Pesticides and Mites Threatening Nation’s Bees
U.S. beekeepers have reported losing nearly 44 percent of their colonies over the last year, according to an annual report put together by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Bee Informed Partnership” in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America.
According to the report, climate change, loss of habitat and pesticide use are killing off bees by the millions. Dave Shenefield, president of the Indiana Beekeepers Association, said varroa mites are another huge problem in the Midwest.
“How they kill the honeybees is, they feed on the unhatched babies, that’s where they reproduce,” he said. “Bees are like humans, they carry viruses, and when you get a high number of varroa mites in there, then you have a virus outbreak. The viruses go rampant.”
Shenefield said queen bees that are more resistant to mites will help, but added that he believes more should be done to control pesticide use in the United States, which also contributes to the honeybee die-off.
Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner for the group Friends of the Earth, said some states and cities have banned consumer use of popular pesticides containing neonicotinoids, but added that she thinks it’s going to take federal action to make a real difference.
“We’re seeing a lot of action at the local and state levels to restrict the use of pesticides,” she said. “Hopefully, that will put some much-needed pressure on EPA, USDA and our members of Congress to take significant action.”
In the meantime, Shenefield said, everyone can help by planting flowers and trees that bees feed on, and by curtailing use of pesticides.
“We find some bad yellowjackets or when we’ve got grubs or something in our yard, we’re out there to kill that bug,” he said. “Well, there’s other good bugs out there. So, we need to research this, and figure out when would be the safest time to kill what we want to kill, and not kill the good bugs.”
The report is online at beeinformed.org.
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