In a planet where we are living more and more human, and those of us who live consume more natural resources, it is causing great damage to nature. One of the great damages we cause is due to the excessive use of insecticides. These insecticides cause very negative effects to pollinating insects and among them, to honey bees, the bees that produce raw honey.
Pollinating insects, including bees, pollinate flowers, without pollination there are no fruits, without fruits we would not have herbivorous animals, nor carnivorous. The herbivorous animals eat the fruit and take its seeds to other places, and start the cycle again. All these known and unknown chains could disappear, and the culprits are us.
Now we are going to focus on bees, small insects that pollinate most of our crops, without which our fruit shops would empty, and the world as we know it today would be very different.
From El Cortijuelo de San Benito in Madrid, we want to transmit the culture of olive oil and honey, and raise awareness about the importance of caring for our planet.
You can continue to learn more about environmental problems by reading our article: Environmental Problems: Climate change
One of the environmental problems we have in the world
Twenty years ago a group of beekeepers from France discovered an unusual event for that time, the depopulation of their hives. At the end of that winter, these beekeepers expected strong noise from their hives, armies of bees ready for pecoreo, but when inspecting their hives, some of them were depopulated, leaving only the queen with a few workers, that is to say, hives very weakened and with few possibilities of surviving.
This is a fact that is currently happening all over the world, from China to the United States, through Australia and Europe. Scientists and beekeepers have yet to find the exact solution. Year after year the losses due to the disappearance of their hives increase, and nature and crops begin to perceive the possible disaster of their extinction, without pollination, one of the most important cycles of nature is broken.
The EURL laboratory
The EU Reference Laboratory for Bee Health (EURL) published that bee mortality in 17 European countries ranged from 3.5% to 33.6% during the years 2012 and 2013, with lower mortality in southern European countries (below 10%) than in the north (above 20%). Other researchers say that the figures for southern Europe are much higher, between 20 and 40%, because the measurements and methodologies used by these countries are not made correctly.
Causes of their disappearance
This process has been called Hives Depopulation Syndrome and its exact causes are not known with complete certainty. The scientific community attributes it fundamentally to four fundamental causes: destructive varroa, nosema cerenae, the Asian wasp and the hive beetle. There are also other factors that are weakening them; the use of insecticides, especially the well-known neonicotinoids, monocultures and climate change. However, the actual damage caused by the latter to bees is not entirely clear, as some scientists point out.
The varroa destroyer, a mite that sucks their blood, weakens them, transmits disease, eventually causing the death of the bee.
Nosema cerenae, is a microsporidium that is introduced into the cells of the digestive system of bees, aging quickly and finally causing their death. This also causes problems in the behavior of bees.
Asian wasp, from China, was introduced by the port of Bordeaux in 2004, in France. These wasps violently kill bees in order to feed their colony of newborn wasps.
Hive beetle is a small beetle, Athinia tumida, a coleoptede from the tropical and subtropical areas of South Africa. This beetle crosses the combs and ingests its pollen, honey and offspring.
Photo 1: Cultivated Rose
Insecticides and bee mortality
Today, insecticides, exactly the neonicotinoids, are being blamed vehemently, but are these the real culprits?
In 1990, the pharmaceutical company Bayer created the first neonicotinoid, a compound with a formulation similar to nicotine. This compound acts on the nervous system of insects and other small living beings that feed on parts of the plant, paralyzing them to death.
Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides, i.e. they are absorbed by the plant and transported to all its tissues as the plant grows: leaves, flowers, roots, stems, pollen and nectar. These have two great advantages; first, they can be applied to a wide range of vegetables: vegetables, fruit trees, oilseeds, wheat, corn, rice, sorghum; second, they have great resistance to environmental and climatic conditions, being able to persist and accumulate in the soil during months or years.
When bees feed on the pollen and nectar of these plants, they are ingesting these insecticides, being one of the causes of their death and disappearance according to many scientists and beekeepers.
