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Earth Biotech Science

Harvard Study Links Neonicotinoid Pesticide To Colony Collapse Disorder 217

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

    Rob the Vegetable Farmer []'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 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.

  • Re:this is news??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:15AM (#46976671)

    outside northa merkin land..

    I wasn't aware Harvard was in Europe.

    Anyway, this is a recent followup to a 2012 study conducted by the same researchers over the same topic, so, no, this has not been all over the papers for the last two years. This is a new development that helps to further demonstrate their hypothesis.

  • 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 [], but they have a point. Bee collapse is not a problem in Australia.

    There is also this: []
    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 Freultwah ( 739055 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @06:06AM (#46977663) Homepage
    Organic farming uses natural pesticides, such as specific plants and plant infusions that insects are averse to, and those are not used to spray the crops, they are strategically planted or placed in the field. And they are completely harmless to humans. Where did you get that ‘older pesticides’ nonsense?
  • 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 delt0r ( 999393 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @06:33AM (#46977725)
    You should go visit an organic farm. It is clearly not what you think it is.
  • by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @07:02AM (#46977805) Homepage

    Science (or at least Scientific American) disagrees with you: http://blogs.scientificamerica... []

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @07:28AM (#46977899)

    The point of organic farming is NOT to use any pesticides

    Organic farms frequently DO use pesticides [] and in fact eliminating the use of pesticides completely is extremely challenging.

    Nothing wrong with organic farming methods but what people think is involved with organic farming and how it really is conducted can differ greatly. Organic means very specific things but what it doesn't mean is just as important. There are enormous loopholes in what organic means and other terms like "natural" essentially mean nothing at all.

  • 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.
  • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @09:12AM (#46978369) Journal []

    Some Pesticides Permitted in Organic Gardening

    By Laura Pickett Pottorff, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension horticulturist and plant pathologist

    If we think organic gardening means vegetables free of any chemical pesticides, we don't have the story quite right.

    Organic gardeners can use certain pesticides -- chemicals that are derived from botanical and mineral-bearing sources. These chemicals may be highly toxic, but they break down more rapidly than common chemicals, such as the Sevins, Malathions and 2,4,Ds.

    The use of botanical and mineral-bearing pesticides, even though some are toxic, also can be incorporated into an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to growing crops. IPM relies on a variety of pest control means rather than on one product or method. The pesticides discussed below are appropriate to include in IPM programs.

    Just as the more common chemicals are given toxicity ratings -- CAUTION, WARNING or DANGER -- so are chemicals from botanical and mineral-bearing sources. "CAUTION" means low toxicity or completely free from danger; "WARNING" means moderately toxic and "DANGER" means highly toxic. The toxicity rating for each pesticide is provided in the paragraphs below.


    Nicotine Sulfate

    Nicotine is extracted from tobacco or related Nicotiana species and is one of the oldest botanical insecticides in use today. It's also one of the most toxic to warm-blooded animals and it's readily absorbed through the skin. (Wear gloves when applying it, follow label directions and keep pets away from application areas.) It breaks down quickly, however, so it is legally acceptable to use on organically grown crops.

    Nicotine sulfate is sold as a 40 percent nicotine sulfate concentrate under trade names that include Black Leaf 40 or Tender Leaf Plant Insect spray. Nicotine kills insects by interfering with the transmitter substance between nerves and muscles. It's commonly used to control aphids, thrips, spider mites and other sucking insecticides on most vegetables, some fruits, flowering plants and ornamental shrubs and trees. Roses are sensitive to nicotine. Choose alternate pest control measures when treating insects on roses.

    Nicotine sulfate has a DANGER warning.


    Sabadilla, another botanical insecticide, is derived from the seeds of the sabadilla lily. The active ingredient is an alkaloid known as veratrine.

    Sabadilla is considered among the least toxic of botanical insecticides, but its dust can be highly irritating to the eyes and can produce sneezing if inhaled. No residue is left after application of sabadilla because it breaks down rapidly in the sunlight.

    Sold under the trade names Red Devil or Natural Guard, Sabadilla is effective against caterpillars, leaf hoppers, thrips, stink bugs and squash bugs. The insecticide is labeled for use on many vegetables. It has been assigned a CAUTION rating.


    Rotenone is a resinous compound produced by the roots of two members of the Leguminoceae family. Its common use is to control various leaf-feeding caterpillars, beetles, aphids and thrips on a wide variety of vegetables and small fruits. A slow-acting chemical, rotenone requires several days to kill most susceptible insects, but insect feeding stops shortly after exposure.

    Rotenone is moderately toxic to most mammals, but is extremely toxic to fish. It's widely used to poison "trash" fish during restocking projects. It has been assigned a CAUTION rating.


    Neem is a botanical pesticide derived from the neem tree, a native of India. This tree supplies at least two compounds, azadirachtin and salannin, that have insecticidal activity and other unknown compounds with fungicidal activity. The use of this compound is new in the United States, but neem has been used for more than 4,000 years for medicinal and pest

  • 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.

  • 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

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:36AM (#46979573)
    For anyone wondering, that's not much of a hyperbole: of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Even cattle, which feed on alfalfa, depend on bees. So if the collapse worsens, we could end up being "stuck with grains and water," said Kevin Hackett, the national program leader for USDA's bee and pollination program. "This is the biggest general threat to our food supply," Hackett said.

    source []

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.