Showing posts with label insecticides. Show all posts
Showing posts with label insecticides. Show all posts

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pesticides blamed for deaths of key pollinators are found in Midwest rivers; impact unclear

A pesticide linked to honeybee deaths has been found in nine Midwestern rivers, Josephine Marcotty reports for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Neonicotinoids, blamed for wiping out 40 to 50 percent of honeybees, were found to be universally present during the growing season in every state and watershed that scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey studied. Honeybees pollinate about 90 crops worldwide.

The results of the study, published in Environmental Pollution, "found levels of neonicotinoid insecticides at up to 20 times the concentrations deemed toxic to aquatic organisms," reports the Summit County Citizens Voice in Frisco, Calif. Traces of the chemicals were found in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. "The rivers studied drain most of Iowa, and parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These states have the highest use of neonicotinoid insecticides in the nation, and the chemicals were found in all nine rivers and streams." (USGC map: where studies were conducted)
The USGS study "is the first to measure how widely the toxins have spread through surface waters," Marcotty writes. "The researchers took monthly measurements at eight sites from spring through fall in 2013. They looked at small watersheds such as the Little Sioux . . . and the huge watersheds of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. At a ninth site, a tiny watershed in Iowa surrounded by agricultural fields, they took more frequent measurements to track how the pollutant levels changed during the season and with rain."

"They found one or more of three different kinds of neonicotinoids in each of the 79 samples," Marcotty writes. "The highest concentrations were found in smaller watersheds where farming was the dominant use of the landscape; lower concentrations were found in the big rivers that drained areas with more diverse uses."

Kathryn Kuivila, a scientist at the USGS Oregon Water Science Center in Portland, Ore., and the study's lead author, said it was not clear what impact the pesticides have in aquatic ecosystems, Marcotty writes. "Levels considered toxic by the EPA are many times higher than those found in the USGS samples. But Kuivila said that other studies have found that toxicity can be much lower for some species, and others have found that the number of tiny worms and other soil insects drops precipitously at very low concentrations." (Read more)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Western wildlife refuges will phase out neonicotinoid pesticides harmful to birds and pollinators

Federal wildlife refuges in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Hawaii "will phase out a class of pesticides that are chemically similar to nicotine because they pose a threat to bees and other pollinators key to crop growth," Jeff Barnard reports for The Associated Press. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Mike Corbett told Barnard the goal is to phase out pesticides by January 2016. (Statesman Journal photo by Danielle Peterson: A blue heron at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge) 

"The agency's pest management policy calls for pest-killing methods that pose the least risk to wildlife, and there is scientific evidence that neonicotinoids kill bees and other pollinators, said Kim Trust, the agency's deputy regional director of refuges," Barnard writes.

Pesticides known as neonicotinoids have been blamed for wiping out 40 to 50 percent of honeybee hives, while the tobacco ringspot virus has been blamed for the deaths of honeybees, which pollinate about 90 crops worldwide, generating $14 billion a year. 

Some refuges aren't waiting until 2016 to phase out pesticides, Tracy Loew for the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. Three Oregon refuges created to protect Dusky Canada Geese—Baskett Slough, west of Salem; Ankeny, south of Salem; and William L. Finley near Corvallis—"already prohibit application of neonicotinoid pesticides and don't allow genetically modified crops . . . but neonicotinoid-coated seeds for sorghum and possibly corn are used in the complex." Farmers in the refuges have been given until the end of the year to stop using the seeds out of concern that birds and small mammals will eat them. (Read more)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stores to require suppliers to label plants treated with pesticides blamed for killing honeybees

Several major U.S. companies, including Home Depot, have jumped on board the campaign to save honeybees, by working to eliminate or limit the use of pesticides blamed partly for the rapid decline of bee colonies, which pollinate 90 crops worldwide. Honeybees lost 23.5 percent of their population over the winter and have been losing population for years. Just last week President Obama created a task force to try to save the bees. 

