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Earth Science

Colony Collapse Disorder Linked To Pesticide, High-Fructose Corn Syrup 398 398

hondo77 writes "Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health '...have re-created the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder in several honeybee hives simply by giving them small doses of a popular pesticide, imidacloprid.' This follows recently-reported studies also linked the disorder to neonicotinoid pesticides. What is really interesting is the link to when the disorder started appearing, 2006. 'That mechanism? High-fructose corn syrup. Many bee-keepers have turned to high-fructose corn syrup to feed their bees, which the researchers say did not imperil bees until U.S. corn began to be sprayed with imidacloprid in 2004-2005. A year later was the first outbreak of Colony Collapse Disorder.'"
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Colony Collapse Disorder Linked To Pesticide, High-Fructose Corn Syrup

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  • Tangential Jab (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @12:36PM (#39607033)

    The summary should be: "CCD Linked to Pesticide"

    I get the feeling including HFCS so prominently in the story is more about triggering an emotional response in readers.

  • by epiphani (254981) <epiphani@d a l . n et> on Saturday April 07, 2012 @12:37PM (#39607043)

    Do you have any experience in this field that would justify your position? Is there something in the paper that makes you think that this link is not correct? Have you a better idea of what may have caused this?

  • by ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @12:41PM (#39607073)

    From the summary it sounds like the pesticide is piggybacking on the HFCS produced. The first article is more clear in this, that the problem is the pesticide, not the corn syrup itself.

    Monsanto's corn, however, is designed to be pesticide resistant, so farmers can use more pesticide on their corn. It's possible that at low enough dosages colony collapse disorder doesn't occur, but Monsanto's corn allows a much higher dose to be tolerated by the corn.

    All in all, this is a pretty reasonable conclusion I think.

  • by LikwidCirkel (1542097) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @12:42PM (#39607081)
    It's not about HFCS directly. It's the fact that is has trace amounts of a pesticide in it - pesticide that's intended to kill insects!

    Now, I admit that I didn't fully read the article, but I'm pretty sure you're missing something fundamental. Monsanto GMO is not directly a problem. The problem is dumping pesticide on things because the crops have been given GMO resistance.

    Gee - feed something with trace amounts of bug killer to bugs and it kills bugs. How did no one think of this earlier???
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2012 @12:45PM (#39607111)

    What is so difficult to grasp? These are systemic pesticides. They permeate the plant. You cannot wash them off. These exist in the flowers. In the corn. In the roots. In the stalk. The "industry" selling this poisons keep repeating that they do not get into the nectar, they do not get into the eatable bits. Well, this proves they lied - bees are the canary in the coal mine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insecticide [wikipedia.org]

    Systemic insecticides are incorporated by treated plants. Insects ingest the insecticide while feeding on the plants.

    Just remember. Whatever is killing the bees, you are also eating. With old school pesticides I used to wash the produce with some soap (pesticides were stuck on plants with a type of a glue, so you need detergent to wash it off), but now with systemics, all I can do is move to organic only food.

    PS. It is rather quite ironic in a sad way that these pesticides, aimed at increasing food production, are actually causing a decrease (no bees, and yields drop)

  • Flawed (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Megane (129182) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @12:49PM (#39607137) Homepage

    I read this article yesterday when it was in Firehose. While it may be reasonable that this pesticide is causing the problems, the article failed to specifically show a link to HFCS as the source of the problem. In particular, they apparently made no attempt to test the HFCS itself for pesticide levels. It is more likely that bees would get the pesticide directly via the environment than via highly processed corn product. Not to mention that maize corn is inside a husk, which should reduce the amount of pesticide in the kernels to begin with.

    It's the scientific equivalent of saying "smoking causes cancer" + "cigarettes are sold in grocery stores" = "you can get cancer from going to a grocery store".

  • by ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @12:53PM (#39607175)

    Pretty soon once bee keepers start sourcing non-pesticide-laced feed for their bees.

    If I were a milk producer and fed my cows a concoction that caused 90% of them to drop dead at the same time every two years I'd sure as hell look for a new feed source -- it could be fairly expensive even and the fact that I don't want to risk fundamental failure in my ability to survive would mean it's still a good deal for me.

  • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bunratty (545641) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @12:53PM (#39607177)
    That study shows correlation, not causation:

    "At this stage, the study is showing an association of death rates of the bees with the virus and fungus present," Bilimoria said. "Our contribution to this study confirms association. But even that doesn't prove cause and effect. Not just yet."

