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Earth Biotech Science

Harvard Study Links Neonicotinoid Pesticide To Colony Collapse Disorder 217

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-bees? dept.
walterbyrd (182728) writes in with news about a new study from Harvard School of Public Health that links two widely used neonicotinoids to Colony Collapse Disorder. "Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), or the widespread population loss of honeybees, may have been caused by the use of neonicotinoids, according to a new study out of Harvard University. Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides, chemically similar to nicotine. They were first developed for agricultural use in the 1980's by petroleum giant Shell. The pesticides were refined by Bayer the following decade. Two of these chemicals are now believed to be the cause of CCD, according to the new study from the School of Public Health at the university. This study replicated their own research performed in 2012."
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Harvard Study Links Neonicotinoid Pesticide To Colony Collapse Disorder

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 11, 2014 @11:18PM (#46976443)

    Insect poison found to be harmful to insects. Imagine that!

    • by plover (150551) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:10AM (#46976651) Homepage Journal

      The neonicotinoids have been seen as a great advancement in insecticides because they are toxic to insects, but much less so to mammals. Compare them with chemicals like DDT, which are effective against insects, but kill the higher orders in the food chain that eat them.

      The problem with them is that they are extremely effective at disrupting bees - about 1/150 of the dose needed to kill other insects is enough to confuse bees. And the products are advertised as rose and garden insecticides, which are naturally attractive to bees. It only takes a few bees worth of nectar gathering to bring down a colony.

      • The neonicotinoids have been seen as a great advancement in insecticides because they are toxic to insects, but much less so to mammals. Compare them with chemicals like DDT, which are effective against insects, but kill the higher orders in the food chain that eat them.

        The problem with them is that they are extremely effective at disrupting bees - about 1/150 of the dose needed to kill other insects is enough to confuse bees. And the products are advertised as rose and garden insecticides, which are naturally attractive to bees. It only takes a few bees worth of nectar gathering to bring down a colony.

        Which makes it interesting. CCD has been shown to be far less prevalent in Urban areas where these very plants are often found.

    • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:12AM (#46976659)

      Indeed. Unfortunately, from what I've been able to gather, they merely identified that neonicotinoids are harmful to bees and cause CCD symptoms, without drawing any sort of correlation between the rise of the CCD pandemic and the rise of neonicotinoids in the market, let alone demonstrating that as neonicotinoids spread to various regions, CCD spread with it.

      It's one thing to say "hemlock is poisonous to humans". It's quite another to say "Socrates died from drinking hemlock". Kudos to them for identifying something that's harmful to bees and seems to cause CCD, but finding a cause for CCD is quite different from finding the cause for the CCD pandemic. I hope they can provide evidence of the latter.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Well, yeah, he swore he would kill her, he was holding the gun that shot her to death and was standing over her dead body, and OK, the gun was still warm from firing and sure, there was nobody else around within a 20 mile radius, but I swear, he's totally innocent!

        They showed the stuff causes CCD, nobody disputes that it is used on crops. We already know that CCD is a bad thing, so we have enough reason to stop using it. They're saying hemlock is poisonous to humans, here is Socrates dead and this half emp

        • by jabuzz (182671)

          Really because I watched a documentary about this on the BBC a while back. In the USA in CCD all the bees just disappear from the hives. In the U.K. they all end up dead literally just outside the hive. So clearly CCD is different between the USA and the UK, yet neonicotinoids are being blamed both sides of the Atlantic.

          I would also note that there is no CCD in Australia last I heard, and although I have no direct evidence it seems unlikely that they are not using neonicotinoid based insecticides.

          It is high

          • by sjames (1099)

            That was well explained in TFA. The insecticide leaves them much more vulnerable to parasites (if any) that might attack them.

          • by mcvos (645701)

            Really because I watched a documentary about this on the BBC a while back. In the USA in CCD all the bees just disappear from the hives. In the U.K. they all end up dead literally just outside the hive. So clearly CCD is different between the USA and the UK, yet neonicotinoids are being blamed both sides of the Atlantic.

            Is it possible that the US and UK have slightly different species of bees? Are bees used in a different manner? In a different environment?

            That the problem manifests is a different manner doesn't mean there's no problem. It probably means you haven't isolated all of the variables. CCD could easily manifest differently in different species.

  • for colony collapse. Stay tuned next week for the 112th.

    • by ls671 (1122017)

      Personally, I liked that one:

      http://abcnews.go.com/Technolo... [go.com]

      http://www.wptv.com/news/local... [wptv.com]

      Just search for "zombie bees" to see a bunch of links popping up.