The hope is to get suppliers to label any plants treated with neonicotinoid, or neonic, the pesticides blamed for bee deaths, Carey Gillam reports for Reuters. Home Depot will require such labeling beginning in the fourth quarter of this year. "BJ's Wholesale Club, a warehouse retailer with more than 200 locations along the East Coast, said it was asking all of its vendors to provide plants free of neonics by the end of 2014 or to label such products as requiring 'caution around pollinators' like bees. At least 10 other smaller retailers, with locations in Minnesota, Colorado, Maryland and California, have announced plans to limit or eliminate neonics from plant products." (Bee Informed graphic)

"The class of pesticides known as neonics are sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops such as corn, but are also used widely on annual and perennial plants used in lawns and gardens," Gillam writes. "A report issued on Wednesday by the environmental group Friends of the Earth said that 36 out of 71, or 51 percent, of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contained neonic pesticides." (Read more)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Obama creates task force to figure out how save honeybees; more than 23 percent died last winter

President Obama on Friday announced the formation of a task force to seek a solution to stop the continued loss of bee colonies, which pollinate about 90 crops worldwide. Honeybee populations lost 23.5 percent of their numbers over the winter, and have been losing populations for years, with pesticides blamed by many for the deaths.

The Pollinator Health Task Force "will have 180 days to create a strategy to prevent future bee loss," Isabelle Khurshudyan reports for The Washington Post. "Specifically, the task force will investigate how to reduce pollinator exposure to pesticides found to harm bumblebees by interfering with their homing abilities." (Post graphic)

Honeybee pollination adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the U.S., a White House release said. “Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment. The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pollinator Week runs through Sunday; good time to teach about birds, bees, bats, butterflies, beetles

Pollinators such as bees, birds, bats, butterflies and beetles help produce nearly $20 billion worth of products every year in the U.S. while providing up to 30 percent of pollination. But "farm and ranch lands that support pollinators are disappearing at the alarming rate of 3,000 acres a day," the non-profit Pollinator Partnership. says in promotion of Natinal Pollinator Week, which runs through Sunday.

Bee populations have been declining for several years, with 23.5 percent of honeybees dying this past winter, mostly due to pesticides and disease, and the species averaged a 30 percent loss of population during the past eight winters.

One way to help is through awareness. That's why Pollinator Week was started seven years ago. "Pollinating animals, including bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and others, are vital to our delicate ecosystem, supporting terrestrial wildlife, providing healthy watershed and more," Pollinator Partnership says.

Pollinators impact 35 percent of the world's agriculture, says Crop Life America: "Bees are responsible for more than just honey; they pollinate grapes, strawberries, avocados and cucumbers, among many other food crops." In addition to pesticides and disease, other factors that negatively affect pollinators are availability of forage; beekeeping management practices; weather patterns and changing climate; lack of genetic diversity; and poor health or death of queen bees. (Read more)

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Spider venom could be cure to saving honeybees, by replacing type of pesticide blamed for hive losses

Spider venom could be the cure to saving the world's shrinking honeybee population, according to a study by researchers at Australia's Newcastle University published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society. Researchers say they have created a bio-pesticide using "a natural toxin from the venom of an Australian funnel web spider (right) and snowdrop lectin" that is highly toxic to a number of key insect pests but is safe for honeybees, according to a Newcastle news release.

Pesticides known as neonicotinoids have been blamed for wiping out 40 to 50 percent of hives, while another virus, tobacco ringspot, has also been blamed for the deaths of honeybees, which pollinate about 90 crops worldwide, generating $14 billion a year.

The study's "authors say the insect-specific compound has huge potential as an environmentally-benign, ‘bee-safe’ bio-pesticide and an alternative to the chemical neonicotinoid pesticides," states the release. Lead researcher Erich Nakasu said in a statement: “This is an oral pesticide, so unlike some that get absorbed through the exoskeleton, the spider/snowdrop recombinant protein has to be ingested by the insects.” Although the pesticide goes to the bee's brain, it has no effect on the insect. Larvae were also shown to be unaffected by the pesticide. (Read more)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Honeybee losses were less last winter, but more than 1/4 of the population still died

Honeybee populations, which have decreased about 30 percent during each of the last eight winters, lost 23.5 percent of their population during this past winter, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bees had a 30.5 percent loss during the 2012-13 winter, and losses reached as high as 36 percent in 2007 and 2008, John Schwartz reports for The New York Times.

