Germany bans the pesticide Poncho blamed for mass bee deaths.

After the dramatic deaths of bees earlier this month in the Baden-Württemberg region comes the report from the Guardian that Germany has banned a family of pesticides that are blamed for the deaths. Clothianidin, produced by Bayer CropScience, a subsidiary of the German chemical giant Bayer, is sold in Europe under the trade name Poncho.

The German Professional Beekeepers’ Association is quoted by the Guardian as saying that “50-60% of the bees have died on average and some beekeepers have lost all their hives.”

The press release from Bayer CropScience had this to say:

The loss of bees in southwestern Germany was reported in early May 2008, and on May 15, 2008 the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) suspended the registration for eight insecticidal seed treatment products used in canola and corn, among them the active ingredient clothianidine. Corn sowing had largely been completed by this time. Farmers in the affected region had been required by the local authorities to use treated seed because of the threat posed by the western corn rootworm, an insect classified as a quarantine pest. Bayer CropScience began investigating the situation in collaboration with the responsible authority as soon as the problem became known.

First results of studies available to the company indicate that unusually high quantities of dust had been emitted into the environment during sowing as a result of abrasion of corn seed from batches which had not been treated correctly. The origin of the defective batches of seed is currently being traced. The drift of the abraded material was evidently intensified by the use of certain pneumatic corn-sowing machines, by the dry conditions which had prevailed for weeks, and by strong winds during sowing.

Clothianidin is highly toxic to honey bees and governments have been ignoring the increasing evidence of the dangers that it presents to bee populations. In fact the EPA Fact Sheet states:

“Clothianidin is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute basis (LD50>0.0439 mg/bee). It has the potential for chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other non-target pollinators through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen. in honey bees, the affects of this toxic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects on the queen”.

Farmers in France, Italy and Holland have also been concerned by what they have been experiencing. Another Bayer product, Gaucho has also been banned for certain applications after bee deaths. This is not a new phenomenon, the bee populations have been declining across Europe and the United States and it is time to confront the risks that neonicotinoids and other pesticides pose to the environment.

This latest disaster has pointed to clothianidin’s lethal effects. Bayer’s solution is:

As a manufacturer of seed treatment products, Bayer CropScience is keen to establish a certification system in cooperation with seed companies in order to avoid incorrect use of seed treatment products in the future. At the same time, the company is working with manufacturers of pneumatic corn-sowing equipment to develop ways of avoiding the drift of product particles during sowing.

Given the obvious decline in bee numbers and the importance ot the bee to farm production and the ecosystem, perhaps it is time to question the continued use of such pesticides.

An interesting article worth reading is “Protecting honeybees from chemical pesticides,” by Maryann Frazier of Penn State. You can download the Pdf here.

And also this article by Elizabeth Kolbert: Stung, where have all the bees gone? link here.

If we value the importance of our bee populations to our continued existence then it is time to put more funding into this important area of research.

PHOTO OF THE DAY:  Some more stunning icebergs.

Icebergs.

Photograph by: Mike Usher, National Science Foundation. Date Taken: January 26, 2005.

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Tuesday, 27 May, 2008.

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