Pesticide Implicated in Widespread Bee Deaths
While environmental activists including the SafeLawns Foundation claimed a temporary victory Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the emerging battle concerning the widespread use of imidacloprid in Worcester, Mass., beekeepers and many other observers across North America are deeply concerned about the precedents being set in the rural community.
As the threat of exotic invasive pests spreads— just as more alarming information becomes available about the pesticides currently in use — it is imperative correct decisions be made in situations for which no easy answers exist.
On Friday, Sept. 11, SafeLawns, the Toxics Action Center of Boston and later the Pesticide Action Network North America sent out an urgent call to block a proposal to spread more than 1 million gallons of imidacloprid solution into 15 square miles of soil in Greater Worcester, in the center of Massachusetts. Worcester has made national headlines due to its overwhelming infestation of an exotic invasive insect known as the Asian longhorn beetle. Approximately 25,000 trees have been cut down already and imidacloprid, synthetic nicotine, is the only known treatment for the pest.
Imidacloprid, marketed as Merit by the original manufacturer Bayer, is well documented for its toxicity to bees, as well as birds, worms and aquatic life. Many beekeepers, environmentalists and scientists — though not all — feel that imidacloprid is the root cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD) of bees. CCD is a mysterious ailment that began wiping out millions of beehives in the United States in 2006, just a year after imidacloprid replaced diazinon as the pesticide of choice for many insect infestations. Diazinon was banned by the EPA in 2004 due to its toxicity to birds and humans.
France has long-since banned most applications of imidacloprid ever since the synthetic nicotine compound was blamed for wiping out its bee-keeping industry during the 1990s. The Bayer Corporation reportedly paid French beekeepers $70 million to rebuild the beekeeping industry, but as recently as Sept. 15 a representative of Bayer claimed to the Boston Globe that imidacloprid has “no connection whatsoever” to colony collapse disorder. Widespread evidence and common sense suggest otherwise.