The losses have been attributed to several factors, including disease and pesticides, but researchers have no answer about why the losses decreased during this past winter, Schwartz writes. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland, said a 23 percent loss is still high. He told Schwartz, “We’ve gone from horrible to bad.” (Bee Informed graphic: Red is the managed honey bee colonies in the survey. Blue is the average percentage of acceptable loss declared by survey participants.)

While the decrease in losses is a good sign, Jeff Pettis, the co-author of the survey, warned that “one year does not make a trend,” Schwartz writes. (Read more)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Company that makes some pesticides linked to bee deaths opens $2.4 million bee research center

For years honeybees, which pollinate many crops, have been dying off in record numbers from a deadly virus and probably other causes. The bees are losing about a third of their population each year, with U.S. beekeepers losing 45 percent of their colonies during the 2012-2013 winter. Factors include the Varroa mite, pesticides, lack of genetic diversity, declining forage areas and diseases. Some groups have called for a ban on pesticides.

 Bee Care Center
In an attempt to reverse the deadly trend and save the bees Bayer CropScience, a maker of pesticides linked to bee deaths, on Tuesday held the grand opening of its $2.4 million, 6,000-square-foot Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C., reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. "Bayer will develop products and technology to control parasitic mites in honey bee hives, help manage a healthy-bees program, and assess the safety of crop protection products to bees." Agri-Pulse is subscription only, but a free trial is available by clicking here.

"According to a news release, the company’s new bee center has a laboratory with a teaching and research apiary, honey extraction and hive maintenance space, a learning center, a meeting area, presentation areas, and office space for staff- or student-researchers," reports Laura Oleniacz for the Durham Herald-Sun. David R. Tarpy, an associate professor and extension beekeeper at North Carolina State University, told her, "The overall problem is that colonies are dying off at a greater rate than what is sustainable, and because we need them for pollinators, we need a sustainable honeybee population.” (Read more)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New virus threatens bees, farming; summit sought

A new, rapidly mutating virus that leaps from plants to honeybees is threatening agriculture that relies on the bees to pollinate about 90 crops worldwide and generates $14 billion a year, according to a Department of Agriculture study published in the journal mBio. It could be another cause of colony collapse disorder, in which whole hives of bees die. (Getty Images photo by Joe Raedle)

Geoffrey Mohan reports for the Los Angeles Times, "Tobacco ringspot virus, a pollen-borne pathogen that causes blight in soy crops, was found during routine screening of commercial honeybees. The discovery is the first report of honeybees becoming infected by a pollen-born RNA virus that spread systematically through the bees and hives. Traces of the virus were detected in every part of the bee examined, except its eyes, according to the study."

"The tobacco ringspot virus acts as a 'quasi-species,' replicating in a way that creates ample mutations that subvert the host’s immune response," Mohan reports. "That phenomenon is believed to be the driving factor of recurring viral infections of avian and swine influenza and of the persistence of HIV, the study noted."

Randy Oliver, a biologist and beekeeper who has done similar research but was not involved in the study, told Mohan, “I'd be hesitant to proclaim that this virus is the cause of colony collapse, but it certainly shows the degree of our lack of understanding of the complexity of bee pathogen interactions." A study last year linked pesticides known as neonicotinoids to bee deaths, leading several groups to call for a ban of 'neo-nic' pesticides, which are already banned in Europe. (Read more) To read the full report on tobacco ringspot click here.