    The study in this article shows evidence of causation:

    "Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health '...have re-created the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder in several honeybee hives simply by giving them small doses of a popular pesticide, imidacloprid.'"

    It's easy to regurgitate that "correlation is not causation", but most people don't seem to quite understand what that sentence means.

  • Re:Tangential Jab (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nebosuke (1012041) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @01:14PM (#39607307)

    No, if you RTFA, you can see that the link to HFCS is prominently featured because it explains the lag between imidacloprid introduction (1990s) to widespread observance of CCD (2006) because feeding hives with HFCS was not a widespread practice until then. Because the corn from which it is produced is often sprayed with imidacloprid, the HFCS contains trace amounts of imidacloprid well below safe limits for humans, and even below LD50 for the bees, but apparently sufficient to incur CCD over time. A related study described in the second linked article suggests that the class of pesticides to which imidacloprid belongs (neonicotinoids) interfere with the bees' homing ability, which explains the characteristic lack of dead adults in a colony that has suffered CCD--the adults apparently get lost while foraging and can't find their way back to the hive.

    What I find most striking is that CCD did not seem to be much of a problem in the 90s when imidacloprid was introduced, which implies that bees are fine with it being sprayed on crops, but cannot tolerate even minute (measured in double digit parts per billion) traces when it is fed to them (in this case, via HFCS).

  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @01:22PM (#39607357)

    And stop using those two pesticides.

  • Re:Flawed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @01:28PM (#39607393) Homepage Journal

    Right. Because anything inside a husk was teleported there from an alternate universe.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2012 @01:36PM (#39607447)

    Yes, you can switch to organic food. Note, however, that these are neonicotinoids -- they act on insects in the same way as nicotine (which used to be widely used as an insecticide, and is still used by organic farmers), but are designed to lower acute toxicity in mammals. So, assuming you're a mammal, rather than a honeybee, you might actually be choosing the more dangerous option. (Of course, with any pesticide, the levels of application are kept such that the amount in the final product shouldn't be harmful to humans, so the risk to you eating the produce is vanishingly small either way -- nicotine toxicity is more an issue for the farm workers applying the concentrated product.)

    The FDA and EPA do a reasonably good job of making sure pesticides for food crops are pretty safe for humans, both acutely and chronically, because that's what they do. They don't test everything so thoroughly for honeybees, which is why it was assumed that if levels were kept below acute toxicity levels, there'd be no problem. It doesn't follow that it's a problem for humans.

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @01:38PM (#39607457)

    The sugar tariffs result from Cuba being a major sugar cane producer. The same right wing that wants no trade at all with Castro wants Cuban sugar that passes through other Carribean nations to be so expensive nobody in the US wants to import any, just to prevent those other Carribean states from even possibly serving as pass throughs for any funds getting through to Cuba.

    So in the US we have a right wing that will oppose any science finding that colony collapse has anything to do with ADM, Monsanto, or other Megacorps. Now you point out that the root causes include other right wing policies. That's not going to cause them to rethink their position. THEY can't be the ones responsible for anything bad, so they'll have to double down on blaiming "acts of God", or the Gay Liberal Bees, or something.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @02:00PM (#39607613) Homepage

    Yes, you can switch to organic food. Note, however, that these are neonicotinoids -- they act on insects in the same way as nicotine (which used to be widely used as an insecticide, and is still used by organic farmers), but are designed to lower acute toxicity in mammals. So, assuming you're a mammal, rather than a honeybee, you might actually be choosing the more dangerous option. (Of course, with any pesticide, the levels of application are kept such that the amount in the final product shouldn't be harmful to humans, so the risk to you eating the produce is vanishingly small either way -- nicotine toxicity is more an issue for the farm workers applying the concentrated product.)

    The FDA and EPA do a reasonably good job of making sure pesticides for food crops are pretty safe for humans, both acutely and chronically, because that's what they do. They don't test everything so thoroughly for honeybees, which is why it was assumed that if levels were kept below acute toxicity levels, there'd be no problem. It doesn't follow that it's a problem for humans.

    The problem is that the FDA doesn't really do much in the way of studies of long term, low level exposure. They would be awfully difficult to do. Since we don't have very good proxy measures for this sort of effect (unless Colony Collapse Disorder turns out to be such a proxy), it would take long periods of time and many people. Millions and millions of dollars. All we can say is very low level exposure to the neonicontinoids isn't acutely dangerous for humans. Everything else is up for grabs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2012 @02:05PM (#39607635)

    Just remember. Whatever is killing the bees, you are also eating.

