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A recent article in NaturalNews claims that last year there were leaked documents exposing that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) illegitimately approved toxic pesticide clothianidin for use, while being aware it might kill bees.

Now, the article says, there's a new study by Purdue University that confirms that clothianidin is actually killing off bees, and that it's spread has become systematic in the entire food chain.

The entire report is available online via PubMed: Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields

The article goes on to warn about the consequenses of all this:

Without bees, which are now dying off at an alarming rate due to exposure to clothianidin and various other insecticides and fungicides, one third or more of the food supply will be destroyed, including at least 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables that rely on bees for pollination.

The claim is that if people in US don't do something to stop the bees from dying, at least one third of the food supply (in the US) will be destroyed. Because bees are dying. Which is the caused mainly by clothianidin. Which is in use because of EPA's failure or corruption.

Is this information accurate? Or does the article misrepresent the situation somehow? Is the study legitimate?

Related: Are Bees Disappearing and Why

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The toxic Clothianidin is banned in Germany by the Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection because of a wave of honey bee deaths a few weeks after the application of Clothianidin. (Source)

So I guess the report is true, but exaggerated since there is more than one reason a bee can die. (parasites, fungi, other pesticides, the monogamy of agricultural areas... )

The EPA states that the incident in Germany was a result of improper use and that right used Clothianidin is relatively safe.

By the way, an interesting fact: France had a similar incident with the pesticide but came to the same conclusion as the EPA, so either way there are many sloppy farmers or the pesticide is harder to use than you would expect.

  • The funny thing about the story is that Clothianidin is produced by Bayer which is a German company. – Christian Apr 13 '12 at 18:38
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Clothianidin is similar to imidacloprid, being of the same chemical group of insecticides and both being linked to bee population decline (Colony Collapse Disorder - CCD).

There is controversy over the role of neonicotinoids in relation to pesticide toxicity to bees and imidacloprid effects on bee population. Neonicotinoid use has been strictly limited in France since the 1990s, when neonicotinoids were implicated in a mass die-off of the bee population. It is believed by some to account for worker bees' neglecting to provide food for eggs and larvae, and for a breakdown of the bees' navigational abilities, possibly leading to what has become generally known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

Low concentrations of imidicloprid and clothianidin have impacts upon bees' ability to forage and return to the hive.

The results show that almost all the control honey bees returned to the hive, and started again visiting the feeder between 2 to 5 hours after the release. Honey bees fed with the concentration of 100 ppb also returned to the hive, but they returned to visit the feeder only 24 hours after the release. Honey bees fed with 500 ppb and 1000 ppb completely disappeared after the release, and they were not seen during the following 24 hours, neither at the hive nor at the feeding site.

But neonicotinoid insecticides are only one of of many things impacting upon bees, and most research indicates that it is a combination of factors that is behind CCD.

The most recent report (USDA - 2010) states that "based on an initial analysis of collected bee samples (CCD- and non-CCD affected), reports have noted the high number of viruses and other pathogens, pesticides, and parasites present in CCD colonies, and lower levels in non-CCD colonies. This work suggests that a combination of environmental stressors may set off a cascade of events and contribute to a colony where weakened worker bees are more susceptible to pests and pathogens."[20] Applying proteomics-based pathogen screening tools in 2010, researchers announced they had identified a co-infection of invertebrate iridescent virus type 6 (IIV-6) and the fungus Nosema ceranae in all CCD colonies sampled. (Quoted from Wiki, original USDA report linked above)

So this issue is much larger than any one chemical group and is about environmental management and pesticide usage in general. Most insecticides will kill bees, especially with direct contact. Bees are only one of several pollination vectors in the world, so while they are important, this scare campaign is misguided. What is actually needed is further understanding of CCD, bee breeding programs and management strategies that will actually deal with this issue.

  • Bee's aren't the only animal that do pollination, but other animals have as well problems. – Christian Apr 13 '12 at 18:38
  • Christian, animals and insects are only some of the pollination vectors of plants. Some plants are quite happy to self pollinate, have the wind do it, birds, dispersal of seeds that then locally pollinate, etc. In Germany, where you are, I know the chemical rates used are very high and you lack the buffer zones we have in Australia, which is why I suggested management strategies. I know shielded sprayers can help with movement, lowering of rates and targeting of sprays, something that is just being introduced now. – Tim Scanlon Apr 14 '12 at 3:01

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