Growing concern has led several agricultural groups to ask USDA to convene a honeybee nutrition and forage summit in October, reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. "The summit would coincide with the meeting of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, which will be hosted by USDA." Laurie Davies Adams, executive director of the Pollinator Partnership, wrote in a letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack that the summit could “serve as a springboard for actions to improve the underlying science as well as concrete steps that can improve nutrition and forage for honey bees.” Agri-Pulse is subscription only, but a free trial is available by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Decline of butterflies could be a warning that the environment is struggling

Several subspecies of butterflies are declining in numbers, and some have disappeared completely, which has environmentalists worried, Darryl Fears reports for The Washington Post. Robert K. Robbins, a research entomologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History, said that if butterfly species are going extinct, "It’s a strong indicator that we’re messing up the environment around us," and when an entire line dies off, "It’s a report card on the health of the environment around us." (University of Florida photo by Dr. Thomas C. Emmel: The endangered male Schaus swallowtail)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that two species -- the rockland grass skipper and the Zestos skipper -- are probably extinct in South Florida, Fears reports. At least one species has vanished from the U.S., another 17 species and subspecies are listed as endangered nationwide, and two are listed as threatened.

"The same issues plaguing butterflies are also causing populations of frogs, salamanders and toads to plummet, along with bees and other insects," Fears reports. "A recent U.S. Geological Survey study estimated that seven species of amphibians will drop by 50 percent if the current rate of decline, fueled by pesticide use and loss of habitat, continues. Eighty percent of food crops are pollinated by insects such as bees, moths and butterflies." (Read more)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Oregon temporarily bans 'neo-nic' pesticides after 50,000 bees and other insects die from a spraying

The Oregon Department of Agriculture temporarily banned 18 insecticides with the active ingredient dinotefuran, a member of a group of insecticides called neonicotonoids, after a landscaper sprayed trees with a pesticide that resulted in the deaths of 50,000 bees and other insects at a shopping center in Wilsonville, 18 miles south of Portland, Elizabeth Case reports for The Oregonian. (Oregonian photo by Motoya Nakamura: A dead bee in the Town Loop Shopping Center parking lot)

Bruce Pokarney, a spokesperson for the department, told Case, "We're not trying to get it off the shelves, or trying to tell people to dispose of it, we're just telling people not to use it." He said licensed pesticide applicators would be violating Oregon regulations if they use dinotefuran-based insecticides on plants in the next 180 days. Use of Dinotefuran in flea collars, and for ant and roach control, will still be allowed. (Read more)

Neonicotonoids, or "neo-nics," are used on 75 percent of American farmlands, and are getting part of the blame for U.S. beekeepers losing 40 to 50 percent of their bees this past winter. European nations have placed a two-year ban on the pesticides, and groups have called for a similar ban in the U.S. (Read more)

Monday, May 06, 2013

Feds put some, but not all, the blame on pesticides for bee deaths; many factors cited

While some are calling for a ban on neonicotonoid pesticides, or "neo-nics," which beekeepers and environmentalists blame for a dwindling population of bees, the U.S. Government isn't so quick to point the finger, saying many reasons are probable for a surge in bee deaths. European nations imposed a two-year ban on the pesticides, which are used on 75 percent of American farmland and being largely blamed for beekeepers losing 40 to 50 percent of their bees over the winter. (Photo by Pamela Smith, DTN/The Progressive Farmer)

U.S. officials cited many factors for the decline in bee population in a report May 2, "but they did not describe pesticides as the probable key contributor involved, and they proposed no specific pesticide ban," reports Susan Sward for The Sacramento Bee. Bees pollinate $20 billion to $30 billion worth of U.S. crops, and "since 2006, about 30 percent of U.S. hives have been lost each year." (Read more)

A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't place all the blame on pesticides, stating that major factors for bee deaths are parasites and disease, and poor nutrition, reports Pam Smith of DTN/The Progressive Farmer. The report also called for more genetic diversity among bees, and greater communication among beekeepers, growers, and stakeholders on "effective practices to protect bees from pesticides." (Read more

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Groups push for ban on 'neo-nic' pesticides blamed for shrinking bee populations

Photo by StudioSmart
A substantial decline in bee populations, blamed largely on a pesticide called neonicotonoids, led European nations to place a two-year ban on their use, and has groups in the U.S. pushing for a similar ban, reports Richard Schiffman for Salon. Neonicotonoids, or "neo-nics" are used on 75 percent of American farmlands.

