Quantcast

Pesticides to Blame for Massive Bee Deaths in Minnesota

A recent investigation into the death of thousands of bees last month in Minnesota revealed that fipronil, a widely used insecticide, was to blame.

In mid-September, three colonies of bees in Minneapolis were found twitching and dying on the ground. Local apiarist Mark Lucas paints a grim picture of the poisoning event, which he witnessed, recalling that bees inside the hive came “spilling out of the hive as if they were drunk.”

Photo credit: T.J. Gehling/ Flickr

University of Minnesota Bee Lab, the University’s Bee Squad and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) carried out the investigation, taking samples from hives to confirm pesticide poisoning. Indeed, MDA tests found that all three of the affected hives tested positive for the presence of fipronil.

Although neonicotinoid pesticides such as clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid have been widely implicated in the phenomenon of colony collapse disorder (CCD), other pesticides are known to adversely affect honey bee health. Fipronil has also been heavily implicated in elevated bee toxicity and decline. Indeed, the European Union (EU) recently put forth a proposal to restrict the use of the pesticide in recognition of the high acute risks it poses to bees.

The chemical is widely used for indoor and turf pest control in the U.S., incorporated in more than 50 pest-killing products and is highly toxic. Fipronil has been shown to reduce behavioral function and learning performances in honey bees. A 2011 French study reported that newly emerged honey bees exposed to low doses of fipronil and thiacloprid succumbed more readily to the parasite Nosema ceranae compared to healthy bees, supporting the hypothesis that the synergistic combination of parasitic infection and high pesticide exposures in beehives may contribute to colony decline. An extensive overview of the major studies showing the effects of pesticides on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

The MDA’s report posited that the bee kill incident was likely started by a neighborhood individual who sprayed fipronil along the boundaries of a building and onto nearby flowers visited by bees. Once exposed, those bees flew back to their hives, inadvertently exposing the entire colony. It is unknown who exactly sprayed the pesticide, and the MDA report indicated that it will not investigate further into the identity of the applicator.

Pesticide-related bee-deaths have become a recurring story across the nation. In June 2013 an estimated 50,000 bumblebees were found dead or dying in a shopping mall in Wilsonville, OR, due to a tree application of the neonicotinoid insecticide dinotefuran. Then in July 2013, 37 million honeybees were reported dead across a single farm in Ontario from the dust associated with planting neonic-treated corn seeds, prompting Health Canada to release new measures intended to protect bees from further exposure to neonicotinoids. That same month, the EU put forward a proposal to restrict the use of fipronil. This proposal came on the heels of an EU-wide decision to restrict the use of three pesticides that belong to the neonicotinoid family—imidaclopridclothianidin  and thiamethoxam, which will come into force on December 1.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to act quickly to protect pollinators. In response to inaction, Beyond Pesticides, joined beekeepers, environmental and consumer groups in filing a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the EPA for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. The coalition seeks suspension of the registrations of insecticides—clothianidin and thiamethoxam—which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, clear causes of major bee kills and significant contributors to the devastating ongoing mortality of bees known as CCD. The suit challenges the EPA’s oversight of these bee-killing pesticides, as well as the agency’s practice of “conditional registration” and labeling deficiencies.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other beneficial species for pollination, the decline of these important species demands swift action. The mounting scientific evidence, along with unprecedented annual colony losses at 30 to 90 percent this year, demonstrates the impacts that these pesticides are having on these fragile beings.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

People crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on July 20, 2017 in New York City sought to shield themselves from the sun as the temperature reached 93 degrees. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

by Jordan Davidson

Taking action to stop the mercury from rising is a matter of life and death in the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

Read More Show Less
Salmon fry before being released just outside San Francisco Bay. Jim Wilson / The New York Times / Redux

By Alisa Opar

For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
AnnaPustynnikova / iStock / Getty Images

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Protesters hold a banner and a placard while blocking off the road during a protest against Air pollution in London. Ryan Ashcroft / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.

Read More Show Less

Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images

By Bridget Shirvell

On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Coal ash has contaminated the Vermilion River in Illinois. Eco-Justice Collaborative / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.

That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.

Read More Show Less

picture-alliance / AP Photo / NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

The Group of 20 major economies agreed a deal to reduce marine pollution at a meeting of their environment ministers on Sunday in Karuizawa, Japan.

Read More Show Less
Pope Francis holds his General Weekly Audience in St. Peter's Square on Aug. 29, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican. Giulio Origlia / Getty Images

Pope Francis declared a climate emergency Friday as he met with oil industry executives and some of their biggest investors to urge them to act on the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less