Albert Einstein once said: "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!"
If that's the case, we're in serious trouble. In the U.S. we're losing about one-third of our honeybee hives each year.
But it's not just here. The United Nations reported the collapse of honeybee colonies is becoming a global phenomenon with declines in Europe, the U.S., China, Japan, Egypt and Africa. In fact, there's a name for the phenomenon. It's called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.
Colony collapse is significant because many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by bees. Sure other insects such as butterflies help plants to bloom, but the pollinating power of honeybees is far superior. Through pollination, honeybees transfer pollen grains from one plant to another so plants can multiply. Without honeybees, we will not have any fruits or vegetables and famine will arise.
Perhaps Einstein was right and we need to be addressing this issue on a global scale.
Scientists at Purdue University have identified one of the factors that cause bee deaths: Neonicotinoid pesticides, specifically clothianidin and thiamethoxam.
These compounds are highly toxic to honey bees. In fact, the amount of clothianidin on a single maize seed contains enough active ingredient to kill more than 80,000 honey bees.
All of the maize seed planted in North America except for 0.2 percent used in organic production is coated with neonicotinoid insecticides. It is then absorbed by the plant's vascular system and expressed through pollen and nectar.
A full text of the Purdue University Study can be downloaded (.pdf 120Kb) from the scientific journal "Plus One" at this link:
Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields
Since huge multinational corporations have taken over food production, things have gotten complicated. Big money is at stake.
Pest management in U.S. corn fields collapsed with the introduction of Monsanto's seeds engineered to contain the pesticide Bt and with the rise of Bayer's neonicotinoid-pesticide seed treatments—representing billions in annual sales to those companies.
Bayer has profited to the tune of over one billion dollars from its neonicotinoid pesticides.
Given Bayer's deep pockets, it's unlikely the feds will take action any time soon no matter what the research says. This means Colony Collapse Disorder is likely to continue to devastate bee populations. Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food.
I only know of one organization addressing this issue: AVAAZ, a global Web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere. I've signed its petition calling for a ban on all bee killing pesticides. The petition is located at this link: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_the_bees/?cl=914333688&v=8201.
Lisa Yates is the editor of Gonzales Weekly Citizen. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_editor.