The problem with these insecticides, according to numerous scientific investigations, is that the European bee (Apis melifera) is not able to detect their presence in pollen and nectar. They have also shown that neonicotinoids have the same way of acting in the brain of bees as nicotine in our brain, because it can act as a drug, making them more rewarding for the bees. As a result, as more scientific studies show, bees prefer flowers that contain the insecticide to flowers that do not.
Other studies conducted by the University of Maryland and published in the journal “PLPSPne” showed that insecticides normally used with neonicotinoids do not significantly harm bees.
Other insecticide studies
Studies carried out this year by the University of Mainz and Frankfurt have shown that these substances in small doses can damage and be complicit in the death of bees.
Apparently neonicotinides interfere with the breeding of bee larvae. According to the results of these investigations, the small doses of these insecticides reduced the content of acetylcholine semiochemicals (chemical substances that act as messengers within or between species) in the food of the larvae (royal jelly plus pollen) that the worker bees supply to the larvae of the hive. The royal jelly is produced in special glands in the head.
According to this research, the very low semiochemical content of acetylcholine in royal jelly produces a higher mortality rate in bee larvae. In addition, according to Ignatz Wessler of the Institute of Pathology at the University of Medicine of the University of Mainz. “In our laboratory experiments we artificially separated acetylcholine from royal jelly and discovered that bee larvae with food without acetylcholine died before those containing it.
The researchers followed the changes that occurred in them and in the food supplied to the larvae, as the hive was fed different concentrations of neonicotinoids over four weeks.
The results showed that small doses of neonicotinoids, such as those found in agricultural crops, reduce the acetylcholine content in the larval food by half. Higher doses could further reduce their acetylcholine content, and even harm the glands of worker bees. In this experiment, these bees that consumed nenicotinoids were found to be in serious danger, the researchers wrote in the journal “plo One.
Researchers who don’t blame insecticides accuse varroa as the main cause of the bees’ death, which weakens them and acts as a vector for other diseases. However, with the results disseminated in this new research, it is shown that neonicotinoids cause great damage to bees. According to Wessler, “This should make us reflect to find the solution that saves the bees from extinction”.
The case of Hawaii
The latest research from the University of Maryland, United States and the U.S. Department of Agriculture carried out an extensive study over several years, published in the journal “Apidologie”. In this study, the varroa parasite is pointed out as the biggest plague of bees and as the main cause of the deterioration of their health. This mite, the varroa, is much more widespread than previously estimated and is also closely related to the transmission of viruses that weaken the health of honey bees.
According to Dennis van Engelsdorp, co-author of this study and assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland: “The big surprise behind this study was the high prevalence of varroa in hives, especially in autumn and even in hives well treated by beekeepers against varroa. We knew that varroa was a problem, but we discovered that it was much bigger than we originally thought. In addition, varroa has an enormous ability to spread.
“In this study we did not focus on pesticides, against many environmental groups such as the Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace, because these groups accuse pesticides as the first cause of the death of bees, mostly the well-known neonicotinoids. Even these groups have called for a ban.
Other activists point to the herbicide glyphosate as another cause of the extermination of honey bees. However, the USDA and other U.S. government agencies do not specifically target these pesticides. According to the latter, the death of the bees is due to a combination of factors, with varroa being the main cause of the weakening of the bees.
The mite arrives in Hawaii in 2007.
Hawaii, an island belonging to the United States and located between China and Mexico, did not have problems extinction of its honey bees, until in 2007 began to appear the first symptoms. Anti-pesticide groups in these years also blamed pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture. In spite of this, a group of British and American scientists aligned with the investigations that pointed to varroa as the main cause of the death of bees, began to investigate the specific case of Hawaii. A place where the varroa had not been detected until then.
This group thoroughly investigated the situation of beekeeping on these islands, and discovered that in 2007 was the first case of varroa detected in Honolulu County, Oahu, on one of the islands. As of this year, 274 of the 419 hives that were in this place collapsed and it was at this time that began to emerge the great losses in the hives.