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      for colony collapse. Stay tuned next week for the 112th.

      This was one of the original explanations before you "how could insecticides be bad for nice, friendly bees" types got started with the propaganda.

  • by jrumney (197329) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @11:20PM (#46976453) Homepage
    Pesticides need to come with graphic images of deformed bee larvae covering at least 50% of the packaging. And we need to ban pesticide company sponsorship from gardening events (except lawnmower races, they can go a few more years before we ban it from there).
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anubis IV (1279820)

      Pesticides need to come with graphic images of deformed bee larvae covering at least 50% of the packaging.

      As a non-apiarist, I don't think I'm alone when I say that I'd be wondering why the slimy white things were on the package. I don't even know what healthy bee larvae look like, so how am I supposed to recognize deformed one?

      If "the answer is in marketing", I'd strongly suggest they hire someone else to come up with a message that better communicates the point.

      • As a non-apiarist, I don't think I'm alone when I say that I'd be wondering why the slimy white things were on the package. I don't even know what healthy bee larvae look like, so how am I supposed to recognize deformed one?

        If "the answer is in marketing", I'd strongly suggest they hire someone else to come up with a message that better communicates the point.

        How about a picture of a dead bee with a cigarette hanging out of its tiny little mouth?

      • Just keep ignoring that loud wooshing sound over your head.

      • by sjames (1099)

        How about they show happy shiny white families dying of starvation?

    • You jest, but communicating to farmers that "over/misuse of this pesticide may cause collapse of nearby bee colonies resulting in greatly reduced yields" wouldn't be a terrible idea.

  • by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @11:27PM (#46976487) Homepage Journal

    I wonder how Bayer is going to keep this new study out of their court case where they're suing the EU for banning neonicotinoid pesticides.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      No problem... the research was done after they already had banned it, so the lawyers will argue they can't use it as evidence :)

      • by Sique (173459)
        It doesn't work that way in most of the E.U.. If new evidence pops up that bolster your case, you are free to use it.
    • I wonder what will happen to their CCD rates. I doubt there is any one cause to CCD, but this could be a contributing factor, so it will be something to watch.

      • by Skinkie (815924)
        I am a strong believer in the "not one cause" theory. Maybe you find the attached article also enlightening. http://www.plosone.org/article... [plosone.org]
      • by Xest (935314)

        Yeah, the EU ban is only temporary by default anyway precisely so they can measure the effects. If they see a noticeable reduction in CCD they'll legislate to make it permanent.

        I think they've gone about it the right way - it's a serious enough problem that a ban for a few years to allow the facts to be better established isn't exactly going to be the end of the world, and if it works, good make it permanent, if not, make it legal again.

  • by teslabox (2790587) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @11:29PM (#46976495) Homepage

    Rob the Vegetable Farmer [tonopahrob.com]'s vegetable farm is in Tonopah, Arizona, and is relatively close to the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating station. He uses companion planting and a communion with his plants and animals to farm without chemical inputs. Specific flowers around the edge of a bed will attract the insects that might otherwise be drawn to eat the plants he plants for humans. Varieties of plants are intersperced with for mutal support and defense. Netting is used to keep birds out of the lettuce. Rob's approach is the implementation of Carrots Love Tomatoes (book about companion planting).

    Real Farmers don't need chemicals. Mono-croppers can't do without them. Few people could share Rob's passion for gardening, but we can all learn from his blog.

    (there is an obvious retort to this comment, and I wonder how it will manifest. ;)

    • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:22AM (#46976953)

      Real Farmers don't need chemicals.

      You're saying the people who produce the most food aren't real farmers? Nice. But yeah, polyculture is great and all in your garden, and intercropping systems are something worthy of more research, sure, but economically scaling it up might be a problem, and even then, it is highly unlikely to be the end of pest problems. The thing with simple solutions is that if they were really that simple everyone already be doing them.

      • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Monday May 12, 2014 @07:31AM (#46977917)

        Just ban the chemicals needed for factory farming and it becomes economical ... we'll need a far greater percentage of our population working on farms though.

      • by AttillaTheNun (618721) on Monday May 12, 2014 @10:19AM (#46978923)

        They're farmers, but they aren't farming based on a sustainable model.

        Nothing will end pest problems, but appropriate design will mitigate their impact on a system.

        Chemical pesticides are less than 100 years old. We got along just fine for beforehand for millennia without them.

