Bees Are Actually Just Stressed?
You’re probably aware of this. But scientific studies can hold a lot of double-speak. For what reason would a researcher announce a breakthrough that both points to neonicotinoid pesticides as the big cause for colony collapse disorder but at the same time denies it? It is ice to dilute hot waters. In the average reader’s mind it can derail a serious concern with hidden meanings, causing them to say “Oh, so the situation is not that bad…”
The results of a recent study held mixed messages that might draw some “Huhs?” It could either encourage disregard for the steadily growing bee die-off and appease industrial pesticide chemical makers…or, at best, be a colossal waste of money.
Let’s take a spin together….
Royal Holloway University researchers found that when bees become exposed to low levels of neonicotinoid pesticides – which they claim do not directly kill bees – it affects their behavior and they cannot work as well to keep the whole hive going.
The results were supposed to showcase that the type of exposure bees face in the field has subtle impacts that can ultimately…lead to colony failure. However, over and over, it emphasizes the words “sublethal,” subtle impacts, synergistic effects and stress. The stress from chemical exposure and perhaps other factors. It points to neonicotinoid pesticide impact but downplays it at the same time. It is called a discovery and a breakthrough on a “trend that has baffled many experts worldwide.” But it also looks likes like a call for more research, passing the blame onto the bees themselves and a way to give a stamp of approval to more sets of chemicals.
Dr. John Bryden of the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway says with the best of intentions:
One in three mouthfuls of our food depend on bee pollination. By understanding the complex way in which colonies fail and die, we’ve made a crucial step in being able to link bee declines to pesticides and other factors, such as habitat loss and disease which can all contribute to colony failure.
Exposing bees to pesticides is a bit like adding more and more weight on someone’s shoulders. A person can keep walking normally under a bit of weight, but when it gets too much – they collapse. Similarly, bee colonies can keep growing when bees aren’t too stressed, but if stress levels get too high the colony will eventually fail.
It is incredible that after 50 years this baffles scientists and that real actions aren’t taken as opposed to coming up with new “breakthroughs.” Oh wait, this might explain something. It’s all apart of an £10 million ‘Insect Pollinators Initiative,’ a project by unknown funders under the auspices of the Living With Environmental Change program. That’s nearly $13.5 million U.S. dollars. Is this 3-year initiative of 9 projects worth it? One of the results of the conglomerate was to set up a replicating cell line from bees so that future pesticides could be tested on those.
It sounds like a way to continue the use of harmful pesticides…and perhaps later blame farmers for its application. Farmers get slammed with double-speak, too, from the pesticide industry: “Use lots, it’s EPA-approved…now, look what you’ve done!”
One overlooked Italian study in 2009 found that the bee population came back after a period of not using neonicotinoid pesticides. That should be a big indicator, and perhaps a springboard for more real-world experiments. But that’s not where research money is at – research money that is a bandage offered by often unknown funders and as an “I’ll help you look for the answer even though it is not pesticides” from the chemical industry itself.
That same year, Italian scientists demonstrated on video just how deadly neonicotinoids are in just one light application. All the bee did was drink from a drop that was resting on a spritzed plant – it convulsed and died in 25 minutes. Do you call that sublethal stress?
Co-author Professor Vincent Jansen of the “stress study” said:
Our research provides important insights to the biology of pollinators. It is intriguing that the way in which bees work together is the key to their success, but could also contribute to their decline and colony failure.
Moving on, here we go again. I’ve described the pattern with science, chemical pesticide industry, EPA and the People. First it was DDT, approved safe by EPA – outcry, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, studies and then public fervor died. Negotiations with chemical companies begin – This one will be safe, they say. Organophosphates appear, same story, more years of consternation. Then it was neonicotinoids – super deadly and in heavy use since the mass introduction of GMOs. Enter – scary mass die-off that would take 5-10 years to get back to the “good ol’ days” – if chemical use was halted to make way for other methods.
If stress is considered a breakthrough, then maybe someone should help the bees escape this multi-generational abusive relationship. The black eyes are responded to with flowers…and research. By the time any real action is taken, those flowers will be useful only for mass graves. Human pollinators, Robo bees and GM bees will be the poor surrogates for the complexity and perfection of nature. We cannot afford another round of negotiations.
Co-author Dr. Nigel Raine said:
Pesticides can have a detrimental effect on bees at levels used in the field. Our research will provide important evidence for policymakers. The way we test pesticides, the way we assess their impact on bees, and the way we manage pesticides can all be improved.
Translation: We need different pesticides again and some gentle corralling.
And, in the end, that was the suggestion. Different chemistry. The never-ending time loop continues….
image source: Earthscribble/Flickr