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The fly on our nose The fly on our nose
Sometimes a problem’s cause is so obvious, it is like seeing a fly land on your nose - or in this case, a bee.... The fly on our nose

by Jeff Clemetson, Editor

Sometimes a problem’s cause is so obvious, it is like seeing a fly land on your nose – or in this case, a bee. Research teams in both France and Britain have now concluded that pesticide use is the main culprit for the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).  Colony collapse disorder is a growing environmental problem that worries farmers and beekeepers alike. When CCD hits, beehives suddenly die off without reason – until now.

picture of bees

Honey bee populations have been on the decline since the 1990s – the same time neonicotinoids were introduced to crops.

The French study looked at the effect pesticides known as neonicotinoids have on the brains of honeybees. It concluded that the pesticides distort the bee’s ability to find its way back to its hive. The British study looked at bumblebees and concluded that pesticides keep bees from feeding their hives enough to produce new queens.

The pesticide industry is, of coarse, denying the results of the study as inconclusive. According to a pesticide industry scientist, an ecotoxoligist named Dr. David Fischer, the French study used too much neonicotinoid on the bees. “I think they selected an improper dose level,” Dr. Fischer told the New York Times, before stating the same old line that industry scientists have been making since the bee problem began in the early 1990s – that bees are declining from viruses, mites and even cell phone towers.

Dr. Fischer works for Bayer CropScience, the manufacturer of the neonicotinoids that the European studies have blamed for CCD. His opinion can hardly be called impartial, but it does bring up an important issue for all environmental science – that industry is bent on avoiding looking at the flies on our nose. A problem such as the death of huge populations of bees, an insect, as being caused by something that kills insects is to most people a no-brainer. Anyone with reasonable common sense would see that. But when pollution-deniers, who most often are people with some sort of financial stake in maintaining the status quo, are given so called proof that their pollution isn’t harming a thing, they take it as gospel, even when the studies they cite are clearly written by the very industry that would be effected by change.

We can cross our fingers about how these European studies will be received here in the US, but if history has any bearing on what we can expect, I’d put money on these pesticides being banned in Europe quite soon. Unfortunately, the US will drag its heels after prompting by the chemical industry lobby, until Europe’s bee populations return and ours are barely on life support. We just aren’t good at swatting flies off our nose when there’s money involved.