A new study, published in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology, has linked springtime die-offs of honeybees critical for pollinating food crops — part of the mysterious malady called colony collapse disorder — with technology for planting corn coated with insecticides.
In the study, Andrea Tapparo and colleagues explain that seeds coated with so-called neonicotinoid insecticides went into wide use in Europe in the late 1990s. The insecticides are among the most widely used in the world, popular because they kill insects by paralyzing nerves but have lower toxicity for other animals.
Almost immediately, beekeepers observed large die-offs of bees that seemed to coincide with mid-March to May corn planting. Scientists thought this might be due to particles of insecticide made airborne by the pneumatic drilling machines used for planting. These machines forcefully suck seeds in and expel a burst of air containing high concentrations of particles of the insecticide coating. In an effort to make the pneumatic drilling method safer, the scientists tested different types of insecticide coatings and seeding methods.
In related news VBA President Charles E. Mraz passes along this emergency petition to the Environmental Protection Agency on the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on beekeeping. (More information at http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/.)