Convincing proof that the nicotine-based neurotoxin imidacloprid, still widely used in agriculture throughout Europe, is the main culprit of colony collapse disorder among European honey bees has not yet been found, says Dr. Tjeerd Blacquiere, a Dutch bee specialist of Wageningen University’s Plant Research International.
The institute has a special CCD research programme, for bees and bumblebees. According to preliminary findings the bees are faced with multiple threats that may have a cumulative effect, leading to their rapid decline in numbers.
Blacquiere names climate change, the invasion of exotic plants and new parasites, fungi and bacteria. Also the bees would have become ‘genetically weak’, lacking variation. Although other researchers also see a link with the abundant use of various pesticides, for instance in the flowering industry, and Dutch green parties now call for a ban on the use of imidacloprid, Blacquiere suspects the effect of a specific mite, varroa destructor, is the most devastating on European bee colonies.
A special statement by Wageningen University, released on Sunday, says neonicotines like imidacloprid ‘could still play an important role in the complex of factors’ behind CCD. Dutch beekeepers are particularly affected with up to 30 percent of bee colonies dying during the winter months. The Netherlands of course also have a big flowering industry, although that is concentrated along the coastline – whereas beekeepers are active throughout the country, and faced with CCD everywhere.
The special CCD study will finish late 2012.
Meanwhile the subject of colony collapse disorder receives ample media attention – with even Comedy Central’s Colbert Report inviting a bee specialist for their 3rd of March episode. We now know Albert Einstein is reported to have said: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” Although the relativity of time was of course somewhat low-hanging fruit, we may need to take into account that man used to be right about some wide-ranging subjects.
© Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.bitsofscience.org