Getting stung by a bee is no fun. However, the benefits of an abundant honey bee population makes their presence acceptable. To name the obvious bee-nefits (haw, haw), bees produce honey, which tastes good. More importantly, modern agriculture relies on honey bees to pollinate many crops. The responsibilities of the bees are quite important, clearly.
Bee populations in North America have begun declining rapidly. In 2010, there was a 34% drop in bee populations since the previous year. Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, has lead to the massive bee death. CCD likely hits a hive as a result of a combination of factors, including pathogenic infection, pesticide exposure, and stress from environmental changes. When worker bees disappear while a queen is still present and the capped brood have not yet hatched, conditions of the hive deteriorate. Soon, the hive is toast as a result of Colony Collapse Disorder.
Reading about the disorder reminded me that of an experience that I had while working for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). In the summer of 2010, the shores of the carp-filled lake at Pymatuning State Park were covered in thousands of dead fish. The department was concerned that the waters had been contaminated. They issued a "Do Not Consume" press release and immediately tested the waters for any unusual chemicals or bacteria. Soon, we received news that other lakes in the area were experiencing the same problem.
After diligent testing, the department found that no new contaminants had entered the water. In fact, the culprits were merely bacteria that had lived in the lake for quite some time, yet never had previously caused the fish any harm. That spring, however, the temperature of the water had risen exceptionally quickly, which caused the fish to endure new stress. Being that it was spawning season, the fish were already under high levels of stress, and the new stress of the rapidly rising temperature caused them to become weaker. The fish had succumbed to disease caused by the normally harmless bacteria.
But, I digress.
CCD is probably the result of many different factors, including fungal and other pathogenic infection, environmental changes, and pesticide exposure, as I had mentioned earlier. A current concern is that popular insecticides of the neonicotinoid variety are killing more than just the intended pests by contributing to CCD. (There are benefits to using neonicotinoid pesticides, however, as its use does diminish the need for more toxic organophosphate pesticides).
Bayer AG is a main producer of a common neonicotinoid pesticide, Clothianidin. It has been leaked that Bayer had research on Clothianidin which suggested that the pesticide would be majorly detrimental to bee populations. Although this information is a bit controversial, it has bolstered speculation that had already been going on concerning the negative affects of the insecticide.
This year, the EPA is reviewing Clothianidin and investigating its effects on certain ecosystems. Furthermore, Bayer is creating
Bee Care Centers!
This sounds adorable.
These Bee Care Centers will provide a haven in which bees will protected against certain parasites. Bayer will also try to identify the best products for keeping bees safe and protected. Bayer recognizes the necessity for pesticides, but will continue research on pesticides in search of one that will not be so harmful to the essential bee populations.