe that the neonicotinoids are safe only on amounts smaller than what are currently allowed by law. “Acetamiprid and imidacloprid may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory,” a press release that accompanied the study states.
The bee colony collapse study also revealed that exposure to chemical pesticides like neonicotinoids in crop fields impact individual bees. The exposure to popular chemical herbicides and pesticides like Monsanto manufactures by even a single bee can cause a honeybee colony to fail.
Lead scientist John Bryden said:
“One in three mouthfuls of our food depend on bee pollination. By understanding the complex way in which colonies fail and die, we’ve made a crucial step in being able to link bee declines to pesticides and other factors, such as habitat loss and disease which can all contribute to colony failure. Exposing bees to pesticides is a bit like adding more and more weight on someone’s shoulders. A person can keep walking normally under a bit of weight, but when it gets too much – they collapse. Similarly, bee colonies can keep growing when bees aren’t too stressed, but if stress levels get too high the colony will eventually fail.”
Fellow study author Vincent Jansen noted that the research project also provided significant insights into the biological process of the little pollinators. Jansen also added that the researchers found the manner in which bees work together is intriguing and that the failure of the insects to work together can also contribute to colony failure and the decline of the hive.The research was funded as part of the “Insect Pollinators Initiative.”
“Pesticides can have a detrimental effect on bees at levels used in the field,” said co-author Nigel Raine. “Our research will provide important evidence for policymakers. The way we test pesticides, the way we assess their impact on bees, and the way we manage pesticides can all be improved.” Meanwhile, a separate study, published by the Xerces Society, appears to support the scientists. The study is titled “A Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoids Insecticides on Bees.”
An excerpt from the chemical pesticides study reads:
“A possible link between neonicotinoids and honey bee die-offs has led to controversy across the United States and Europe. Beekeepers and environmentalists have expressed growing concern about the impact of neonicotinoids, concern based on the fact that neonicotinoids are absorbed into plant tissue and can be present in pollen and nectar, making them toxic to pollinators.”
- Residue from the chemical have been found in nectar and pollen consumed by butterflies and honeybees. In some cases, the neonicotinoid levels reached lethal proportions.
- Measurable amounts on neonicotinoid residues were found in “woody plants” approximately six years after the chemicals had been applied. A single application can reportedly remain in the soil for months or even years.
- Plants and crops not treated with the chemical can still absorb neonicotinoids left in the soil from a prior year.
- Chemical products which contain neonicotinoids and are designed for home use in lawns and gardens reportedly possess manufacturer application recommendations more than 120 times higher than the rates suggested for the agriculture industry.
Neonicotinoids are among the primary ingredients in chemical pesticides and herbicides manufactured by biotech giants like Monsanto and DuPont. An earlier study published by the journal Ecology linked the chemical with the unprecedented decline in the honeybee population worldwide. Neonicotinoids reportedly disrupt the immune systems of bees and make them vulnerable to viral infections that the species had typically been resistant. A study conducted by the American Bird Conservancy maintains that the neonics problem is worse than initially believed and threaten both the pollination process and biological control of ecosystems.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report stated that further restrictions of neonicotinoids is needed because the use of such chemicals “may affect the developing human nervous system of children.” Officials in Europe passed new restrictions on three types of neonicotinoids during the early months of 2013 to help protect the honeybee population. The tiny pollinators are integral to the survival of both human and livestock.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also conducted a similar study which reportedly showed equally adverse effects on honeybees, but the federal agency has failed to take action on the findings. The European scientists began reviewing the impact of the neonicotinoids imidacloprid and acetamiprid after a Japanese study prompted safety concerns in 2012.
An excerpt from the neonicotinoids study reads:
“One study with rats showed that offspring exposed to imidacloprid suffered brain shrinkage, reduced activity of nerve signals controlling movement, and weight loss. Another rat study found that acetamiprid exposure led to reduced weight, reduced survival, and a heightened response to startling sounds.”
A New York Times report stated that imidacloprid is one of the “most popular” insecticides used in consumer and agricultural products. Bayer developed the neonicotinoid and it is the active ingredient in the company’s Advanced Citrus and Vegetable Insect Control products. The biotech product is sold around the world, including in Home Depot stores throughout the United States. A total of one-fifth of the crops sampled in America contain imidacloprid, including 60 percent of cauliflower and broccoli produce, according to Grist. Approximately 10 percent of the crops sampled in the review tested positive for acetamiprid, including 50 percent of summer squash.
Bayer representative Richard Breum dismissed the Japanese neonicotinoids study saying rat cell cultures and not human cells were used during the testing. Bayer profits from the sale of chemical pesticides and herbicides which contain various neonicotinoids. “Imidacloprid has no developmental neurotoxicity potential in humans,” Breum said, according to The New York Times.
A statement released by the European Food Safety Authority reads:
“[The study] recognizes the available evidence has limitations and recommends further research be carried out to provide more robust data. [But] health concerns raised in the review of the existing data are legitimate.”