The varroa parasite damages bees in a multitude of ways. In addition to being a major stress factor for bees, it also acts as a vector for numerous diseases, including the deformed wing virus. This research group thoroughly studied the case of Hawaii and discovered that the global spread of varroa has selected a deformed virus that spreads and spreads among bees with great ease.
Hawaii was free of this mite until 2007 and this research group had a perfect opportunity to calculate the effect of the presence of varroa on the bee population when all other possible factors causing the death of the bees remained constant.
Before the arrival of the varroa, all honey bee viruses were seen as harmless. Later, the deformed wing virus spread to all hives. According to Stephen Martin of the University of Sheffield in Great Britain, who led the result of the research: “This study has proved to the scientific community that varroa is the most important cause of health problems for honey bees.
Statements pointing to neonicotinoids, glyphosate and other pesticides as the main causes of the extinction of honey bees are not so clear, as in Hawaii there was a very sharp rise in the death of bees between 2008 and 2010, just after the arrival of varroa on the islands, when these pesticides and herbicides have also been in use.
Environmental problems and their solutions
From the Cortijuelo de San Benito as an objective to transmit the culture of honey and olive oil, we transmit you the environmental problems that provoke an increasingly consumerist and individualistic humanity. If each person put a small grain of sand to take care of the environment, this would be a great achievement for all nature and us, with which we enjoy and coexist.
In order to provide solutions to this problem, here are some things you can do yourself:
Reduce the use of insecticides in the home:
Insecticides are not just products used by farmers, in private homes and gardens they are often even more overused. We have to use them less frequently, not only for insects, but also for our health.
Demand greater control from our farmers:
One of the advantages of buying products from local farmers is that it allows us greater control over what they do, and we can know more safely, if it cares for the environment. It may seem incongruous, but agriculture is one of the sectors that causes the most damage to nature. Agriculture steals space from the natural environment, depletes its resources and pollutes it with chemicals.
Agriculture must follow guidelines that take maximum care of nature. The controlled use of all chemicals used in agriculture must be controlled by government authorities, farmers must follow practices that respect the environment and nature and governments must invest in research to solve environmental problems, such as the extinction of bees and other pollinators that can lead to an environmental catastrophe.
Much is said about organic farming and even bio-dynamics as a panacea in solving many of the environmental problems. We should consider whether organic farming and other organic means of production are the real solution. Organic farming is much less efficient, and with an ever-increasing population and developing countries wanting to move up to the Western way of life, it means that we need more and more food. If we lower yields through ecological means of production, there will be nothing left but to steal more land from natural means, and therefore we will do more damage to our planet earth.
Production areas with very high yields and very efficient, could leave more space to wild areas without the hand of man. Agriculture, or any other means of exploiting natural resources, will always be a damage to nature.
These environmental problems are greater in Spain
I do not believe that the environmental problems are greater if we compare them with the rest of the European countries. Where they are greatest, they are in developing countries. Large companies with
There is great hypocrisy in European society, which does not want to be informed of how many of the instruments or utensils of everyday life are produced. We let ourselves be guided by beautiful media campaigns, without thinking about who the real producers of pollution are. An example of this is the large producers of electricity and energy. They flood us with campaigns to protect the environment, and they are the biggest polluters on the planet.
We should all reflect a little, and as far as possible of each person, take care of our planet, because it has given us life and keeps us.
Bees are collecting pollen contaminated with up to 30 different types of pesticides. Although neonicotinoids used in agriculture are part of these pesticides, a new study by Purdue University in Indiana has shown that half of the pesticides found in bee pollen do not come from the countryside, but from pesticides used in urban and domestic environments, pesticides commonly used to control nuisance mosquitoes, animal parasites and other pests.
Global environmental problems
Christian Krupke, professor of entomology at Purdue University in Indiana and researcher Elizabeth Long, collected pollen samples from bee hives at three different sites in the well-known U.S. corn belt in Indiana over 16 weeks. They wanted to know the provenance of the pollen the bees collected through the seasons, and whether the bees were contaminated by pesticides.
