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Will We Use an Agreement to Save the Bees?

Posted on 23 August 2016 by Jerry

Scientists report good news about the closing of the ozone hole at the South Pole. Fortunately the human species banned chlorofluorocarbons with the Montreal Protocol that was signed September 16, 1987, almost 30 years ago by 25 nations. Over 165 nations are now a party to the agreement. A couple of recent articles in this blog cite progress made by the US with China and India (see and ).

Susan Solomon of MIT led the team that evaluated the ozone hole in Septembers of multiple years. As reported by National Geographic in June of this year, “Solomon’s team found that, in recent years, the hole is not eclipsing the 12-million-square-kilometer threshold until later in the southern spring, which indicates that the September hole is shrinking. In fact, the researchers believe the ozone hole has shrunk by more than 4 million square kilometers. Furthermore, the hole is not as deep as it used to be.”

Human beings have used their chemicals and banned some of them to right ozone wrongs they committed. Can we, will we do it again to save the bees? Can we convince or mandate through law that select businesses will no longer use banned chemicals to hurt the bees? Can we ban or severely limit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (insecticides based upon the use of a chemical similar to nicotine)?

An article appeared in the New Scientist in July of 2016. It said, “Exposure to neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide widely used on crops, reduced the percentage of viable sperm in male honeybees (drones) and also shortened the insects’ lifespans, according to a study published today (July 27) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.” The study observes that the queens of the colony collect sperm from the drones and store it for future fertilization. If the sperm is bad the future reproduction is compromised.

Shell and Bayer both developed these insecticides. Chemical companies around the globe now sell them. In addition, as of 2011, Bayer, Syngenta, Sumitomo Chemical, Nippon Soda, and Mitsui Chemical made derivatives of these products. These products are now widely used for instance in the U.S. where they are used on 95% of corn and canola crops, most cotton, sorghum, sugar beats and about half of all soybeans. In addition they are used on the majority of all fruits, vegetables and nuts.

An article in Nature magazine was published online in August of this year said as follows, “In 2013, the European Union imposed a 2-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids to protect both domesticated and wild bees. This moratorium is scheduled to be formally reviewed in 2016, although exemptions to this ban have already been implemented in the UK.”

In addition the article continued, “Our results provide the first evidence that sub-lethal impacts of neonicotinoid exposure can be linked to large-scale population extinctions of wild bee species, with these effects being strongest for species that are known to forage on oilseed rape crops. These results support the findings of previous studies on commercially bred pollinators that have identified the underlying mechanisms affecting mortality. This study extends existing evidence from a limited number of model species to the wider community of bees found in agricultural landscapes. These findings provide an important contribution to the evidence base underpinning the current moratorium on the use of this insecticide in the European Union.”

In an article on this blog last year (see ) we described the value of bees to all of us. We said, “Feral bees, or the other 3,999 species in the U.S., are dying.  Feral bees are the large majority of bees.  They are often solitary, stingless and ground nesting.  Estimates place the annual value of all bees in the U.S. Economy at between $14,000,000,000 and $20,000,000,000.”

We continued, “This is because they are a key pollinator of hundreds of plants we depend upon.  These include beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, oilseeds, sunflowers, fruits and plants such as clover that our livestock are dependent upon.  Another way to estimate the value is to recognize that one out of every three bites of food you take has some dependence on bees.”

So the question is should we seriously restrict or ban entirely the neonicotinoid pesticides? Should this be another Montreal Protocol? Should we find the countries beyond the European Union to support a worldwide ban? The answer is yes!

We should begin our quest to save the bees and ourselves by banning production of the offending chemicals. We should write to our president or presidential candidates to have them initiate the international cooperation to save our bees and ourselves. We should insist that this effort be taken in our name to save the future agriculture needed to feed the world.

Use the following links to access additional information or articles used to prepare this article.–Study/


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Feral (or Wild) Bees are Dying

Posted on 09 May 2015 by Jerry

There are an estimated 4,000 species of bees in the U.S. (more than 20,000 worldwide).  Domesticated bees, Apis millifera, are the most familiar and most studied but are only one species of bee.  These are highly social bees that live in human-managed, large farmed hives.  Beekeepers move them from one type of crop to another throughout the year.   This domesticated species appears to have a tolerance to pesticides that feral (wild) bees do not.  It does not face extinction.

Feral bees, or the other 3,999 species in the U.S., are dying.  Feral bees are the large majority of bees.  They are often solitary, stingless and ground nesting.  Estimates place the annual value of all bees in the U.S. Economy at between $14,000,000,000 and $20,000,000,000.

This is because they are a key pollinator of hundreds of plants we depend upon.  These include beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, oilseeds, sunflowers, fruits and plants such as clover that our livestock are dependent upon.  Another way to estimate the value is to recognize that one out of every three bites of food you take has some dependence on bees.

In a recent study described in the April 22, 2015 issue of Nature magazine a scientific team led by Maj Rundlöf established that bumble bees are harmed by seeds coated in neonicotinoid insecticides (insecticides that are chemically close to nicotine).  Their report states, “Here we show that a commonly used insecticide seed coating in a flowering crop can have serious consequences for wild bees.”

The report states further that, “We found that seed coating with Elado, an insecticide containing a combination of the neonicotinoid clothianidin and the non-systemic pyrethroid β-cyfluthrin, applied to oilseed rape seeds (for canola oil), reduced wild bee density, solitary bee nesting, and bumblebee colony growth and reproduction under field conditions.”

These neoincotinoid-based pesticides have been banned in the European Union.  Pesticide producers and the rest of the world need to stop using them as well.  This study, which is highly respected, is a smoking gun that cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately this is only one smoking gun.  Bees are subject to harm from a number of causes.  These include an array of insecticides, parasites, and pathogens.