        Here's another interesting fact - every culture that has adopted "modern" agriculture (i.e. the practice of clear-cutting forest, tilling soil and living primarily on annual (largely mono) crops) have eventually collapsed. All of them. It isn't a long-term sustainable model. Look to the lands of the middle east that were once lush edens for a prime example of how desertification is the end result. Look at the dust bowls of mid-western america as an example of how industrialization has only accelerated this process. Topsoil is the largest export of North America. The midwest prairies once had 6 feet or more of topsoil, until the clearing and tilling began. Contrast the long-term sustainable farming methods of North and South America (i.e. thousands of years), where the ratio of forested to cleared land for cultivating crops and grazing cattle was far different before western culture to what exists today.

        The "simple" solutions do work (they aren't simple in any way, however, as it is the complexity of the natural system models and patterns that make them work). Every long-term sustainable culture has relied on them without fail. And I don't buy the usual retort of "try and feed the world with them". There are plenty of documented examples of permanent, sustainable agriculture (i.e. permaculture) systems that provide as much abundance and nutrition per acre. It's just a matter of appropriate system design.

        I'll trot out the usual permaculture examples of proven systems and people leading by example:
        Sepp Holzer and his Krameterhoff and Holzerhoff farms in Austria
        Masanobu Fukuoka, who's system in Japan was rated the top 5% of rice production per acre in the country, yet also yielded an annual crop of barley on the same plot - all using natural methods.
        Bill Mollison and the permaculture research institute in Tagari, Tasmania, and the PRI's he and Geoff Lawton have set up world wide, many in some of the most challenging environments in the world (i.e. the salted deserts of Australia and Jordan)
        Mark Shepard and his New Forest Farm based in Wisconsin
        The large-scale grazing practices based on Alan Savory's work to reverse desertification
        etc

        • Chemical pesticides are less than 100 years old. We got along just fine for beforehand for millennia without them.

          With a FAR larger percent of the work force involved in farming and with FAR lower crop yields. Chemical pesticides are not desirable for obvious reasons but they do have a dramatic effect on the productivity of a piece of land for a given input of dollars. We got along without them because we didn't have access to them but there was a huge economic price paid in the process.

          every culture that has adopted "modern" agriculture (i.e. the practice of clear-cutting forest, tilling soil and living primarily on annual (largely mono) crops) have eventually collapsed. All of them.

          Horseshit. That is nothing more than unsubstantiated nonsense.

          Look to the lands of the middle east that were once lush edens for a prime example of how desertification is the end result.

          The lands of the middle east have been desert for for far longer than

    • by delt0r (999393)
      Now try and feed the world with them rather than half a dozen villages. Its all fine and dandy for people with so much disposable income that they can throw money at feel good food. Even worst is that there is really not data to even back up the feel good claims.
      • Now try and feed the world with them rather than half a dozen villages. Its all fine and dandy for people with so much disposable income that they can throw money at feel good food. Even worst is that there is really not data to even back up the feel good claims.

        Right, I do the same stuff this guy does but for fun. I currently have 3ft Tomato plants in Zone 5 and it's may! (bragging) But I have no delusions about my techniques working well enough to feed the entire population. It would drive the cost of food up several orders of magnitude. I'm able to grow enough for my family and to give to food banks, but total collapse of the system is entirely possible. If the wrong pest takes hold, I'm screwed for the summer. Last year we had a crazy overpopulation of rabbits,

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:20AM (#46976707) Journal

    Australia uses neonicotinoids and they have no bee collapse problems.

    Yes, I know the source is a chemical company [sumitomo-chem.com.au], but they have a point. Bee collapse is not a problem in Australia.

    There is also this: [forbes.com]
    On the other hand, in Canada and Australia, there is no sign of Colony Collapse Disorder. ...
    Despite the fact that neonicotinoids are widely used in Canada to protect canola from pests, Canadian bee populations have been largely unaffected and produce around 50 million pounds of canola honey. ...
    For example, in upland areas of Switzerland where the pesticide is not used, bee colony populations are under significant pressure from the mites; and in France, declines in the bee population in mountainous areas (where neonics are uncommon) are similar to those in agricultural areas (where neonics are widely used).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:10AM (#46976915)

      I don't know where you're getting your information but CCD is definitely a problem in Canada, at least in Ontario. My brother keeps bees there and I was just talking to him about it the other day.

