Finally. There’s some good news for the little guy. In this instance, the little guy happens to be the lowly honeybee, aka the pollinators that are essential to crops around the world. Pollinators that make it possible for us to have almonds in our cereal and melons at our cookouts.
The die-off of honeybees has been steady and alarming. Numerous studies have been done to identify the cause of the honeybee’s problems. Possible causes range from mites to a virus to the type of pesticide, neonicotinoids, used on the crops. This pesticide is supposed remain in the soil and not harm the honeybees, but in an abundance of caution – and common sense – many European nations banned the pesticide years ago.
It seems that the Americans are late to the party, but we’ve finally arrived and managed to catch up with the Old World. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco has ruled that approval for this insecticide developed by Dow AgroSciences is cancelled. The specific suspected culprit in the neonicotinoid is a substance called sulfoxaflor. It is thought to be highly toxic to honeybees, meaning a tiny bit goes a long way to ruining a honeybee’s day. The original suit was filed against the EPA in 2013, so this victory has taken a while but is highly prized.
Dow has reiterated its claim that their pesticide is safe for honeybees. The court discounted this assertion, saying that the E.P.A. had relied on “flawed and limited data” to approve the unconditional registration of sulfoxaflor, and that approval was not supported by “substantial evidence.” The withdrawal of approval for this class of insecticides comes at an important time, with the Agriculture Department reporting losses of 42% from April 2014 through April 2015 – up 34.2% for the prior year.
The agrochemical companies are insisting that mite infestations and other factors are the cause of the honeybees’ troubles. This may be true in part, since trucking of the honeybees during the growing season stresses the bees, leaving them susceptible to other factors. In fact, it may be that the entire cause of the honeybee decline is a blend of causes that include stress, mites, and sufloxaflor. At least one major factor that can be controlled will now be eliminated from the mix as scientists work to solve the mystery of the honeybee decline.
[Post image via Shutterstock]