As another example, a study this year led by Andrew Barron at Macquarie University in Australia found that bee colonies are collapsing because as bees in a colony die due to any number of causes, younger and younger bees start foraging for pollen earlier.  Unfortunately, younger bees die after fewer foraging trips and they collect a smaller amount of pollen.  This is how bees react to such stressors.

Their study shows, “Bee colonies contain a precise balance of bees specialized in the different roles the society needs. If that balance is upset by young bees starting to forage early, sometimes the colony cannot cope.  There is a breakdown in division of labor, and loss of the adult population, leaving only brood, food and few adults in the hive.”

Our bees however, must be saved for the continued health of the human race.  We do not have any way of accomplishing the fertilization the bees provide us.  We therefore must eliminate each cause of bee death as we identify it.  We know that modern life has created a number of threats to our bees.  We must eliminate these threats.

Use the following links to obtain additional information or access the original documents that were the basis of this article.

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Bright Idea

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Turning Around Human Failure

Posted on 26 February 2014 by admin

There are far too many stories about mistakes human beings have made or are making.   We have all heard about how our products harm us, how we kill other species, and how we foul our planet.  While this article tells a story of replenishment and rebirth, it also offers a laundry list of blunders we have made when we introduce invasive species into an environment.

Under bright ideas there is normally a focus on an individual who did something right, in this case we are focused on a country, Kazakhstan.  Formerly a part of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan is now an independent nation.  It is also the location of a part of what remains of the Aral Sea that was once the fourth largest lake in the world.

The Soviet Union diverted two of the largest rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya that fed and replenished the Aral Sea’s fresh water.  It redirected their water to provide irrigation to new cotton agricultural areas.  In the 1960s the lake, which was mistakenly called a sea, covered an area of 68,000 kilometers (26,300 square miles).  By 2007 it had shrunk to less than 10% of its former size and split into three remaining lakes, of which the North Aral Sea is in Kazakhstan.  The before and after videos of the Aral Sea that are linked below, are striking.

In 1994 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgystan pledged 1% of their budgets to help restore the Aral Sea.  In an effort to improve its North Aral Sea, Kazakhstan completed an eight-mile long dam across the Berg Strait, a deep channel that connects the North Aral Sea with the South Aral Sea.

In a second phase it built a concrete dam separating the two halves of the Aral Sea.  By limiting the outflow from the North Aral Sea into the South these two dams are responsible for the replenishment of fresh water in the North Aral Sea.  The water level has risen significantly, the salinity of the water is dropping and a small but successful fishing industry has once again been launched.

While this restoral of the North Aral Sea by Kazakhstan is meeting with success it is but one of a number of lakes or areas that are being affected by ill-advised diversion of water for irrigation.  Wikipedia identifies the Mesopotamian marshes, the Sistan Basin in Afghanistan and Sistan and the Sudd, a large marshland in Africa as bodies of water that are similarly threatened by agriculture.

It also identifies lakes in the United States that are drying up due to irrigation projects and other natural causes.  These include the Dead Sea, Salton Sea, Lake Chad, Mono Lake, Tulare Lake, and Lake Mead.  Without remembering the tragic history of other ill-considered irrigation projects, we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past.  If we follow Kazakhstan’s example however, we can restore a number of areas to their past grandeur.

Another present day disaster is a plan to build a second canal allowing access to and from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  This construction will destroy the environment in Nicaragua and more specifically disrupt the ecology of lake Nicaragua.  A recent agreement between the Nicaraguan government and a private company based in Hong Kong, China, anticipates the creation of the new 186+ mile waterway.  Construction begins in December of 2014.

Our misuse of our environment is not limited to destroying lakes in the name of progress or agriculture.  We have repeatedly meddled with our surroundings by introducing foreign species that have created more problems than they’ve solved.  All of these species are prodigious breeders and crowd out or destroy the more timid native species.  These include:

  • Our introduction of the Japanese vine Kudzu to help control erosion that we have watched throughout the Eastern and Southern U.S.
  • Release of the European rabbit from Spain and Portugal that now thrives all over the U.S.
  • The unwittingly transport of the zebra mussel from Russia on freighters only to see them spread all over the Great Lakes in Michigan and Canada.
  • Bringing in the small Asian mongoose to control rats in Hawaiian sugar cane plantations.  They now seriously infest Hawaii and Puerto Rico in addition to being a major problem in Japan.
  • Africanized honeybees from Tanzania inadvertently interbred with European honeybees in Brazil.  These very aggressive bees have now spread to all of the Americas.
  • One hundred Starlings that were released in New York City and have led to more than 200 million of them in the United States today.
  • Two varieties of Asian carp that were brought to the Southern U.S. to be raised in aquaculture facilities that escaped and now infest the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
  • The snakehead fish released in the U.S. by fish markets and aquarium owners now exists in the Potomac River and ponds/lakes throughout the U.S.  As a “top-level predator” with no natural enemies they kill entire populations of native fish.
  • Burmese pythons released in the Florida Everglades by pet owners who could not continue to care for them.  They are now all over Florida and grow to such a large size they have been known to attack alligators.
  • Cane toads, that are native to Central America, were introduced in Hawaii to help control sugar cane beetles and other insects.   They have now spread to all of North America and Australia.

Winston Churchill said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  According to Churchill we are awash with opportunity.  Our mistakes are many but our opportunity to find solutions is unlimited.  We must follow the lead of Kazakhstan, speak up, resist that which is ill-considered and insist that humanity does the right things.

Use the links listed to obtain more information on these topics or see the source documents that were used.

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