2343Where Have all the Honey Bees Gone?
- Apr 21, 2006Where Have all the Honey Bees Gone?
(The amazing story of dairy industry culpability)
"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe,
then man would only have four years left to live."
- Albert Einstein
This from the Penn State Agriculture Magazine, Spring 1998:
"In the spring of 1993, entomologist Maryann Frazier
encountered a mystery. 'Beekeepers began calling to
report that they had no bees in their colonies,' she
recalls...They had seen bees making flights in February,
but by April, there were no bees. What happened to them?'
Frazier's investigation into the reasons the bees
disappeared continues today. If she and her colleagues can't
unravel the mystery of why bee colonies are dying, beekeepers,
fruit and vegetable growers, and consumers all are likely to
feel the consequences."
I live in New Jersey, America's Garden State. Believe it
or not, we have a state insect, the honey bee. Honey bees
pollinate crops. It's actually a big business. Pollinators
travel America, leasing their bees to crop growers. Beekeepers
keep the honey. During World War II, there were over 6 million
commercial beehives in America. By the mid-1980s, that number
had dropped to 4 million. Today, there are 2.5 million remaining.
America's honey bees are disappearing, and those who best know
bees have a number of theories, but no one conclusive reason.
The one universally accepted fact is that bees are in trouble.
Could an aspirin manufacturer be the cause of the bee's demise?
The Bayer Aspirin Company may be giving our environment an
incurable migraine headache.
My first hint came from an ad in the April 10, 2006
issue of Hoard's Dairyman. There, on page 270, a full
color advertisement proclaims:
"Bayer supplies the technology to fix the milking
machine on the right."
On the right side of the ad is an enlarged photo of
a most grotesque fly with large red eyes and appendages
containing end-to-end cactus-like spurs.
In smaller text, Bayer informs prospective customers:
"Bayer understands how much profit flies suck out of
your entire operation. That's why we developed QuickBayt
Pour-On insecticide...put the high-tech tools from Bayer
to work." (Bayer is owned by the IG Farben Company, and
no, I will not be getting into that controversy here...)
I began to search the Internet for the secret ingredients to
Bayer's miracle fly solution. Gobs and gobs of this high-tech
gunk are slathered onto dairy cow's bodies. What's in QuickBayt
that makes life so very dangerous for the honey bee?
Imidacloprid is a widely used insecticide that has environmentalists
extremely concerned. Apparently, scientists have known for many
years the impact that imidacloprid has on wildlife. Here are some
of the recognized hazards of using imidacloprid:
Imidacloprid has raised concerns because of its possible impact on
populations...it is also acutely toxic to earthworms...
Imidacloprid has raised concerns because it causes eggshell thinning
in endangered bird species...it is highly toxic to sparrows, quails,
canaries, and pigeons...
Imidacloprid can be toxic to humans, causing epileptic seizures,
diarrhea, and lack of coordination...
Imidacloprid is extremely toxic at low concentrations to some
species of aquatic fish and crustaceans...
Can food be contaminated with imidacloprid? You tell me whether
this is comedy or tragedy at work. Neither the United States
Department of Agriculture nor the Food and Drug Administration
includes imidacloprid in their food monitoring programs.
Two European studies have shown that vegetables tested with
imidacloprid were contaminated, one week after exposure.
It seems clear that imidacloprid use on dairy farms should be
closely monitored by regulatory agencies. The Bayer Company
is making lots of money on this drug, but the true cost might
become America's newest headache. My advice to FDA and USDA
regulators who refuse to regulate: Take two imidacloprids
and call me in the morning.
"Even bees, the little almsmen of spring bowers,
know there is richest juice in poison-flowers."
- John Keats