    And chocolate kills dogs, but I'll continue eating it. Caffeine really messes up spiders, but I'll continue drinking soda.

    We don't react the same way as every other life form on earth to chemicals. Even if these pesticides are harmful to us, and they probably can be, there's dosage to consider. What is enough to kill a bee is most likely not enough to do a damn thing to someone of your size and weight. Even proportionally speaking (yes, I know you consume more than the bees).

  • Re:Tangential Jab (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@@@earthlink...net> on Saturday April 07, 2012 @02:14PM (#39607711)

    It's not misrepresenting, though it is highlighting indirectly significant information.

    The poison gets to the bees through High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).
    The poison gets into the HFCS from corn that's resistant to pesticide.
    The corn that's resistant to pesticide is grown from seeds sold by Monsanto.
    Ordinary corn wouldn't lead to this, because that much pesticide would have killed it.
    Ordinary sugar wouldn't lead to this, because it's not from a crop that's drenched in the implicated pesticide.

    So HFCS is a critical link.

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @03:31PM (#39608191) Homepage

    Isn't it time to forgive Cuba? I mean, yes they were nasty to us in the 60s but that was ages ago. This embargo is doing more harm than good at this point.

    This grudge the US has against them is ridiculous at this point. And we can't even use the excuse "but they're COMMIES!!!" because so are the Chinese and we trade plenty with them!

  • by tmosley (996283) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @03:35PM (#39608219)
    People need justification to be skeptical of answers that don't make a lot of sense (or even those that do--as even the sensical answer is often the WRONG one) pending repeats of the study? Come the fuck on.
  • by IonOtter (629215) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @03:38PM (#39608243) Homepage

    what biochemical mechanism is in place that makes imidacloprid dangerous to bees...

    It is an insecticide.

    That's usually dangerous to insects.

  • by Troggie87 (1579051) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @03:51PM (#39608335)

    Guessing youre the same AC who started this. Everything is toxic, in sufficient quantity. The link you give lists that particular pesticide as having no discernable carcinogenic effects and a very low toxicity relative to any reasonable exposure. Did you even read your own link? Pesticides in general do have some risk to humans.

    The rule of thumb is that if it kills an insect keep an eye on it, because insects aren't that far from humans. Herbicides are by and large harmless unless you swim in the stuff. But the fear mongering you are doing isn't based on research. Its the same kind of conspiracy theory logic as the anti-vaccine crowd uses. This story is indicating an interesting side effect for a specific insect which ingests a toxin via an unforseen channel in a quantity not thought to be harmful. It could be a great example for a risk analysis course. It is not, however, a sky is falling moment for modern society, nor an "I told you so" moment for the GMO movement. If true, minor tweaks to the existing system fix the problem. Stop pretending its the end of the world.

  • by Doubting Sapien (2448658) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @03:59PM (#39608379)
    Could you provide some reference regarding non-HFCS fed bees being hit by CCD? I didn't see any mention of that particular detail in the linked article. Of all that *is* mentioned in the article, the description of the mortality profile of affected bees in the experiment suggests a stronger correlation than you suggest. From the article:

    The characteristics of the dead hives were consistent with CCD, said Lu; the hives were empty except for food stores, some pollen, and young bees, with few dead bees nearby. When other conditions cause hive collapse—such as disease or pests—many dead bees are typically found inside and outside the affected hives.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @04:13PM (#39608469) Homepage

    Okay, so we've learned that HFCS that is derived from corn treated with a pesticide is responsible for causing CCD. And from the articles, it appears that bees that aren't fed HFCS (laced or not) don't seem to be collecting enough of the pesticide via their natural habits.

    Great! Great news. Yay! Whoo-hoo, and all that jazz.

    So why are we feeding the bees HFCS or sugar water?

    A former beekeeper pointed out that they're fed HFCS and sugar water in late winter when the hives run out of honey. (In case you didn't know, bees don't make honey just for human benefit. It's supposed to be their food.)

    So the next logical question would be, "Why are they running out of honey in late winter?"

    Answer: Keepers are taking too much.

    So! CCD isn't necessarily caused by a pesticide, it's caused by HUMAN GREED when idiot bee keepers harvest too much honey for a quick profit, and then try to keep their bees limping along on garbage. If they weren't stealing the winter food supply, and restrained themselves to taking only the summer surplus, then CCD would most likely never have happened. (Using sugar water USED to be a last-gasp, keeper-has-shit-the-bed-and-has-to-fix-it method of helping your bees survive your lack of proper planning? But now it's become canon.)

    Once again, the cause of the problem is human greed and stupidity.

