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Rural News // august 6, 2013

36 animal health

US research reveals fungicide risk andrew swal low

NEWLY PUBLISHED research by the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) adds weight to the consensus multiple factors are driving honey bee colony declines. It found bees consuming pollen tainted with some commonly used fungicides were more likely to succumb to gut parasite Nosema (see sidebar) than those given clean pollen. “Honey bees that were fed pollen that contained the fungicide chlorothalonil… were almost three times more likely to become infected when exposed to the parasite Nosema, compared with control bees,” says study author  Jeff Pettis, research leader of ARS’ Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. The fungicide pyraclostrobin (as in Comet) was found less frequently in the pollen samples, but also increased bees’ susceptibility to Nosema infection. The pollen samples were collected from honey bees pollinating apples, watermelons, pumpkins, cucumbers, blueberries or cranberries. The pollen was analysed to determine how much fungicide, insecticide, miticide and/or herbicide the bees were exposed to while pollinating each of the six crops.

Pollen was found to be laden with up to nine pesticides.

In many cases, the pollen that bees brought back came primarily from plants other than the targeted crop. Some pollen samples contained very few pesticides, but the average number seen in a pollen sample was nine different pesticides, which could include insecticides, herbicides, miticides and fungicides. However, fungicides were the most frequently found chemical substances, and chlorothalonil, which is widely used on apples and other crops in the US and New Zealand, the most common among those. The most common miticide was fluvalinate, which beekeepers use to control varroa mites. Neonicotinoid insecticides were only found in pollen from bees foraging on apples. “Our study highlights the need

to closely look at fungicides and bee safety, as fungicides currently are considered safe and can be sprayed during the bloom on many crops,” says report co-author Dennis van Engelsdorp with the University of Maryland. “We also need to better understand how pesticides are getting into the hive. Clearly it is not just from collecting pollen from the crops that bees are being used to pollinate.” Pettis says the findings, published last month in online journal Plos One, provide new information useful in understanding the myriad problems affecting honey bees in the United States, including colony collapse disorder, dwindling honey bee colonies, and other health problems in managed bee colonies.

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BEEKEEPER ACTION against neonicotinoid pesticide use in the United States and Canada continues to grow. Last month a new expert Bee Health Working Group in Ontario, Canada met for the first time while in the US bee protection groups are appealing a recent pesticide approval. Ontario’s BHWG is a response to increased hive losses. Made up of beekeepers, farmers, agri-business representatives, scientists, and federal and provincial government agency staff, the group will produce recommendations to mitigatie potential risks to bees from exposure to neonicotinoids, as used in corn and soybean crops. Ontario has 3,000 registered beekeepers managing about 100,000 colonies producing honey worth C$25 million to the province’s economy. The provincial government is also working with the University of Guelph on research projects to support the health of bees and other pollinators. The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association says the province experienced heavy losses of colonies this spring, anecdotally even greater than those

experienced in 2012. These new reports of bee kills demonstrate what appears to be a longer term decline in bee population as a result of the continued use of these highly toxic pesticides, it says. “As a member of the group, we will help our crop farmers find alternatives to toxic neonicotinoids,” association president Dan Davidson says. “However we must enact a ban before the next planting season. Our industry simply cannot sustain these losses. Allowing the status quo to remain would spell tragedy for the bees.” The group met for the first time last month and is to provide recommendations by spring 2014. Meanwhile beekeeping organisations in the United States have appealed approval of a product in a new sub-class of neonicotinoids. Sulfoxaflor, made by Dow AgroSciences, has been approved for use on barley, wheat, strawberries, cotton, canola, nuts, beans and grass grown for seed. The National Pollinator Defence Fund, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Beekeeping Federation, and three bee-

keepers are seeking changes to Sulfoxaflor’s label, the way pollinators’ value is assessed, and the risk assessment process used by approval body the Environmental Protection Agency. “Our country is facing widespread bee colony collapse, and scientists are pointing to pesticides like Sulfoxaflor as the cause,” says lawyer Janette Brimmer of public interest law organisation Earthjustice. “The effects will be devastating to our nation’s food supply and also to the beekeeping industry, which is struggling because of toxic pesticides. This lawsuit against the EPA is an attempt by the beekeepers to save their suffering industry.” Beekeeper Jeff Anderson blasts the EPA’s approval as Sulfoxaflor’s label carries no enforceable protections for bees, he says. “There is absolutely no mandatory language on the label that protects pollinators. Further, the label’s advisory language leads spray applicators to believe that notifying a beekeeper of a planned application, absolves them of their legal responsibility in FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act) to not kill pollinators.”

Rural News 6 August 2013  

Rural News 6 August 2013

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