Another Possible Explanation for the Devastating Disappearance of Honeybees

Tens of billions of bees, and more than a quarter of America's 2.4 million bee colonies, have died after becoming disoriented and failing to return to their hives.

A number of possible reasons have been proposed as the cause of the problem, called "colony collapse disorder," but the ultimate reason remains in doubt.

About 60 researchers from North America recently met to discuss early findings and future plans. They focused on the most likely suspects: a virus, a fungus or a pesticide. The investigation is entering a critical phase as researchers begin to perform bee autopsies and genetic analysis.

Testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple micro-organisms in bees, suggesting that something is weakening their immune systems. They detected fungi in some dead bees that are also found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by cancer or AIDS.

Bees are also being screened for chemical contamination; one possibility is imidacloprid, sold under the brand name Gaucho, a pesticide that has been banned in France because of its effects on bee colonies. Researchers also noted that feeding supplements produced from genetically modified crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup, need to be studied.

Colony collapse disorder has struck 27 states, and a recent survey of 13 states showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March. Honeybees are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts, and their disappearance could have grave agricultural consequences.

New York Times April 24, 2007 (Registration Required)

Deseretnews.com April 24, 2007


Dr. Mercola's Comment:

While suspicions have fallen on everything from cellular phones to genetically modified crops, many researchers are beginning to suspect the indications point to an infectious agent, such as a virus or fungus, as the primary cause of colony collapse disorder.

However, many scientists believe pesticides, which are just as poisonous and harmful to humans, could be a real problem too. The problem could be related to imidacloprid (part of a group of common compounds called neonicotinoids) that's used, among other things, to treat seeds, maintain green lawns and protect home foundations from termites.

After reporting large losses of bees after exposure to imidacloprid -- it left the bees disoriented and prevented them from returning to their hives -- France banned it for use on corn and sunflowers, despite protests by the multi-national giant Bayer. (All the more reason to stay far away from foods chock full of pesticides that can damage your health.)

It is no mystery that pesticides are toxic; 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides are known to cause cancer.

Furthermore:

  • Pesticide use has increased 50-fold since 1950, and 2.5 million tons of industrial pesticides are now used each year.
  • Many of the chemicals used in pesticides are persistent soil contaminants, whose impact may endure for decades, and adversely affect soil conservation.

Numerous studies have shown that pesticides may contribute to:

So it isn't surprising that they may cause similar problems in other organisms, such as bees. They are, after all, designed to kill insects.

I cannot emphasize enough how significant a problem this has the potential to become. If honeybees disappear it could eliminate, in very short order, much of our food supply, as the bees are a necessary part of the equation for pollination of many of our food plants. It's just one more example of how fragile and interdependent our biosystem really is. The loss of honeybees could ignite famine throughout the world.

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