  • by Joe Tie. (567096) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @04:35PM (#39608577)
    In general, it should be a default position to never accept anything based on a single study. Being able to reproduce results is one of the cornerstones of proper science. There's always room for unseen elements within a single study that are factored out by further research.
  • by Hartree (191324) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @04:51PM (#39608665)

    So when did you become a beekeeper, Ion? ;)

    It's been long standing practice to supplement food in hives in late winter as it leads to a faster build up of bees before the spring honey flow. It doesn't mean they were stripping out too much.

    (Full, disclosure: Yes, I'm "that" Hartree. And I used to help my dad keep bees. Good to run into you on Slashdot!)

  • by ktappe (747125) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @06:20PM (#39609195)

    But was this food grade HFCS?

    Is the FDA on board with pesticide being passed thru at detectable levels in a supposedly simple processed food product?

    Welp, farmers are definitely the sort of folks that try to make the best use of anything. "Ah hell, well this batch isn't any good for selling, but I guess I could feed it to the bees..."

    The much more likely scenario would be that the maker of the pesticide lobbied the FDA to make it "acceptable" for the pesticide to appear in non-zero amounts in HFCS. That's how things work in this country.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @07:52PM (#39609583) Homepage

    Ooooh, ouch. I'm sorry, losing a hive is terrible. A friend of my dad's used to cry for days if he lost a hive, but those were the "good old days".

    Putting in a new colony is an exceptional event, and supplemental feeding is most certainly understandable. It takes time to get a colony firmly and safely established.

    It is generally accepted that a healthy, well-established hive will require approximately 60lbs of honey to survive a typical "northern" winter. Some of the permaculture-minded documentation suggests that a keeper should go even further, and refrain from harvesting during the summer or fall, and wait until the spring when new flowers are coming out. That way, they can be absolutely certain that whatever honey is left over is truly "surplus".

    But that's not what we're doing.

    I would actually go so far as to suggest that "mobile hives", the ones that are freighted across the country from field to grove to field, shouldn't have *any* honey harvested from them at all. That way, they would have the very best food available to them when they arrive, as they work, and when they're in transport.

    Heh. You might have guessed, but I don't see bees as "workers", but partners.

  • by omfgnosis (963606) on Sunday April 08, 2012 @11:13AM (#39612471)

    Oh I get it. This is like when people say that global warming is also linked to natural warming-cooling cycles, but that can't be linked to humans so it's not worth mentioning. Which all sounds great on its face, but the subtext is: pay no attention to what humans are doing (or can do differently) because gee whiz the world is a big complicated place and by golly we can't be responsible for such drastic changes.

    It reminds me of a rant I heard last night in an old exchange between Bill Maher and Bill O'reilly (yeah I like to dig through old videos sometimes when I'm bored), where Maher pointed out that the Republican party...

    can turn anything into a wash, like they're doing now with Kerry's military record. And Bush has a pretty indefensible military record, especially for someone who's running as a "war president". But they're able to muck up John Kerry's record, spin it, tarnish it to the point where people go, "hey, you know what, there's some crazy stuff about Bush in the war, and there's some crazy stuff about Kerry. It's a wash." (Source [youtube.com])

    It may not be your conscious motive, but it's really clear what the tactic is.

    From TFA (I know, I know):

    In the summer of 2010, the researchers conducted an in situ study in Worcester County, Mass. aimed at replicating how imidacloprid may have caused the CCD outbreak. Over a 23-week period, they monitored bees in four different bee yards; each yard had four hives treated with different levels of imidacloprid and one control hive. After 12 weeks of imidacloprid dosing, all the bees were alive. But after 23 weeks, 15 out of 16 of the imidacloprid-treated hives—94%—had died. Those exposed to the highest levels of the pesticide died first.

    The characteristics of the dead hives were consistent with CCD, said Lu; the hives were empty except for food stores, some pollen, and young bees, with few dead bees nearby. When other conditions cause hive collapse—such as disease or pests—many dead bees are typically found inside and outside the affected hives.

    That's science. You can't just brush it off with innuendo about whatever mysterious bias it is that apparently enjoins otherwise self-interested people to promote their own species' repression (even though all of the evidence suggests that those using this kind of innuendo and anti-science rhetoric are the ones threatening our species). But since it's science—and therefore falsifiable—if you really want to promote doubt of their findings, you can always research their work and find the errors in it. In the meantime, it may be that there are two contemporary causes of bee colony collapse, and it may be that one of them isn't human-driven. But the other one is. And we have the power to stop it.

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