The results they obtained were a great surprise to them. The pollen collected by the bees came in large part from urban public gardens and landscapes and a small part from agricultural crops. Even if the hives were next to the agricultural fields, most of the pollen collected by the bees came from urban spaces. What surprised them even more was the great variety of pesticides they found in the pollen.
Long, now assistant professor of entomology at Ohio State University, said she was surprised and concerned about all the pesticides they found in the pollen analyzed.
This study found that the highest concentration of pesticides in bee pollen were pyrethroids, insecticides most commonly used to control mosquitoes, flies, aphid pests and other insects of urban garden plants. In addition, the pollen from the three sites analyzed contained DEET, an active ingredient in most mosquito repellents.
Environmental problems and solutions
The authors of this study noted that little is known about the harmful effects of these cocktails of insecticides on bees. Together, toxicity may increase when pesticides are combined with fungicides, which are other commonly used garden chemicals.
Although this study has been conducted in a particular place in the United States and with a specific landscape, what leaves clear evidence is that bees take pollen from agricultural plants and urban garden plants, all with a wide variety of pesticides. According to Krupke, more research should be done on the effects they have on these chemical cocktails.
From El Cortijuelo de San Benito we ask governmental and private organizations to make a greater effort to know the causes of the decline of bees around the world.
Other current environmental problems
The strong increase in mortality of honey bees is a fact that is occurring in all parts of the world, due to the so-called collapse of the colonies, ie, the hives after the winter are depopulated, leaving the queen with a few workers, a colony that has no chance of surviving.
In recent winters, these figures have increased drastically, in the European Union mortality has averaged 20%, between 1.8% and 53% from one country to another. If these figures continue to escalate, we will put agricultural crops and the business of many farmers at serious risk.
Current environmental problems
Several studies have shown a direct relationship between pesticide use and bee death. In addition, according to new research published in the Journal of Chromatographey, “honey bees are being poisoned with more than 57 different pesticides. A new method of analysis has made it possible to detect all kinds of pesticides found in the bees’ bodies.
This new method used could help to elucidate the causes behind these alarming mortality rates of bees that have been occurring in recent years. In addition
The European Union has banned the use of one type of pesticide, the well-known neonicotinoids. However, these are not as simple as banning the use of a type of pesticide, which at the same time does not agree the whole scientific community on the real damage it causes. Well, the relationship between pesticide use and bee death is complex, and researchers are conducting research to discover the causes of this high mortality rate in bee colonies.
A new study by researchers at the National Veterinary Institute in Poland has developed a method to analyze 200 types of pesticides at the same time, in order to decipher what is really pushing bees to the risk of disappearing.
The health of honey bees is a matter of public interest, as bees are essential for the maintenance of natural ecosystems and agriculture, as these insects pollinate more than 80% of Europe’s agricultural crops and wild plants, according to Tomasz Kijanek, who directs this research at the Polish National Veterinary Institute. The objective of this research team is to develop an evaluation of pesticides that are being used in the European Union and are poisoning bees.
According to this research team, the use of such a wide range of pesticides makes it difficult to resolve which of them are harming bees. Certain combinations of pesticides, or their use at low doses over long periods of time, may affect bees in different ways. To understand what is really happening, we need to know what pesticides and what concentration levels are present in bees.
Kijanek and his team used a method called QuECkERS, a method currently used to detect the presence of pesticides in food. With this analysis, they were able to prove that poisoned honey bees possessed more than 200 types of pesticides simultaneously, and also found in their bodies several additional compounds created after the decomposition of some.
This research team from the National Veterinary Institute in Poland analyzed 70 hives of poisoned bees and found more than 57 different pesticides in them. All these pesticides form a toxic cocktail that can kill them.
According to Kijanek: This is just the beginning of our research on the impact of pesticides on the health of honey bees. Incidents of poisoned bees are the tip of the iceberg. Even very low doses of pesticides can weaken the bees’ immune system, allowing parasites and viruses to kill, weaken the colony and ultimately kill it. Our results will help expand our knowledge of the influence of pesticides on colony health, and will provide important information for other research to improve the risk assessment of this pesticide cocktail.