Environment / Wildlife

Bad for Bees

Most people associate bees mainly with honey. But they do so much more for us. Now, it is time we do something for them, as these little helpers are dangerously threatened. The EU already takes huge steps towards rescuing the bees.

Return of the Bee

Bees are the most important pollinators (Photo credit: MightyBoyBrian).

Bees have become the third most important production animal, right after cattle and pigs. We love the sweet taste of honey, and use their wax for candles, their Propolis and Royal Jelly for cosmetics.

But, bees also guarantee our harvests and thus the survival of the human race. They are the main pollinators. About 80% of all plants depend on bees. Without them, the harvest of fruits would decrease by three quarters.

In the past years, mass extinctions of bees occurred all over the world. In 2007 vast populations of bees died in parts of the US, known as colony collapse disorder. Beekeepers recorded a mortality of up to 80%, some reported total losses. Another case of mass extinction happened in Germany’s Rhine Valley in 2008. About 11.500 colonies of bees were concerned.

The well-being of bees is dependent on a variety of environmental factors. Although it is difficult to determine what was responsible for the mass extinction, it is widely acknowledged that chemicals used in agriculture have a negative impact on bee populations.

EU bans harmful chemicals

These days, the EU member states voted to ban an insecticide assumed to harm bees: Fipronil. The ban for its use in agriculture will start in 2014. Its producing company BASF rejects the claim Fipronil is harmful for bees referring to a recent study, reported Reuters.

bee on red

Bees pollinate blossoms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia.)

The ban is a huge step towards addressing the mass extinction of bees, especially since in May already three chemicals have been banned by the EU. One of them was the insecticide Clothianidin.

Clothinaidin, produced by Bayer CropScience, was detected as the trigger for the mass extinction in Germany in 2008. The nicotine compounds in Clothianidin attack the nervous systems of insects. Because of its harmful effects it was banned immediately.

However, a year later it was re-introduced because a study has indicated that there are no harmful effects for bees. Interestingly, the case of 2008 was not considered in that study. The German environmental organisation BUND said that this might have happened because of the fact that the chemical industry sectors financed this study to a great deal.

The impact of industries

In other countries the industry has equal huge impacts on the politics: BUND states that the British Beekeeper Association was paid by the industry for keeping quiet in the question of pesticides: they got the poor amount of 17.500 pounds per year.

Queen bee 1

Beekeepers often report huge losses in their bee colonies. (Photo credit: quisnovus)

BUND also criticises the admission procedure for pesticides. Non-deadly effects are hardly considered, neither is the interplay of several chemicals.

The continuing mass extinction of bees concerns scientists all over the world. But the motivation is not only for environmental reasons: bees have a huge economic impact. The worldwide value of their work is estimated at $200 billion. If their numbers keep declining drastically, the rising prices of food, honey and other bee products are inevitable.

Bees are a hot topic on the political agenda. The French president François Hollande decided on a $40 million rescue plan for beekeepers, reported Die Welt. But all the money is worth nothing if we continue using harmful chemicals in agriculture. The recent ban of three pesticide will come into effect in Decembre 2013. The organisation Greenpeace, however, demanded a ban of seven pesticides.

Good to know:

The brilliant physicist Albert Einstein is alleged to have made a famous comment on bees. You’ve probably read it in some major publications:

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”

Although this claim might be true, Einstein never said this: See TheDailyGreen: Major Paper Repeats Bogus Einstein Bee Quote

Western honey bee

Western honey bee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More information:

Documentary: More than Honey

Reuters: EU agrees over ban on BASF pesticide

Die Welt: Bienensterben vernichtet bis zu 300 Milliarden Euro

Die Welt: Majas Sieg gegen BASF

BUND – Friends of the Earth Germany


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