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Zika Spraying Could Wipe Out 13 Percent of U.S. Honeybee Colonies

Published: October 30, 2018
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Source: EcoWatch

Pesticides sprayed in the southern U.S. to stop the spread of the Zika virus could turn the nation's honeybeesinto collateral damage.

That is the warning issued by a study from the University of Exeter and the University of California, Berkeley published Friday in the Journal of Agricultural Research. The study found that 13 percent of U.S. honeybee keepers are at risk of losing their colonies from Zika spraying.

"A colony unexpectedly exposed to pesticide spraying for mosquitoes would almost certainly be wiped out," study lead author Lewis Bartlett of the University of Exeter's Center for Ecology and Conservation said in a university press release. "Beekeepers in the U.S. move their colonies around to support farmers, so a beekeeper with all their bees in one area at a given time could lose them all."

The study was prompted by 2016 reports that the spraying of an organophosphate pesticide to stop the spread of Zika in South Carolina killed millions of honeybees. At the time of the spraying, there had been 43 cases of Zika in the state, but none of them had been contracted from in-state mosquitoes. Residents said they were given less than 10 hours notice of the spraying.

Researchers wanted to see if other honeybee colonies could be impacted by similar incidents, so they compared data on the density of honeybee colonies with areas at risk from Zika. They found that the places best for the bees also had favorable conditions for virus that causes brain defects in unborn children. Those regions include Florida, the Gulf Coast and potentially California's Central Valley.

While Florida has a system in place to control mosquitoes while protecting bees and other pollinators, other states are less prepared. This could be devastating both for bees and their keepers.

"At the start of this research we spoke to a beekeeper who was caught unawares and lost all her bees," Bartlett said.

"Beekeeping is a very traditional way of life in the US, with a lot of pride in families who have done it for generations, but many are struggling now.

"Given all the threats facing bees, even a small additional problem could become the straw that broke the camel's back.

"Many beekeepers live on the breadline, and if something like this changes things so beekeeping is no longer profitable, there will be huge knock-on effects on farming and food prices."

Bartlett said he understood concerns about the spread of Zika, but that policymakers should conduct research before they jump into preventative spraying.

While the study only looked at non-native honeybees kept to help farmers, the researchers said that honeybees are actually more resilient than other species, so Zika spraying could also harm other pollinators.

The study is also an example of the astounding ripple effects of climate changewhich has been linked to the rapid spread of Zika.

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While it has been widely established by the scientific community that the class of pesticides known as  neonicotinoids (or neonics) have had devastating impacts on honey bees and other pollinators, new research shows that Monsanto's glyphosate—the world's most widely used chemical weed-killer—is also extremely harmful to the health of bees and their ability to fend off disease.

A study published in Ecology and Evolution Monday shows that the big changes humans make to the land can have important consequences for some tiny microorganisms honeybees rely on to stay healthy.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that popular pesticides linked to declining bee populations also pose a threat to birds and, in some cases, small mammals and insects.

Despite Big Agriculture claiming for years that their pesticides only kill pests, a report published in late June in the Journal Science proved what many people have suspected for years: the type of pesticides that Bayer pioneered, known as neonicotinoids, are responsible for diminishing numbers of honeybees.

America's beekeepers watched as a third of the country's honeybee colonies were lost over the last year, part of a decade-long die-off experts said may threaten our food supply. The annual survey of roughly 5,000 beekeepers showed the 33% dip from April 2016 to April 2017. The decrease is small compared to the survey's previous 10 years, when the decrease hovered at roughly 40%. From 2012 to 2013, nearly half of the nation's colonies died.

