2) Most insecticides used in agriculture are toxic to bees (per Cornell
entymologist David Pimentel). Just look at the toxicity information for many
pesticides and it'll say what a pesticide is toxic to.
3) In our area at least (Sonoma County Calif, an ag county), beekeepers with
hives in ag areas are supposed to be informed before pesticides are sprayed, so
they can move their hives (this hasn't always happened, wiping out hives). But
of course, wild hives can't be alerted to move. In our area, people have
anectodally noted that "that bee hive in that old tree when we were growing just
isn't there any more." When asked, they can't think of the location of a wild
bee hive or notice a drastic reduction in wild bees.
4) If the bees don't die directly from pesticides, their foraging ability can be
harmed, and they can bring it back to the hive, thus harming the hive. One
beekeeper told me that the encapsulated pesticides look like pollen, which the
bees bring back and feed to the hive, which then dies.
5) FARMERS KNOW PESTICIDES KILL BEES. In researching an article, I talked to a
farmer who had an epiphany one day as he was using chlorpyrifos (an
organophosphate pesticide) and turned around and noticed all the dead insects
behind him. That was a wakeup call to him, and perhaps for us (he has now
converted his land to organic). I talked to another farmer who said he wouldn't
use Sevin, because he noticed it killed the bees.
6) Entymologist David Pimentel (Bioscience vol. 42 No. 10, 1992) did an
extensive conservative analysis of the true costs of pesticides. He was able to
demonstrate a cost of at least $8 billion per year in the U.S. from health
costs, bird losses, pesticide resistance, groundwater contamination, loss of
natural enemies, harm to pollinators, etc.
He describes the specific ways that pesticides harm bees, pollination, and the
farmers that depend on this process. For instance, he quotes D. Mayer who
estimates that 20% of all honey bee colony losses are from pesticides, with
another 15% are weakened by pesticides or being moved to avoid them. He quotes
studies that have consistently shown that poor pollination reduces crop yields
and quality, while good pollination enhances them. He also discusses the huge
number of acres unavailable to the benefits of pollination (to farming and to
produce honey) because of the use of pesticides. Etc.
For those oriented to the financial cost of these things (which is of course not
the only cost), he estimates the U.S. cost of bee poisonings and reduced
pollination was $319.6 million per year, broken out this way: $13.3m colony
losses; $25.3m honey and wax losses; $27.0m loss of potential honey production;
$4m bee rental needed because of pesticide effects; $200m for pollination losses
to crops (he says some have estimated that this figure alone might be as high as
$4 billion). He quoted a study that said the direct and indirect benefits of
bees to agricultural production range from $10-33 billion each year. (But of
course, if you need bees and can't get any, they are indeed priceless...)
7) NOTE: One beekeeper told me that pesticides get into the honey and make it
worthless, tastes funny, you can tell pesticides have been sprayed.
So there seems to be strong evidence that pesticides are harming bee
populations, and that that's not a good idea for our survival. Just one of the
many true costs of pesticides.
Some possible leads on this issue:
1) You might want to check out the book "The Forgotten Pollinators" by Buchmann
and Nabhan (Island Press/Shearwater Books) which says that the U.S. honeybee
population has been cut in half in the last 50 years. They say that this is a
sign that other pollinators, like butterflies and other types of bees, are also
dwindling. They discuss impacts on almond growers and vineyards specifically.
They point to a number of factors - including pesticides, habitat loss, and
They estimate that if honeybee declines continue at the current rate, U.S.
farmers will have to spend between $4-6 billion to bring in pollinators to
sustain current crop yields. "About one-third of annual ag production in the
U.S. is derived from insect-pollinated plants."
Remedies? Their suggestions include reducting pesticide use. "Once pollinators
go extinct, then the plants go."
2) There as an article by Carol Goodstein in the Amicus Journal recently - Feb
or March 1996? - on this issue - very useful descriptions of all the specific
dependencies between specific plants and pollinators and the impact of the rapid
species dieoff on these plants (certain plants have certain pollinators).
3) Possible resource to ask more about bee issues (I haven't asked if he has any
info on this issue)-
Florida Extension Beekeeping Newsletter. Apis--Apicultural Information and
Issues. M.T. Sanford
World Wide Web--http://gnv.ifas.ufl.edu/~entweb/apis/apis.htm
4) I have other people I can ask for info, if you have a specific question -
please just let me know....
1) Even if we can bring bees in with beekeepers and somehow fill the whole
world's demand (very unlikely that we could meet demand), that increases the
cost of food - and the more it's needed, the more in demand these bees will be,
and thus the more expensive, needing more management, having losses if bees
aren't available when needed, etc. Isn't it cheaper and easier to just stop
interupting nature's process that works "for free"? (She says with a sigh...)
2) Like so many natural issues, it seems like another situation of "who's the
advocate for nature"? (and for the ecosystem's needs that we all depend on, and
thus the community's needs). The key special interest here, beekeepers,
actually benefit from fewer wild bees....
However, they also can sometimes prove some of their economic losses, which can
then be presented as one of the many externalized costs of pesticides. But
those are not the only losses, by far. So much can't be proven, quantified,
etc. (ex. overall long-term harm to ecosystem, human suffering, etc.)
Therefore, farmers and consumers have a vital self-interest in protecting the
Hope you find this information useful.
P.S. Another cause mentioned for the bee losses is "foreign" mites (from
another country) that harm the hives (both varillo mite and trachea mites were
mentioned). But I wondered what made the hives so vulnerable to these mites?
Perhaps it "just happened". But I remembered that another farmer told me that
he stopped using a broad-spectrum mitacide because it killed both the good and
bad mites, i.e. killed the natural predator mites that killed the destructive
mites. Could we perhaps have so decimated the mite population with pesticides
that any strange mite could come along unchallenged? I have no evidence of this
scenario, but it seems like at least a good question to be asking....