Tag Archives: ccd

What is killing the bees? It's the neonicotinoids, for sure.


I want to start out by welcoming all you bee experts who think it is not the neonicotinoids, or that it is not so simple, to make your case in the comments. There is a great deal of controversy over what is causing bees to die off. That controversy even impinges on how we describe the thing we are talking about. Notice that I’ve not used the term “colony collapse disorder” because that is a term that may have been misused, or at least, that people who know stuff have noted has been used incorrectly thus mucking up the discussion.

Here’s the thing. There is a bee crisis. Specifically, bees are an important part of modern horticulture and industrialized farming in that they pollinate many crops. Every year professional bee keepers supply bees for this purpose. These are generally not native bees just doing their jobs, but rather, just as much part of the modern technology of growing food as are combines and crop dusters. Every year, the bee keepers put their bees away (more or less) for the winter, and in the spring, the wintered-over bee colonies are ready to go to work. Every year, a certain number of bee colonies do not survive that process, but they are replaced by other new colonies that fork off from the colonies that do survive. In recent decades, the number of bee colonies in this commercial setting that don’t survive the cycle has gone up, and this is associated with other worrying variables such as reduced population size in individual colonies, etc.

There has been a big fight over what causes the collapse. One of the primary suspects is neonicotinoids, a chemical that is spewed across the fields in order to kill insects. It was suggested some time ago that the decline of a particular insect, bees, might be caused by the wide spread use of a chemical designed to kill insects, neonicotinoids.

Who would have thought?

The idea was, of course, preposterous, because why would insect killing juice kill insects? Also, Big Ag owns a lot of the researchers, right? A lot of people are going to lose their jobs (as Vice Presidents In Charge of Killing Insects, or whatever) if it turns out that their insecticides kill insects. And, a very large amount of the research done these days in Ag is done by people with professorships, labs, fellowship, grants, etc with names like “Cargill” and “Monsanto” … which of course means NOTHING … why would paying for people’s careers ever influence what they do with those careers.

Anyway, I’m told that the jury is in and neonicotinoids are convicted. I am personally not going to support this argument one way or another for one simple reason: I don’t know what I’m talking about. I do not know enough about the details of how neonicotinoids kill insects, so I certainly can’t easily understand the process whereby neonicotinoids DON’T affect bees in particular, so I’m certainly not going to understand the process of how neonicotinoids kill insects but not bees but end up killing the bees anyway.

But you can read about it here: Environment: Smoking gun in honey bee die-off?

Big Ag. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

(In case anyone didn’t get the subtext here I’ll repeat one item in clearer language: The bees are part of Big Ag. They are not part of the natural environment being messed up by Big Ag. So this is kind of like one kind of tractor being run over and crushed by another kind of factor.)

OK, start fighting:

Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

We recently discussed news from the EU on banning neonicotinoid pesticides in order to stem the so called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) among honey bees. Bug Girl has an important guest post on the phenomenon of CCD by bee expert Doug Yanega. This is a must read not only for those interested in bees and CCD, but skepticism and science reporting in general, as Yanega places the current discussion in a strong historical context and provides a valuable critique of much of the reporting on CCD. Go read Honey bees, CCD, and the Elephant in the Room.

Photo Credit: wildxplorer via Compfight cc