The Other Side Of The Bee/Pesticide Controversy, Part 2

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Hannah Nordhaus, author of The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Bees Help Feed America, had this to say about Jon Entine’s article:

Okay, I am feeling compelled to weigh in on this. Great piece, Jon. CCD, as a diagnosis was first identified in 2006, but there have been mysterious disappearances of bees periodically since the nineteenth century (and well before, I’m sure–there’s a list of past die-offs in my book, The Beekeeper’s Lament, and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the scientist who first discovered CCD, also produced a paper on the subject). Some occurrences did sound similar to CCD, though CCD is such a vague and difficult diagnosis (every time a bee dies these days someone calls it CCD) that it’s impossible to know. Nonetheless, it is true that there have been mass disappearances well before neonics ever appeared on the scene. Bees die from all sorts of things, and especially from varroa mites.

As for the Harvard study Bill cites, it is, of all the studies on neonics and bee deaths that have come out, arguably the worst–”embarrassing” was the word I heard from scientists I interviewed about it. Peer reviewed, I suppose, but in a journal no one in the entomology world had ever heard of when it came out. I wrote a piece last year for boingboing.net about that study and three others that came out at the same time. All had problems with dosing and design, though the scientists I spoke with felt the one linking neonics to bumblebee queen reproductive issues was better designed and more persuasive than the others. Here’s the boingboing article: http://boingboing.net/2012/05/07/the-honeybees-are-still-dying.html

It makes sense to me that neonics, as persistent and systemic as they are, could very well hurt bees and other pollinators at sub-lethal levels, but the science just isn’t convincing yet, to me anyway, and as Jon points out, there are places where they use neonics where the bees are doing fine (though I have gotten some feedback from people about the Australian situation — they claim beekeepers there are losing bees but simply aren’t reporting it, and that most beekeepers there are in the bush, not located near farm crops that could be treated with neonics).

Hannah Nordhaus

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