Monday, January 11, 2010

Behind Mass (Bee, Amphibian, Bat...) Die-Offs: Pesticides Lurk As Culprit

A pretty scary report on Yale Environment 360 details some of the latest findings on the links between pesticide use and die offs of bees, amphibians and bats:

University of Padua entomologist Vincenzo Girolami believes he may have discovered an unexpected mechanism by which  neonicotinoids (a class of nicotine-based pesticides) — despite their novel mode of application — do in fact kill bees. In the spring, neonicotinoid-coated seeds are planted using seeding machines, which kick up clouds of insecticide into the air. “The cloud is 20 meters wide, sometimes 50 meters, and the machines go up and down and up and down,” he says. “Bees that cross the fields, making a trip every ten minutes, have a high probability of encountering this cloud. If they make a trip every five minutes, it is certain that they will encounter this cloud.”

And the result could be immediately devastating. In as-yet-unpublished research, Girolami has found concentrations of insecticide in clouds above seeding machines 1,000 times the dose lethal to bees. In the spring, when the seed machines are working, says Girolami, “I think that 90 percent or more of deaths of bees is due to direct pesticide poisoning.”

Girolami has also found lethal levels of neonicotinoids in other, unexpected — and usually untested — places, such as the drops of liquid that treated crops secrete along their leaf margins, which bees and other insects drink. (The scientific community has yet to weigh in on Girolami’s new, still-to-be-published research, but Pettis, who has heard of the work, calls it “a good and plausible explanation.”)

Yeesh, I wonder what this stuff is doing to people over time...

I honestly haven't heard of a pesticide yet that's lived up to its claims of being perfectly safe.  I remember a few years ago when a new spray called "Transline" was supposed to help control the nasty noxious weed, yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis), and was supposed to only impact this weed.  Turned out to not be so good for legumes and other asters either -- we now know that it has a detrimental impact on many native wildflowers...

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