    • by sjames (1099) on Monday May 12, 2014 @04:58AM (#46977535) Homepage

      The studies showed that the mechanism of action seems to be that the neonicotinoids render the hives more susceptible to common parasites. So if those parasites are less common somewhere, CCD will also be less common even in the presence of neonicotinoids.

      That still suggests that wherever the parasites are common, the neonicotinoids should not be used.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2014 @06:31AM (#46977719)

      "Australia uses neonicotinoids and they have no bee collapse problems."

      There are some differences in Australia:
      1. The low pressure air seeders vent directly into the furrow. Airborne contaminated dust is negligible.
      2. Neonics are not an approved foliar spray in Australia (ie: less use when it can be most damaging) (An alternate but related insecticide is available but has clear warnings about toxicity to bees and has clear instructions on when to avoid spraying and how to minimise chance of contact.)
      3. Australia does not have Varroa mite, removing a major stress for bees.
      4. Supplemental feeding is much less common, and feeding with HFCS extremely rare.
      5. Hives are generally less mobile, largely because of the next point
      6. Australian bee keepers make the majority of their money from honey production, pollination services are a side business (Pretty much the opposite of the US)
      7. Australia has a significant population of wild European bees, Asian bees and other native pollinators.
      8. While Australia has milder winters, it is still significant events for the bees in the areas where they are normally kept. However drought can also be a significant stress.

  • by Swampash (1131503) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:33AM (#46976767)

    The company behind Zyklon B wouldn't lie!

    • Zyclon B was originally used as a pesticide as well, specifically to fumigate houses if I remember correctly. Only later did certain people discover its "other" use.
      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Zyclon B was originally used as a pesticide as well, specifically to fumigate houses if I remember correctly. Only later did certain people discover its "other" use.

        To be fair, almost all nerve gases and such have their origins in the pesticide space. Figuring out how to kill pests is a perfectly legitimate use of science, but unfortunately one that is almost impossible to divorce from chemical weapons research. The goal of scientists is obviously to find compounds that don't have a huge impact on people, but inevitably they'll find ones that do, and while they'll usually steer away from them, knowledge once gained is never lost.

        None of this can be used to excuse com

  • In the late 90's I heard a interview with a organic bee keeper on NPR who said that organic bees do not have this problem. A few day later I was listening the the Art Bell Show when he was interviewing USDA representative. Art had a field on his website for sending comments to be read on the air so I posted a comment about the NPR interview and suggested that maybe there was a change in the pesticide/fungicide/herbicides that are being used now and perhaps that should be looked into. He actually read it to
  • by XNormal (8617) on Monday May 12, 2014 @03:54AM (#46977397) Homepage

    Actual nicotine is also used as a pesticide - in "organic" agriculture. I wouldn't be surprised if it has exactly the same effect if used at large scale.

    • by will_die (586523)
      Actually organic pesticides are far worse. Neonicatines are a family of pesticides that are focused on certain insect types. Nicotine will kill everything and does so very, very good. It will also kill pets, animals, humans, etc which is why modern pesticides are prefered.
  • What could go wrong?

    • Re:Refined Nicotine (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sique (173459) on Monday May 12, 2014 @09:10AM (#46978359) Homepage
      I would stay away from Vitamin B3 then. This is also "refined Nicotine" (Nicotinamid resp. Nicotinamid Acid). Substances are especially poisonous to us if they are closely related to substances that are an integral part of our metabolism.
      • They're not always poisonous, but it's often a good place to start. Look at the many psychoactive drugs, which are chemically similar to neurotransmitters.

        If it's similar, but not the same, chances are it will fuck you up.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Monday May 12, 2014 @09:30AM (#46978519)

    This study should come as no surprise to those who have followed the issue. In fact, I think neonics have already been banned in parts of Europe, if not all of Europe.

    For those that don't know about this, what happens is: bees, sometimes by the millions, fly off from their hives, and never come back. Such behavior has been unheard of until fairly recently. This starting happening soon after the widespread use of neonics.

    This would be consistent with the way neonics work. Neonics do not directly kill the insects. Rather, neonics affect the nervous system of the insects, and the insect dies because it cannot take care of itself. It has been long theorized that bees with damaged nervous systems cannot navigate back to their hives.

    • The problem is that the bans haven't stopped bee colony collapse.

      And some places that use these pesticides heavily don't have bee colony collapse. Like Canada and Australia.

      I'm sorry, but the Harvard study involving a mere 16 colonies is farcical when compared to the real extent and complexity of the issues here.

One man's constant is another man's variable. -- A.J. Perlis

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