New Report Reveals Two-Thirds of European Honeybee Pollen Contaminated By Dozens of Pesticides

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More than two-thirds of the pollen that honeybees collect from European fields is contaminated by a cocktail of up to 17 different toxic pesticides. These are the shocking findings of a new study released yesterday.

Banner Action Against Bayer Pesticide in Pollen Bienen Banner gegen Bayer Pestizide in Pollen

Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner in front of Bayer’s headquarters yesterday in correlation with the release of the report. Photo credit: Greenpeace

In addition to pesticides-related chemicals, the report also identifies substances used in insecticides, acaricides, fungicides and herbicides, produced by agrochemical companies like Bayer, Syngenta and BASF. To mark the release of the report and protest against the chemical industry’s role in bee decline, more than 20 activists unfurled a giant banner outside the headquarters of Bayer, in Germany.

The study, The Bees’ Burden: An analysis of pesticide residues in comb pollen (beebread) and trapped pollen from honey bees, is the largest of its kind, comprising more than 100 samples from 12 European countries. In total 53 different chemicals were detected.

The study is a snapshot of the toxicity of Europe’s current agricultural system. It demonstrates the high concentrations and wide range of fungicides found in pollen collected around vineyards in Italy, the widespread use of bee-killing insecticides in pollen from rape fields in Poland, the detection of DDE—a derivative of DDT—a pesticide banned decades ago, and the frequent detection of the insect nerve-poison Thiacloprid, a neonicotinoid, in many samples from Germany.

“This study on contaminated pollen reveals the unbearable burden of bees and other vital pollinators,” said Matthias Wüthrich, a Greenpeace ecological farming campaigner. “Bees are exposed to a cocktail of toxic pesticides. This is yet more proof that there is something fundamentally wrong in the current agricultural model which is based on the intensive use of toxic pesticides, large-scale monocultures and corporate control of farming by a few companies like Bayer, Syngenta & Co. It shows the need for a fundamental shift towards ecological farming.”

The report confirms the findings of a recent study carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In its study, EFSA acknowledges vast knowledge gaps related to the health of bees and pollinators, including on the effects of chemical “cocktails,” and calls on the EU and national governments to fill this gap with further scientific investigation.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

In light of its findings on pollen contamination and following EFSA’s recommendations, Greenpeace calls on the European Commission and policy-makers across Europe to:

Extend the scope of restrictions already imposed on the use of certain pesticides harmful to bees, namely clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and fipronil, so that their use is completely banned.
Fully ban all other pesticides harmful to bees and other pollinators (including chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin and deltamethrin).
Set ambitious Europe-wide action plans to better assess pesticide impacts on pollinators and reduce their use.
Encourage research and development of non-chemical alternatives to pest management and promote the widespread implementation of ecological farming practices on the ground.

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15 Plants to Help Save Bees

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We need (and love) ’em. Bees.

With spring upon us, it’s a perfect time to think about what we can plant to help save the bees.

Before getting into that, learn why bees are so important to our lives by listening to the latest Green Divas Radio Show featuring Maryam Henein, director of the award-winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees.

Why save the bees?

From apples to almonds to the pumpkin in our pumpkin pies, we have bees to thank.

Now, a condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder is causing bee populations to plummet, which means these foods are also at risk. In the U.S. alone, more than 25 percent of the managed honey bee population has disappeared since 1990. Bees are one of a myriad of other animals, including birds, bats, beetles and butterflies, called pollinators. Pollinators transfer pollen and seeds from one flower to another, fertilizing the plant so it can grow and produce food. Cross-pollination helps at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of our wild plants to thrive. Without bees to spread seeds, many plants—including food crops—would die off, according to NRDC Bee Facts.

In the last half decade alone 30 percent of the national bee population has disappeared and nearly a third of all bee colonies in the U.S. have perished. According to an article in Newsweek, a study last year found 35 pesticides and fungicides, some at lethal doses, in the pollen collected from bees that were used to pollinate food crops in five U.S. states. Bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were found to be three times as likely to be infected by a parasite linked to colony collapse.

