Last October, amateur beekeeper, Carrie Kappel, called the SBBA (Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association) when she saw hundreds of dead and dying bees outside her beehive in her backyard.
“It was devastating to see the number of dead bees outside the hive, and watch those in their death throes, twitching and stumbling around in front of the hive, unable to fly. I watched the whole hive go from healthy and vigorous to empty over a few short weeks.”
The SBBA got several calls from other local beekeepers. Sixteen formerly healthy hives, with populations of between 30-60,000 bees each were lost. SBBA estimates approximately 750,000 bees died within a 1.5-mile radius in Montecito near Santa Barbara . The Association decided to submit four test samples to Penn State University for a comprehensive pesticide screening. This report was just received back from the USDA laboratories.
Just as the Association suspected, the labs found several commonly used pesticides found in bee food stores, brood cells and wax. Some of these pesticides include: bifenthrin (found in hundreds of agricultural and household pesticide products), chlorpyrifos (used on orchards, golf courses, and crops, and banned from residential use), cyhalothrin (found in household and commercial products like Demand®, Karate®, and Warrior®), and fipronil (used in over 50 products to control ants, termites, fleas and other insects, e.g., Frontline®, Goliath®, Nexa®, and Regent®). These chemicals are all known to be highly toxic to bees. They also found low levels of two legal miticides used by beekeepers to control mites. While this does not prove that pesticides were behind the die-offs, it does point to them as a possible factor.
According to Penn State Senior Extension Associate, Maryann Frazier,
“Honey bees across the country are being exposed to a great diversity and sometimes high levels of pesticides. While the evidence associated with the Montecito die-off is not conclusive, the symptoms of colony deaths and the detection of low levels of pesticides toxic to honey bees are suspicious and cause for concern.”
The SBBA hopes that by getting the word out about this die-off, people in the Santa Barbara community and other areas will become more aware of the danger to bees from pesticides. The SBBA encourages pest control companies, horticulturists, landscape contractors and homeowners to evaluate their use of pesticides and products to mitigate the risks to honeybees and other beneficial insects.
Frazier further notes,
“We believe that pesticide exposure is an important factor contributing to pollinator decline and possibly Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).”
Colony Collapse Disorder has wiped out honeybee hives in this country and abroad, threatening both the viability of commercial beekeeping and the sustainability of the pollination services that honeybees provide to agricultural crops, domestic gardens, and wild plants. Bees help pollinate around 70% of all the crops on the planet. If all the bees die and nothing rises to replace them (another type of insect, for example, or serious human intervention), many plants will simply die-off due to lack of pollination. What would this planet be like if 70% of the plants on the planet died?
“If the bee became extinct, man would only survive
a few years beyond it”, Einstein predicted…
Whatever the cause of this recent die-off , whether it was acute pesticide poisoning, CCD, or other stresses, it bodes a precarious and uncertain future for the honeybees. For further information contact Todd Bebb at firstname.lastname@example.org