The Costco Connection
Costco is donating a portion of Kirkland
Signature honey sales toward CCD research.
tal pest to honeybees,” she
At a critical juncture
says. “We are funding studies
on biological control measures
for varroa. We are studying and
discovering new viruses that are vec-
tored by these mites.”
In contrast, and despite fierce lobbying
by the chemicals industry and opposition by
some countries, 15 of the 27 EU member
states voted for a two-year restriction on
three neonicotinoid insecticides on crops
attractive to bees, calling them bee harming.
Neonicotinoids are absorbed by plants and
move throughout plants’ vascular tissue, thus
becoming toxic to insects by weakening their
immune systems. The EU vote comes after
significant findings by the European Food
Safety Authority that these pesticides pose an
unacceptable risk to bees and their use
should be restricted.
Whatever the cause of CCD is determined to be, many believe that bees are now
confronted with the worst threat ever to their
existence. Tom Theobald, a longtime beekeeper and owner of Niwot Honey Farm in
Colorado, along with three other beekeepers
and five environmental and consumer
groups, recently filed suit against the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The coalition is represented by attorneys
for the Center for Food Safety.
Theobald notes that while some
blame mites and drought and other
factors, “we’ve dealt with those problems for 150 years. This is different,
and may be the greatest environmental disaster of our time. Beekeepers’
losses this year were so extreme that
they can’t keep their operations
going.” Indeed, his hives, which once
produced up to eight tons of honey
yearly, yielded less than 1,000 pounds
“We had a thriving, vibrant bee
community, and now it’s a graveyard,”
says Theobald. “I feel angry, saddened
and frustrated by the lack of governmental
concern and care. A very questionable prod-
uct [neonicotinoid insecticide] is on the mar-
ket and the legal requirements for EPA
approval were not met. In fact, last year, over
200 million acres were planted in the U.S.
using the neonicotinoids as seed treatments.”
Cox points out, “This bee die-off is affect-
ing food production. This year we didn’t have
enough honeybee pollinators to meet
demands of almond growers in California.”
Theobald reports that Italy had used sys-
temic pesticides on corn, and when they were
banned there was an immediate resurgence of
bees. “But it may be too late for us,” he warns.
Cox laments, “This should be a higher eco-
nomic priority for the federal government.
The USDA declared honeybees unsustain-
able back in 2007, but rather than allocating
more money to research, they closed down
one of their five labs.
“We need to know what is killing our
Irene Middleman Thomas is a Denver–based
writer busy planting bee-friendly flowers
Fruits and nuts
BEES ARE IN CRISIS
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