Watch the trailer for Maryam’s film:

Bottom line: We need the bees. And they need us. How can we save the bees?

One way is to increase the number of bees and other pollinators in your area by including plants that provide essential habitat.

Here’s a list of 15 plants to consider if you’d like to help save the bees.

Note: It’s best to plant native plants. Find a native plant nursery in your area and download the BeeSmart app, which will guide you in selecting plants for pollinators specific to your area.

Purchase plants or seeds that haven’t been treated in pesticides, which can kill the bees.

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Lavender. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

1. Lavandula spp. (Lavender)

2. Rosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary)

3. Salvia spp. (Sage)

4. Echinacea spp. (Coneflower)

5. Helianthus spp. (Sunflower)

6. Cercis spp. (Redbud)

7. Nepeta spp. (Catnip)

8. Penstemon spp. (Penstemon)

9. Stachys spp. (Lamb’s ears)

10. Verbena spp. (Verbena)

11. Phacelia spp. (Bells or Phacelia)

12. Aster spp. (Aster)

13. Rudbeckia spp. (Black-eyed Susan)

14. Origanum spp. (Oregano)

15. Achilliea millefolium (Yarrow)

Join the Beevolution!

For every $50 donated to the Save the Honeybee Foundation, one school will be able to receive Vanishing of the Bees for free.

Take action!

Urge the EPA to refuse to approve any insecticides unless scientists confirm they present no threat to bees and other pollinators

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Half a Million Americans Urge EPA to Protect Bees

beesFI

Yesterday, more than 500,000 signatures were delivered to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, urging the nation’s top-ranking environmental leader to protect bees and other pollinators.

beesFI

The date marks the one-year anniversary of the lawsuit filed against EPA by beekeepers, food, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, over the continued allowance of two bee-toxic pesticides: clothianidin and thiamethoxam. It also marks the two-year anniversary of the emergency legal petition filed against the agency on this same issue. The EPA has yet to take serious action to address dramatic bee declines.

The pesticides in question are a class of systemic insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Despite numerous studies linking neonicotinoids with bee kills, colony collapse and weakened immune systems, the EPA continues to operate under an alarmingly slow registration review process for these insecticides, one that extends to 2018. Honey bees are responsible for producing one in every three bites of food we eat, but research increasingly shows they are being harmed by the indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids, both alone and in combination with other pesticides. It is the job of the EPA to review such pesticides for safety and to take action if they are found to be harmful.

“We call on EPA Administrator McCarthy to lead the agency in a new direction by immediately suspending all outdoor uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. Bees can’t wait four more years for EPA to make a decision. If the agency acts now, we can save these vital pollinators before it’s too late,” said the groups in a joint statement.

“Beekeepers are losing colonies at an unprecedented rate—the losses are too extreme to keep up with, and our entire industry is at risk of collapse unless federal action is taken,” said New York beekeeper Jim Doan, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who will be discussing bee declines on Capitol Hill next week. “Convening conferences and changing pesticide labels is lip service and window dressing to the issue, but has no substance.” 

In the absence of federal action, several states have taken action independently to introduce legislation that would suspend uses of neonicotinoids. California, Minnesota and New York are among the states considering action in their state legislatures. And this month, Eugene, OR, became the first city in the country to ban the use of neonicotinoids on city property. Congress is also pushing to curb the use of neonicotinoids through the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, introduced by Rep. Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR).

In Dec. 2013, Europe implemented a two-year moratorium on the most problematic neonicotinoids in order to protect bee health. This move came after several European countries had already implemented bans, with no economic costs to farmers or consumers.

“We are asking EPA to follow the EU’s lead and recognize that the risks are unacceptably high. Pollination services provided by honey bees and other, even less studied, wild bees are far too important for agriculture and ecosystems to treat them in a non-precautionary manner. Many thousands of beekeeper livelihoods, the future viability of commercial beekeeping and the crops relying on these pollination services, estimated at $20-30 billion annually, are potentially in jeopardy,” the groups said.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic. 

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