Welcome to “Tom’s Corner,” a blog about bee decline by Tom Theobald, founding member of the Boulder County Beekeepers’ Association. In July 2010 Theobald wrote an article about clothianidin and bees for Bee Culture magazine. “Do We Have a Pesticide Blowout” ignited a conversation about the connection between systemic pesticides, specifically clothianidin, and declining bee populations in the United States. Timeline here:
The story continues to unfold…
Or is it the new passenger pigeon?
In an earlier posting I asked if neonicotinoids are the new DDT. Just minutes ago I received a press release announcing the filing of a petition calling for protection of the Monarch Butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. The petition is being brought by The Center For Food Safety, The Center For Biological Diversity, The Xerces Society, and Lincoln Brower, one of the world’s preeminent Monarch researchers who has studied these butterflies since 1954.
The petition comes in response to a 90 percent decline in Monarch populations since 1995. This same crash has been occuring with honey bees and the only thing that has prevented a similar decline is the presence of beekeepers and managed colonies. The bees are on life support and beekeepers are that life support. We are on the verge of losing the beekeepers however, because it is beginning to appear that most of the U.S. environment has been so massively poisoned that even their best efforts may be to no avail, their bees are going out into an environment that is hostile to life.
This may be one of the greatest environmental issues of our time. I encourage you to read the entire petition. It addresses pesticides from page 89 to page 98.
I also encourage you to scroll back and read some of the earlier posts. You might find the animated maps of neonicotinoid use particularly interesting. Remember when you watch the explosive growth of these chemicals that they are 5 to 10 thousand times more toxic than DDT to lower life forms. It is little wonder that we are seeing the catastrophy we are. The wonder is that it is still being defended and nothing is being done.
“The monarch is the canary in the cornfield, a harbinger of environmental change that we’ve brought about on such a broad scale that many species of pollinators are now at risk if we don’t take action to protect them,” – Lincoln Brower
Here is an introductory paragraph to a paper by the Federal Bureau of Entomology, released in December of 1948, as DDT, the latest wonder chemical, came into wider and wider use, “safer than arsenic” they assured us.
“The rapidly increasing use of DDT against insects attacking crops visited by honey bees in their quest for pollen and nectar has caused much concern. Some serious losses of bees following extensive field applications of DDT have been reported, but for the most part this material seems to cause less injury than arsenic. However, the general effectiveness of DDT for destroying many species of insects raises the question whether DDT is also toxic to honey bees.”
The chart below has recently been updated by Dr. Bonmatin of France. Based on new data on LD50s, delatmethrin and clothianidin have moved to the head of the parade at 10,800 times the toxicity of DDT. The neonicotinoids are being applied to hundreds of millions of acres every year.
Now go back and reread the opening paragraph. In place of DDT insert neonicotinoids, and in place of arsenic put one of the bad old chemcals they are trying to frighten us with today – organophosphates, carabamates…
The argument hasn’t changed in 66 years, but the difference today is that the environment is being poisoned at almost incomprehensible levels with some of the most toxic chemicals ever created.
In its peak year,1959, 80 million pounds of DDT were used in the U.S. The most recent figure for the neonicotinoids are for 2009, 3.4 million pounds, which have the toxic equivalent of 17.5 billion pounds of DDT. using the most conservative estimate. When more accurate figure are available it may reach as high as 30 billion pounds of toxic equivalence.
Here’s an article in Mother Jones about how Midwestern Waters are Full of Bee Killing Pesticides.
The U.S. Geological Survey is important not only because it reveals neonicotinoids in Midwestern waters at killing levels, but because this is just the kind of soil and water surveying the EPA and USDA have carefully avoided despite recommendations 11 years ago by EPA Risk Assessment scientists that it must be done. The consensus is that the EPA and USDA have avoided this lest it reveal how significantly they have failed to protect the environment and the American people.
Here is another good article on the systemic pesticides.
How the New DDT Wreaks Havoc on the Bottom of the Food Chain cites the statistics of Jean-Marc Bonmatin of France, that the neonicotinoids are 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic than DDT. At its peak in 1959, 80 million pounds of DDT were used. The toxic equivalent of the neonicotinoids used only on soybeans and corn in 2013 was 740,000 pounds. That would equal the toxic equvalent of 3.7 billion pounds of DDT. Since then I’ve found recent figures on total neonicotinoid use in 2009: 3.4 million pounds. If the earlier figure wasn’t astounding enough, try to get your mind around this one. The total useage of neonicotinoids in 2009 has the toxic equvalent of 17.5 BILLION POUNDS of DDT!!
Remember, these are water soluble pesticides with a half life of years which may have no safe dose, however small. Certainly the scorekeepers know full well that to report pesticide comparisons by the pound without regard to toxicity is at best incompetent and irresponsible, but based on the evidence you have to conclude that they aren’t just stupid and this must be a conscious effort to deceive. In Poison Spring, E. G. Valianatos characterizes the scorekeepers as “The Pesticide Mafia.” He spent twenty-five years in the Office of Pesticide Programs, the one we have had so much trouble with, and it is beginning to look like his insider’s view is being confirmed from the outside evidence.
I stumbled across this article about how insecticides put world food supplies at risk this morning when looking for something else. While it is several weeks old, it is well worth reading for the overview it gives of the neonic controversy. It refers to the Worldwide Task Force on Systemic Pesticides.