What is in this article?:
- Opinions number almost as many as there are bees in a hive as to why the bee population in North America has declined almost 50 percent over the past two decades while at the same time the bee population is increasing elsewhere in the world.
- CCD puzzle made up of multiple pieces.
Simple, one-word answers make money on Jeopardy. However, suggested solitary explanations as to what's killing honey bees in North America and Europe are little more than buzzwords. There are so many suspected causes to why bees are dying they are umbrellaed under the term Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD encompasses everything from the varroa mite to bad beekeeping.
Opinions number almost as many as there are bees in a hive as to why the bee population in North America has declined almost 50 percent over the past two decades while at the same time the bee population is increasing elsewhere in the world, like in Asia where it is up 426 percent and in Africa where it has increased by 130 percent during the same period of time.
Most agree that the varroa mite and as many as 20 viruses it vectors is part of the CCD puzzle. Annette Schuermann, head of the Bayer Bee Care Center in Monheim, Germany said varroa mite losses in the U.S. total 30 percent.
That state of the art research center was opened last June. A similar center is under construction in Raleigh, N.C. and is scheduled to open later this year.
Bayer CropScience is interested in a worldwide bee population for a couple of reasons. Pollinating bees contribute significantly to the production of more than $200 billion dollars or 9.5 percent of the world's agricultural production. Honey bee pollination is indirectly or directly responsible for one-third of the world's food production, according to Bayer. And that is expected to increase as the world's population increases and the consumption of tree nuts, fruits and vegetable grows, many of which require bee pollination to produce. Bayer CropScience is heavily invested in crop protection products for those markets.
Secondly, Bayer is heavily committed to a new class of insecticides called neonicotinoids and they have been widely implicated in honey bee kills. Neonicotinoids are neuro-active insecticides related to nicotine. The development of this class of insecticides began with work in the 1980s by Shell Oil Company and the in the1990s by Bayer.
The neonicotinoids were developed in large part because they are less toxic to mammals than organophosphatess and carbamate insecticides.
Neonicotinoids are the first new class of insecticides introduced in the last 50 years, and the neonicotinoid imidacloprid is currently the most widely used insecticide in the world. Recently, the use of some members of this class has been restricted in some countries due to evidence of imidacloprid effects on honey bees.
Beekeepers actually welcomed the neonicotinoids because there were fewer bee kills than when organophosphates and carbamates were used.
Recently, though, researchers in the U.S. and Europe are saying there is a link between bee deaths and neonincotidoid use. Maybe not directly, but in sub-lethal doses that make bees more susceptible to diseases. Bayer refutes that. Schuermann says if there is a correlation between bee kills and neonicotinoids is due to "incorrect" pesticide applications.