Viewpoint: A world without pollinators? Don’t fall for ‘lurid tales of bee Armageddon’

Credit: Reuters
Credit: Reuters

A torrent of media stories from 2013-2014 presented frightening tales of “unprecedented” colony collapse disorder (CCD) among honeybees, conjuring up visions of a “bee-pocalypse” and “a world without bees,” a world in which flowers and agriculture would be decimated.

Many articles blamed neonicotinoid pesticides, while others added climate change and biotech (GMO) crops as likely culprits.

As to “colony collapse disorder” (sometimes called “disappearing disorder”), major bee die-offs were reported in Ireland as far back as 950 AD!… [D]ie-offs are not unprecedented.

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Of course studies have purported to demonstrate the toxicity of neonics. But many were conducted in laboratories, using doses and application methods that bear no relation to what farmers do or what bees experience in the real world, where they might encounter neonic levels in pollen and nectar measured in parts per billion or trillion: the equivalent of a few seconds in 32 or 32,000 years, respectively.

Multiple field studies– in actual farmers’ fields –have consistently shown no adverse effects on honeybees at the colony level from realistic exposures to neonics. 

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It’s vital that we protect our honeybees, bumblebees and wild bees. But that means understanding history, science, modern agriculture and bee life expectancy – so that we are not so easily snookered by lurid tales of bee Armageddon.

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Related article:  Viewpoint: The 4 Ps threaten bee health—parasites, poor nutrition, pathogens and pesticides
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