*America’s bees are in big trouble. Instead of protecting our important buzzing brethren and those who faithfully tend to them, the Trump administration is overtly pandering to Big Chem, the makers of more deadly nerve poisons.
Normally, a beekeeper can expect to lose about 12 percent of a colony to overwintering deaths. Since 2006, U.S. beekeepers have lost around 30 percent of their hives each winter. The winter of 2007-08 recorded a death spike of 36 percent. Some beekeepers were forced into bankruptcy.
Since then, my colleagues have conducted hundreds of scientific studies on the deadly effects of a wide array of nerve poisons used in commercial insecticides e.g. neonicotinoids, sulfoxaflor, flupyradifurone, chlorpyrifos. When honeybees encounter less than a dozen parts per billion of these nerve poisons, they instantaneously exhibit the full strength symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The Einsteins of the insect world lose their minds and shake to death. Horrible.
Instead of pulling nerve poison permits, the Trump administration has allowed a loophole in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act enabling the bee-killing sulfoxaflor (made by Dow) to be slathered onto 13.9 million acres of cotton and sorghum across Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
In Texas alone, 5.8 million acres were doused with Dow’s nerve poisons. Those fields are vital homes for more than 800 kinds of native bees, including eight bumblebee species, and it’s along the threatened migratory flyway of the eastern monarch butterflies.
Loading America’s arable land with more nerve poisons is very alarming. Last winter eclipsed 2007-08 as the worst honeybee death rate ever recorded at 38 percent.
Loading America’s arable land with more nerve poisons is very alarming.”
As if this weren’t frightening enough, and it certainly should be, in 2018 American beekeepers lost an all-time record of 41 percent of their 2.69 million commercial hives, or, an estimated 55 billion bees.
Given the importance of food security, in the face of Man-made global heating, all pollinators must be protected.
Last Friday, the Trump administration indefinitely suspended the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) national bee survey. If the USDA does not know how many bees have died then, accordingly, there’s no problem – a bizarre Trumpian rationale.
“We’re not worried about honeybees going extinct. We’re worried about American beekeepers going extinct,” lamented bee expert, Dr Dennis VanEngelsdorp, University of Maryland.
Thankfully, Bee Informed Partnership also conducts a national survey in part funded by the USDA. Will that funding get yanked, too?
The late conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said: “People protect what they love. In order to love something you must know it.”
Allow me to remind you that honeybees have such remarkable brains that the Queensland Brain Institute, at the University of Queensland, Australia, devotes an entire program to understanding them. Scientists have made some stunning discoveries – among them that bees learn just like we do. They are top-down learners, meaning that they respond rather than react.
Other Aussie researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, trained honeybees to connect symbols to numbers in order to obtain food.
“We take for granted once we’ve learned our numbers as children, but being able to recognize what “4” represents requires a sophisticated level of cognitive ability,” remarked bee researcher, Dr Adrian Dyer, RMIT University.
While England is busy planting its roadsides with more wildflowers to boost its bee populations, and Holland is turning its bus stops into bee stops, Trump is furiously promoting more bee-killing nerve poisons made by Dow, Bayer Crop Science and Koch Agronomic Services.
This ecological breakdown is not difficult to comprehend.
Wake up lawmakers. Protect the people, the animals, the bees and the planet, not the unscrupulous planet-killing chemical and fossil fuel oligarchs!
Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster, distinguished conservation biologist and author.
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