Honeybee decline
We are very dependent upon honeybees to pollinate many of our crops such as apples, almonds, avocados, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, soybeans and more. These pollinators provide at least $25 billion in economic benefits to our farmers. We now have about 2.5 million bee colonies, down from 3 million in 1990 and less than half of the 6 million we had in 1947. And these losses seem to be increasing. Surveys show in the 12 months ending in April 2015, beekeepers lost 42% of their colonies, the second highest rate in 9 years. Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine and Wisconsin all saw more than 60% of their hives die in this period.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon in which worker bees from beehives abruptly disappear. A recent CCD study released by our Agriculture Department citied exposure to pesticides, pests and pathogens as the probable causes of honeybee decline. Pesticide manufacturers claim their products are not the cause of CCD but advocates say science shows otherwise. A class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, a neuroactive insecticide chemically similar to nicotine, is strongly suspected by some to be a main cause of CCD. Neonicotinoids, or neonics as they are called, are the first new class of insecticides to be introduced in the last 50 years. They are intended to be used as an alternative to the notoriously-toxic organophosphate class of insecticides, and are currently the most widely used insecticide in the world. Due to CCD concerns, Europe enacted a two year moratorium on neonics last year but these pesticides are still used here.

Recent research in Massachusetts found that honeybees in 6 of the 12 colonies treated with neonicotinoids had abandoned their hives and died from symptoms similar to CCD. It concluded that these insecticides impair a honeybee’s neurological functions including memory, cognition and behavior - scrambling their navigation function and ability to forage. Industry supporters, some of whom deny there is a bee-death crisis, claim neonics are not responsible for CCD. They defend this chemical because it destroys pests and boosts crop yields. They claim varroa mites are the cause of CCD -if it even exists. However, the latest research seems to bolster the case for neonicotinoid pesticides being significantly responsible for CCD. Scientists claim their studies have shown bees to be as susceptible to nicotine addiction as humans. They say nicotine-addicted bees prefer food tainted with neonic pesticides to non-treated food, and they conclude the sustainability of a colony would likely be endangered if members foraged in areas treated with neonic pesticides.

Pending Legislation: None

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May 21, 2020
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May 27, 2020

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