more bad news for bees

The American Chemical Society is not shying away from the fact that chemicals in hives are devastating bee populations, both in the pollen and the wax, a new study is detailing exactly what is going on:

"In it, Christopher Mullin of Pennsylvania State University in University Park and his colleagues describe widespread pesticide tainting in 749 samples of bee-dom, some of those chemicals at levels that would be toxic if they occurred alone. Except that most bees aren’t exposed to just a single pesticide.

In beeswax, they report, “87 pesticides and metabolites were found with up to 39 different detections in a single sample.” The average number of pesticides identified per wax sample (and they analyzed 259 samples): eight. Among 350 pollen samples retrieved from hives, each harbored an average of seven such chemicals – but at times up to 31 pesticide contaminants (or their breakdown products, some of which are far more toxic to bees than the parent chemical would have been)."


the real problem is actually from the chemicals used to treat for mites:

"In general, the most commonly occurring pesticides were those that may have been intentionally applied to hives in hopes of killing mites, a bee parasite. However, some of these miticides may, when paired up with other classes of pesticides, act synergistically to poison insects. The top 10 most frequently found pesticidal chemicals: fluvalinate and coumaphos – both mite killers -- followed by chlorpyrifos, chlorothalonil, amitraz (another miticide), pendamethalin, endosulfan, fenpropathrin, esfenvalerate and atrazine – the last an herbicide.

Overall, mite-killing chemicals accounted for most pesticide residues in comb wax and bees. Fungicides dominated the pollen contamination

In some instances, the researchers note, “unprecedented” parts-per-million levels of individual chemicals were found. And the real problem, Mullins’ group argues, is that “the biological impacts of these materials at their dietary levels on other honey bee larvae or adults remains to be determined.” "


It doesn't seem hard to imagine then that not using miticides will take beekeepers a long way (though not all the way) to solving the problem. The heavy chemical dependence of U.S. agriculture simply is not a sustainable system.

the citation is: Mullin, C.A., et al. 2010. High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health. PLoS ONE 5(March):e9754.

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