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EPA Approves Fungicide Intended to Help Save Bees

Since 2007, North American honey bees have been disappearing without a trace, in a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. In 2010, the U.S. and the U.K. both reported losing a third of their honey bees. One of the largest causes of CCD is the growing contamination of beehives with pesticides — especially the newer systemic pesticides, or neonicotinoids.


The die-offs have spread to Italy, China and India, in addition to many other countries. Environmental scientists are concerned that CCD reflects a far more serious problem than pollination — that it's an ominous sign of severe environmental crisis. Bees provide pollination for crops, orchards and flowers, and make honey and wax for cosmetics, food and medicine. One of every three bites of food you eat depends on the honey bee. They pollinate at least 130 different crops in the U.S. alone, including fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. Without honey bees, farmers would have to resort to pollinating their crops by hand.

In an effort to help curb the decline, Bee Vectoring Technologies in Canada created an organic fungicide that can be delivered to crops by bees. The fungicide, called Clonostachys rosea CR-7, or Vectorite, is set to be released this fall for use on crops of high value — such as strawberries, blueberries, sunflowers and almonds.

The system is set up to have honey bees and bumble bees walk through a tray of inoculating powder before exiting their hive. The powder grips to their fur, and the fungicide falls onto crops as the bees travel. The plant absorbs the product, which helps provide protection against disease. The process is intended to help eliminate the need for chemical spraying, which has played a major role in the decline of the bee population. Research has shown that glyphosate may kill bees by altering the bacterial composition in their gut, making them more prone to fatal infections.

Other factors have also played a role in the die-offs. Bees are sensitive to the constant flood of man-made chemicals into their system, especially pesticides, many of which accumulate over time. Honey bee colonies are further stressed by the "factory farming" style of beekeeping employed by the commercial bee industry. They are being raised using unnatural practices, artificially inseminated, and fed cheap sugary nectar substitutes instead of their natural food.

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