Neo-nics contain a chemical that attacks the nervous system, are deadly to bees, and can also harm their navigation system, foraging and communication abilities, reproductive patterns, and immune systems, making them susceptible to sudden colony collapse, which is where workers leave the hive for no apparent reason and never return, Schiffman writes. (Read more)

U.S. beekeepers lost 40 to 50 percent of their bees this winter, which is up from an average annual loss of 30 percent over the past 10 years, reports Elizabeth Grossman for Yale Environment 360. In March, a group of beekeepers and environmentalist filed a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency, "for its conditional registration of certain neonicotinoids, contending that the agency did not properly ensure environmental health protections, particularly with respect to pollinators." The EPA said it is working to improve the use of neonicotonoids to ensure the safety of bees, writes Grossman. (Read more)

Friday, January 18, 2013

European authority says widely used pesticide is definite cause of colony collapse disorder in bees

A European Food Safety Authority report has named the world's most widely used insecticide as an "unacceptable" danger to bees feeding on flowering crops, Damian Carrington of The Guardian reports. The report found that imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid made by the German firm Bayer, is a cause of bee decline. This is the first time neonicotinoids have been definitively linked to bee collapse.

Bees are important pollinators for one-third of the world's food, and recent studies have concluded that neonicotinoid pesticides were likely a cause of colony collapse disorder, a condition that prevents bees from finding their way back to hives. Scientists concluded that honeybees are exposed to imidacloprid through nectar and pollen, and that it could only be used on crops that honeybees don't pollinate, such as canola, corn and sunflowers. (Read more)

Friday, January 04, 2013

Scientists trying to tame kudzu bug, which eats its namesake, but threatens to be as big a pest

When scientists announced they had discovered a bug that loved to eat the invasive kudzu vine that has swallowed large patches of Southern forest, residents were relieved. The aptly nicknamed kudzu bug can kill off half an infestation of its namesake in just a couple of years. But now, the bean plastapid is causing problems, S. Heather Duncan of the Macon Telegraph reports. (University of Georgia photo)

The kudzu bug also likes to eat soybeans and wisteria, along with some other ornamental plants. It smells bad, tries to invade houses, flies in clouds, leaves behind orange stains and can cause skin rashes. "In a debate about which is the bigger pest, kudzu might actually lose," Duncan writes. The bugs first invaded Georgia in 2009 from Japan, and have spread "with breathtaking speed" since then. Now they are also found in South Carolina and six other states, which Duncan did not name.

Officials are trying to determine how to slow the spread of the bugs or reduce their destructiveness. University of Georgia scientist Tracie Jenkins discovered that all kudzu bugs in the U.S. descended from a single female. She's collected more than 300 bugs from eight states and is looking for genes that offer resistance to insecticides so they could be weakened. She has also identified bacteria inside the bug that helps it digest food, which could be altered to kill the bug. (Read more)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pesticides impair bumblebees' ability to find food

A new study shows that agricultural pesticide use is killing worker bumblebees and impairing their ability to gather food, which means colonies vital for plant pollination are more likely to fail where pesticides are used. The British study was published in Nature this week.

Scientists exposed colonies of bumblebees to the pesticides neonicotinoid and pyrethroid over four weeks at levels similar to what they would experience in the field. "Chronic exposure ... impairs natural foraging behavior and increases worker mortality, leading to significant reductions in brood development and colony success," the University of London study concluded.

The United Nations estimates that a third of all plant-based food depends on bee pollination, Alister Doyle of Reuters notes. A 2011 UN report estimated that bees and other pollinators do work that is worth $200 billion a year, and they have been declining in several countries. The study's findings "underscored the importance of wider testing of pesticides" to make sure they won't harm bees, Doyle reports.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Common use of genetically modified crops leading to rise in pesticide, herbicide use

Use of genetically modified crops has become commonplace in agriculture, but has led to an increase in use of pesticides and herbicides, according to a new study. Weeds and pests have have adapted to the modified crops and become resistant to the chemicals used to protect them, so farmers have been forced to spray crops with increasing amounts of the chemicals. The use of pesticides increased by 404 million pounds from 1996 to 2011. Herbicide use increased by 527 million pounds, and insecticide use by 123 million pounds.

