How is aspirin related to honeybee decline?

Nov 9, 2008 by

There's a lot of speculation out there about what's causing the bee decline, specifically CCD. Until there's a definite answer, unfortunately, it's especially difficult to rally a movement to stop CCD as well. What do we do? People ask. Buy organic? Support local beekeepers? Keep bees in our yards? How can we help? To answer the above: yes, yes, and yes. But...that's still not enough, as the bees being affected by CCD the most are typically commercially raised bees. So--something has to be wrong with the agricultural ecology that supports the bees. And once you bring large scale farming industries into play (commercial beekeepers typically partner with large commercial farming industries like almonds to get paid for pollination services), things get a whole lot more tricky. If you are seriously interested in CCD and bee decline, you must check out Michael Schacker's A Spring Without Bees. He discusses CCD causes in length, largely by looking at research done in France on the use of a pesticide called Imidacloprid, trade name Gaucho. Imidacloprid (IMD), a neonicotinoid, is an insecticide manufactured by Bayer Cropscience. (Yeah, the same Bayer that makes Bayer aspirin.) Sunflower seeds, for example, are coated in this insecticide, and it remains in low levels in the flower when it finally blooms. Bees then consume the insecticide in micro-amounts through the nectar. Research conducted in France showed that IMD caused "deranged" behavior in bees--specifically that bees become "intoxicated" and were unable to navigate their way back to the hive. Germany has banned the use of IMD, and France has had an ongoing battle between Bayer and their beekeepers. In the meantime, hives numbers have dropped tremendously, from 1.45 million in 1996, to one million in 2003. Here's an excerpt from the Sun Journal (read their full article here) about some research done in France:
In 2003, a French television documentary team filmed honeybee activity after exposure to imidacloprid. Clumsy and uncoordinated, their legs trembling, the bees looked like drunks unable to find the key to the front door of their hive. Others had trouble leaving the hive, seemed disoriented, and when they were eventually able to make their way out, soon disappeared, never to return.
This is important, as the main symptom of CCD is that the bees completely leave the hive, deserting their honey, the queen, and their larvae, all of which they are highly programmed to protect. There's too much to say for this short blog, but in short, there is increasing evidence that it isn't cell phones causing CCD, it isn't mites, and it isn't some kind of weird virus. I think it's pesticides. Now we just have to wait for the definitive research to prove it.

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