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Save the Bees

January 4, 2011

I hate bees.  Over a year ago, one of those buggers stung me on the forehead without any provocation at all.  I didn’t even see it coming.  One moment, I’m happily walking along pushing a stroller.  The next, I’m blinded with pain.

Then this past fall, a few bees really ruined my visit to the Schenectady Greenmarket.

But bees are important.  They are important beyond the fact that they make honey, without which I’m uncertain how Young Master Fussy would survive.  Honey bees are actually really really important.  Maybe more important than you realize.

Without bees there is no food.  Well, there are no plants.  Well, there are no plants that are pollinator dependent.  But still, that includes a lot of tasty and delicious things.

And bees are in trouble.

Their hives starting dying, in what became known as colony collapse disorder.  And the problem just got worse and worse.  And for a long time, nobody knew why.  Honestly, we still don’t.  But there are some prime suspects emerging, and the good news is that there is a way for you to help.

This story isn’t brand new, but it really seemed to take off in December.  Being that everyone was in a holiday mode I thought I would sit on it until the New Year.  After all, with the holidays behind us, everyone is now pledging to be a better person.  So this should be a good time to ask you to take a modest action.  Right?

In a nutshell, here is what is going on:
– Bayer makes an EPA approved pesticide known as Clothianidin
Beekeeper is concerned about Clothianidin and his bees going away
– He gets his hands on an EPA report that questions its prior approval
– EPA top brass refuses to reclassify the pesticide, regardless

For a bit more detail, there is a good article on FastCompany.  But if you have the time, I highly recommend the longer article from Grist.  It is worth a read and is much more damning.

This pesticide probably isn’t the single reason and root cause of colony collapse disorder.  In fact scientists believe the chief culprits are a virus and a fungus.  But what needs further study is whether or not the virus and fungus are more devastating on hives that have been exposed to Clothianidin.  Presumably since this pesticide had already been categorized as bee-safe by the EPA, its effects may have been overlooked.

From the beginning the EPA was concerned about this chemical’s effect on bees since it is “taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen and nectar.”  This is why it asked Bayer to prove it didn’t kill bees.  The only problem is that now looking back on Bayer’s study, the company failed to effectively do that.  So today, while this chemical that is banned in Germany, France and Italy is planted in over ten million acres of U.S. farmland.

Did he just say planted? So in an ingenious technological advancement, the pesticide is applied directly to corn and canola seeds.  Just put them in the ground and grow plants with pesticides in their pollen.  How cool is that.

This whole thing just feels wrong.  Including Bayer’s response to the allegations.

So please join me in two easy things.  One is signing the petition circulating from the Pesticide Action Network to the EPA’s Lisa Jackson.  The other is encouraging Haagen Dazs to join the good fight.

Okay, that second one may sound a bit weird.

But years ago, they launched an initiative called Help the Honey Bees.  It was actually done with one of my former ad agencies.  And while I truly believe the good folks at Haagen Dazs corporate care about this issue, I’d like to see them walk the walk.  Can a food company go up against the EPA?  I don’t know.  But maybe we can encourage them to try.  If you check out the discussion board on the Haagen Dazs Facebook page, you’ll see a familiar face.

The bees may never thank you for saving their hives, but you’ve probably never thanked them for pollinating your apples.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2011 12:38 pm

    I love bees! I have a secret ambition (only not because I just posted it on the internet) to be a beekeeper. At least a tiny hive, someday, when I have a backyard and enough extra funds to buy the supplies and ridiculous outfits necessary for it.

    Wasps are another story. Normally I reserve the strongest, most angry parts of language for those little jerks. One made it’s way into my closet and stung me for no reason after a shower. I believe it is retaliation for killing one (of many) living in my skylight several years ago. They are so mean.

    Thanks for the links :D Yay, helping bees!

  2. Ellen Whitby permalink
    January 5, 2011 8:22 am

    I don’t think you’ve used this forum yet for social action, though I might be wrong. I’m not known for my fabulous memory. I actually do appreciate that bees pollinate my apples. And I love seeing them in my vegetable garden doing their job.

    It’s outrageous to learn – yet again – how our government allows our food sources to be compromised by big industry. Shame on them!!

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