Where Has All The Honey Gone?

by Sandy Powers

Louise Rossberg had nearly a thousand beehives in 2006. Today, she has 200.

In February 2005, John Miller lost almost half of his 13,000 hives, which translated into the loss of 300 million bees. Miller is an experience beekeeper. His great-grandfather began the family’s beekeeping enterprise in 1894. The West Coast of the United States is estimated to have lost 60 percent of its commercial honeybee population, while the East Coast has lost 70 percent. The devastating honeybee deaths are occurring worldwide. What is causing this “Colony Collapse Disorder?” Blame is put on mites or a “mysterious illness.” Let’s step back and take a second look.

Early rock paintings from around 7000 BC show people gathering honey from trees and rocks. Written history dating back 5,000 years mentions honey. Beekeepers were active during the Egyptian dynasties cultivating honey for use as a sweetener and as an additive to beer, a popular beverage among early Egyptians. After thousands of years, why are the honeybees dying in such large numbers when there have always been mites and “mysterious illnesses?” The German Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety contributes its mass death of honeybees to Bayer’s—the aspirin manufacturer—production of neonicotinoids under the trade names of Poncho and Gaucho. These pesticides, according to the German Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, are responsible for the significant loss of bees and other beneficial insects. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Poncho is highly toxic to honeybees. The pesticide is sprayed on cornfields and other crops. The wind carries the pesticide residue to other plants and flowers. While busy pollinating, the honeybees absorb the toxin into its system. Why aren’t these lethal toxins banned from our crops to protect our honeybees and us?

Bayer is the leader in the manufacture of pesticide and drug production. It has a history of successfully resisting evidence to the harm that its products are causing. One important example is Bayer’s Baytril. The FDA approved Baytril, a powerful fluoroquinolone antibiotic, for use in poultry. Doctors soon discovered fluoroquinolone-resistant strains of campylobacter, a serious diarrhea disease. The FDA traced the resistant strain to the use of Baytril in poultry. It took a five-year battle with the FDA before the Bayer Corporation stopped the distribution of Baytril for poultry. With an annual profit 1.25 billion US dollars from the sale of Poncho and Gaucho, expect the Bayer Corporation to vigorously fight any application prohibitions even if it results in the deaths of millions of more honeybees. The deaths of honeybees mean the loss of the bees’ pollination services, which include more than 100 crops—almond, lettuce, cranberry, and orange to name a few. Honeybees are the keys to agriculture. Through pollination, bees contribute around 15 billion dollars to the U.S. agricultural economy.

Albert Einstein is credited for saying, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Where has all the honey gone? “Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing. Oh, when will they ever learn?”*

For a good perspective on the crisis view: www.pollennationthemovie.com

Sandy Powers


* Pete Seeger

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