The Mn Dept. of Agriculture is expected to hold hearings later this month that will examine the role of pesticides in the recent die-off of millions of honey bees in hives around the country. In particular, the study will examine the use of a family of pesticides called “neonicotinoids”, which use nicotine as a toxin and are now built in to almost every cultivated plant species.
State Will Investigate Bee Die Off
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency is also studying these pesticides, according to recent reports, in a probe that began last year and is still underway.
Worldwide, loss of honey bee populations has reached 35%, with many researchers citing the neonicotinoids as a likely contributor to the die-offs and colony collapses. The pesticide does not poison the bees on contact, but rather is deposited on food source plants during the planting process. The insecticides are suspected of causing neural damage in bees that hinders their navigation, as well as weakening their immune systems.
Bees do not pollinate corn, for example, but the insecticide on the corn seeds is coated with talc powder, which blows away during the planting process and lands on wild flowers and trees which the bees do pollinate.
A recent article quoted a central Minnesota bee-keeper testifying before a legislative hearing to the effect that he has not enough bees left to pollinate even one of the three crops he grows, and that he has spend between $20,000 and $30,000 each year to keep his 2,200 bee colonies healthy.
The MnDOA has conducted a review of insecticides used to combat the emerald ash borer, which also constitutes a threat to bees and other pollinator species that forage on ash trees each spring. That study found that marketing materials did not comply with current regulations, and recommended that monitoring of groundwater and streams be conducted. It also conducted a review of the corn herbicide Atrazine® in 2010, but made no corrective recommendations.
Public hearings are expected to be held once the study is completed, with scientists from the Mn Dept. of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency taking part.