Bayer Crop Science, the world's largest agrochemical company, buckled to Massachusetts' demand that it stop advertising that its neonicotinoid pesticides are like "giving 'a daily vitamin' to plants," though the chemicals have been linked to honeybee colony collapse disorder. Attorney General Maura Healey filed an Assurance of Discontinuance on Oct. 26 in Suffolk County Court to settle the dispute, which her office began investigating in September 2013. Bayer Cropscience promised to pay $75,000 and to stop its misleading advertising, for instance, that its neonicotinoid pesticide products are EPA-approved. "Bayer made numerous misleading claims to consumers about the safety of its pesticide products, including falsely advertising that they were similar to giving 'a daily vitamin' to plants, when in fact, they are highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators in the environment," Healey said in a statement.

Honeybees pollinate almost a third of the food we consume, but they’ve been dying at alarming rates due to threats like habitat loss and disease, as well as colony collapse disorder (CCD), the phenomenon where worker bees abandon their hives, leaving behind only the queen bee and enough food and nurse bees to help take care of the immature bees and the queen. There is also increasing evidence of a direct link between neonicotinoids, which are the most common type of insecticides, and CCD.

Earlier this month, mosquito eradication efforts in South Carolina, gone horribly wrong, resulted in almost total devastation to the indigenous bee populations.

here's been some collateral damage in the fight against Zika - millions of honeybees in South Carolina. News outlets report that Dorchester County officials have apologized for killing the bees when the county failed to notify local beekeepers about mosquito spraying last weekend. Four travel-related cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the county northwest of Charleston. Aerial mosquito spraying operations were conducted Sunday morning.

The rise of industrial agriculture — led by companies like Monsanto that push monoculture, chemical-based farming and patented life forms — has brought a flood of pesticides that wreak havoc on natural ecosystems.

One of the most widely used insecticides has the side effect of killing a significant percentage of bee sperm, a new study suggests, potentially offering an explanation for a dramatic decline in the bee population. Swiss scientists looked into how a class of neuro-active insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, may be affecting bees. Their findings were published on Wednesday in the Royal Society B’s journal Proceedings.

That startling statistic is two times higher than the national average, which is why beekeepers are celebrating the state’s recent decision to ban neonicotinoids, pesticides which have been linked with Colony Collapse Disorder. ThinkProgress reports that in April, the Maryland House and Senate agreed upon and jointly passed a final version of the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act. If passed, the legislation will virtually eliminate consumer use of the widely-used pesticide that has been shown to negatively impact honey bee populations. In effect, Maryland will become the first state in the U.S. to codify such protection for the bumbling insects.

As the second week of February begins, so has California's almond growing season. During this crucial time of preparation, 1.8 million commercial honey beehives are brought in to the state to help pollinate the 800,000 acres of almonds. The $6 billion California almond industry wouldn't exist if honeybees weren't brought in from around the US. 90 percent of all the commercial beehives colonized in the US are rented out to the California almond industry each year. Commercial hives are brought in from Michigan to Idaho. Some hives are trucked in all the way from the East Coast. As the pollinators continue to die off each year, it's becoming harder and more expensive to sustain important crops such as the almonds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been accused of burying research that shows a link between the death of honeybees and a widely used pesticide. Jonathan Lundgren, a senior research entomologist at the USDA, made the accusation as part of his whistleblower case, claiming the agency retaliated against him after he said research shows neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics, have adverse effects on bees. The research was produced by the Center for Food Safety, for which Lundgren peer-reviewed the work that said neonics were not as beneficial to farmers as other pest management systems. This type of pesticide is used on most corn, canola, soybean, cotton and wheat crops, making it a huge money-maker for chemical companies that produce it, such as Syngenta and Bayer AG.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was wrong to approve the pesticide sulfoxaflor two years ago, a federal appeals court has ruled, forcing the chemical off the market. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled (pdf) last week in favor of a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice and others, saying the EPA erred when it approved the pesticide in 2013.

More than two out of five American honeybee colonies died in the past year, and surprisingly the worst die-off was in the summer, according to a U.S. federal survey. Since April 2014, beekeepers lost 42.1 per cent of their colonies, the second-highest rate in nine years, according to an annual survey conducted by a bee partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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