CBC discovers CCD

CBC Evening News Blames Neonics for Colony Collapse… In a touching – and sad – news program from CBC’s National, we see the story of an Ontario beekeeper who is losing his bees. View the complete video on YouTube.

CBC News seems convinced that neonicotinoids are killing bees. Quite likely. Pesticides kill insects. Bees are insects and neonics are insecticides. Bayer, the makers of the stuff, dares to offer a differing opinion. It is unfortunate that neonics, as neonicotinoids are sometimes called by the spelling-impaired, are implicated in honey bee deaths. Unfortunate because it wasn’t supposed to turn out that way. Neonics were designed to be less environmentally harsh and were expected to replace the much more damaging families of organophosphates and carbamates that can be pretty indiscriminate in their slaughter sessions. Neonics are applied mostly to corn, rice, potatoes, and canola. (It is also applied in lesser quantities on a host of other crops.) Of those crops (corn, rice, potatoes, and canola), only canola is visited by honey bees as a foraging source. Southern Alberta has hundreds of thousands of acres of canola, and bees are rented by the tens of thousands for canola pollination. Neonictinoids are used here. But we have not seen the bee deaths described by others. The same might be said for Australia, which has apparently not yet experienced colony collapse disorder and has had neonic usage by the millions of kilos for years. Other places – Scotland and British Columbia come to mind – have either banned neonicotinoids or use them very sparingly, but CCD is still a big problem.

I am NOT saying neonics are OK. They are pesticides. They kill chewing and sucking insects. And, as I’ve heard some beekeepers say, bees suck. They can’t help but be hurt by neonictinoids. But does the stuff cause CCD? Not likely. If you watch the video that I’ve linked above, you will certainly have great sympathy for the beekeeper and his wife and six kids, living in their apartment above their honey extracting plant. The man is working hard and his losses are real. But we need to consider all possible culprits for his business’s demise. As a mathematician and scientist, I get irritated when I hear generalized statements like some of those in this news clip. It is stated that 85% of the dead bees in the apiary shown had neonic residue. Well, 100% of the bees had wings. Correlations do not guarantee causation.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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