Monday, April 29, 2013

Banning neonicotinoids

Good news for the bees!  Europe has banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides for two years until scientists can show that they are not the culprit behind the collapse of the bee population.  In the US, of course, research into pesticides has been mostly out-sourced to the companies themselves, and although they are obligated to do actual science, they have little incentive to be aggressive or thorough about it. 
Worldwide sales of the pesticides total in the billions of dollars. Two companies that make them in Europe, the German giant Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, a Swiss biochemical company, have said they were willing to finance additional research, but that the current data do not justify a ban.
In the US the EPA was willing to sit on its hands and wait to see if any scientific insights spontaneously developed or whether bees would recover or go extinct.  I have a feeling a ban in Europe will tend to stimulate a greater sense of urgency for the chemical companies and their agricultural clients.  If they think their product is truly safe, then I think they'll want to settle the question sooner rather than later.  If they suspect their product is an epic environmental disaster and they were hoping to kick the day of reckoning down the road, then I expect nothing but lobbying and complaining from them.
Europe’s struggle with the question of neonicotinoids and bee health is being closely watched in the United States, where the pesticides are in wide use, and where a bee die-off over the past winter appears to have been one of the worst ever. Beekeepers and environmentalists are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its approval of the products, which they claim were allowed on the market with inadequate review.
Bees are in short supply.  The Rhode Island Beekeepers Association couldn't fill the orders of everyone who wanted to purchase queens this spring.   I was fortunate to order early and eventually got the three colonies that I ordered.  Two seem to be successfully installed, and the third I'll check on in a few days to see if the queen has been accepted yet.

Now I just have to figure out how to keep them alive until the EPA stirs itself to life.