Charles Benbrook, lead author of the Washington State University study, said it "undermines the value of both herbicide-tolerant crops and insect-protected crops," Carey Gillam of Reuters reports. Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds were a hit with farmers, who enjoyed the benefits of being able to spray their entire crop, killing weeds and bugs without hurting their crops. However, more than two dozen weed species have become resistant to Roundup.

The amount of herbicide needed to fight "superweeds" is increasing by about 25 percent every year, Benbrook said. The annual increase has risen to 90 million pounds in 2011, up from 1.5 million in 1990. Insecticide use dropped 28 percent from 1996 to 2011, but is now rising, Benbrook said. (Read more)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Wal-Mart joins sustainable agriculture alliance

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, has joined an alliance of other Fortune 500 companies who say they want to make agriculture more sustainable. The Field to Market alliance was started three years ago by the non-profit Keystone Center to improve agricultural productivity and reduce the use of natural resources. It includes farm groups, grain handlers and food makers, but Wal-Mart is the first retailer in the group and now its largest member, writes Michael Hirtzer of Reuters. "We have pretty ambitious goals to sell products that are sustainable and this is directly within that framework," Rob Kaplan, Wal-Mart's senior manager of sustainability, said of the new partnership.

"Field to Market studies major crops and works with farmers to make agriculture more environmentally friendly," Hirtzler reports. "A report the group released earlier this summer highlighted how six crops -- corn, cotton, potatoes, rice, soybeans and wheat -- that are now being produced more efficiently than they were in the last three decades. On one project sponsored by Field to Market, General Mills Inc. worked with 25 wheat growers in Idaho to learn how to maximize the use of fertilizer and other products used in farming, such as seed, insecticides and herbicides."

Wal-Mart reports it is seeking to eliminate 20 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its global supply chain by the end of 2015. Last year, the company told Reuters it turned 1.2 million pounds of cooking oil recovered from its stores into biodiesel, soap and a supplement for cattle feed. Other members of the alliance include Kellogg, Cargill, Coca-Cola and the National Corn Growers Association.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Outbreak of West Nile virus is 'one of the largest'

U.S. health officials reported Wednesday three times the usual number of West Nile virus cases for this time of year, and one expert told The Associated Press it is “one of the largest” outbreaks since the virus appeared in this country in 1999. So far, 1,118 illnesses have been reported, about half of them in Texas, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August. There have also been 41 deaths this year. Most infections are usually reported in August and September, so it’s too early to say how bad this year will end up, CDC officials said.

AP reports that West Nile virus peaked in 2002 and 2003, when severe illnesses reached nearly 3,000 and deaths surpassed 260. The best way to prevent West Nile disease, say experts, is to avoid mosquito bites. Insect repellents, screens on doors and windows and wearing long sleeves and pants are some of the recommended strategies. Also, empty standing water from buckets, kiddie pools and other places to discourage breeding. (Read more)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Discovery of link between beehive collapse and pesticides falls on 50th anniversary of Silent Spring

Recently, scientists have linked colony collapse disorder in honey bees to use of neonicotinoid pesticides. It's the first time pesticide use has been linked to the disorder, which disorients bees so they can't find their way back to their hive, and subsequently kills them. Elizabeth Kolbert of The New Yorker provides a round-up of the recent pesticide studies, and reminds us that the latest discovery falls on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which first alerted the world to the harmful effects of another pesticide: DDT. (New Yorker photo)

Three studies, one British, one French and one American, have all found that bees given doses of neonicotinoids were significantly less likely to return to their hives, and most died. Pennsylvania beekeeper Dave Hackenberg was one of the first to draw attention to CCD, and one of the first to suggest a link between the disorder and pesticides. Kolbert asked him what he thought about the recent study findings. "This more or less proves what we thought all along," Hackenberg said. "I think we've got a toxic mess."

Neonicotinoids were introduced in the 1990s, and are a neurotoxin to insects. Kolbert writes they are known as systemic pesticides because seeds are treated with the chemical that is later taken through the plants vascular system. The Pesticide Action Network says at least 140 million acres, or an area larger than California and Florida combined, of crops were planted with neonicotinoids in 2010. (Read more)