"Bees in the German state of Baden-Württemburg are dying by the hundreds of thousands. In some places more than half of hives have perished. Government officials say the causes are unclear but beekeepers are blaming new pesticides."
So begins a report in Spiegel Online, the German newspaper.
The sudden die-off, the mystery behind the cause and the alarm at the loss of an insect with unparalleled importance to agriculture all echo the colony collapse disorder crisis in the United States. In the U.S., a second year of the mysterious affliction has killed upwards of 30% of the bees that died this winter. The bees just up and leave the hive, leaving their keepers with little evidence, less honey and no income.
The German situation appears somewhat different, in that there are dead bees to be analyzed. Many beekeepers are pointing the finger at Bayer CropScience, which produces a pesticide called clothianidin, which attacks the nervous system of insects.
"The chemical was used last year to fight an outbreak of corn rootworm, and its success against the pest led to a much wider application this spring up and down the Rhine," Spiegel Online reports. "But clothianidin is not a particularly selective poison. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's fact sheet on the pesticide: 'clothianidin is highly toxic to honey bees.' Seeds are treated with the clothianidin in advance or sprayed with it while in the field, and the insecticide can blow onto other crops as well. The chemical is often sprayed on corn fields during the spring planting to create a sort of protective film on cornfields. Beekeepers say it's no coincidence that the bee die-off began at the beginning of May, right when corn planting started."Like honey bees in America (all native to Europe), bees in Germany, France and other nations noting concern over the pesticide are also suffering from other ills, like parasites, bad weather and perhaps stress from being overworked pollinating crops. Whether there's any connection between colony collapse disorder and the German situation remains to be seen. But the increasingly fragile state of the world's pollinators is something that is concerning to many scientists and farmers. If it continues, it will also be of concern to anyone who, you know, eats food.
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