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Beekeepers compensated in landmark decision after drifting neonicotinoids destroy hives


(NaturalNews) Two beekeepers were recently compensated by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, after it was proven that a widely used class of insecticides destroyed their hives last spring. Neonicotinoids, which chemically resemble nicotine, were found to have drifted onto the hives from a nearby corn field, and as a result, severely damaged the colony and killed some of the bees.

The beekeepers were compensated under a law passed in 2014, which provides reimbursement for beekeepers whose hives have been affected by acute pesticide poisoning.

"This is the first action of any state, a finding of fact, that neonicotinoids are harmful to bees," said Sen. Rick Hansen, who sponsored the environmental law. "Once you have a state compensating people for a loss, it's real."

'Dust-off' drift

Neonics can be applied as a seed coating or sprayed directly onto the crop. Because they are systemic pesticides, neonics are taken up by the plant and transferred to its leaves, flowers, roots and stems, as well as pollen and nectar. Corn seed is routinely pre-treated with some level of neonics, which can "dust-off" and contaminate other plants.

"The Minnesota case was a prime example of the 'dust-off' phenomenon that can occur with neonicotinoid-coated seeds used with talc seed lubricants. Small amounts of the insecticide can mix with the lubricant coating and contaminate the lubricant dust that blows out of the planter as it is dropping seeds," according to KTIC Radio.

"In this form, the chemicals can drift off target onto flowering plants and trees nearby, for example. When bees visit these flowers, they carry the contaminated pollen back to the hive."

Laboratory studies show that, depending on the amount of exposure to neonics, the effects on bees can be either sub-lethal or lethal. Sub-lethal effects include impaired learning behavior, memory loss, lowered fertility, and problems with foraging and motor activity, according to a report by Washington State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A broken system

Pam Arnold, who manages five hives on her organic farm, and Kristy Allen, founder of the Minneapolis honey company Beez Kneez, were the two beekeepers compensated under the law. Arnold explains that her neighbor across the road planted corn coated in insecticides on a day that the wind was blowing towards her and Allen's hives.

Allen immediately suspected what had occurred. Sure enough, tests performed by the Agriculture Department found "acute levels" of neonics in the dead bees, as well as on nearby dandelions.

Allen helped pass the 2014 reimbursement law, and said that being one of the first beekeepers to be compensated "is an irony that kills me." The state's ruling is unique, in that no actual laws were broken when the neonics drifted.

"The fact that MDA is compensating me for something that is not illegal is crazy to me," said Allen. "It means something is broken."

A 2015 alteration to the compensation law requires beekeepers to register the locations of their hives so that farmers can be more vigilant about chemical drift.

Taking action

Honey bees are absolutely crucial to human survival, as they are solely responsible for pollinating more than $15 billion worth of crops in America each year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Without bees, we wouldn't have foods like carrots, apples, avocados, broccoli, onions and many others. Neonics not only affect bees, but hurt other pollinators including bats, birds, beetles and butterflies.

The chemicals are also known to pollute rivers and streams. But government is finally starting to make some headway in reducing use of these chemicals. Maryland is poised to become the very first U.S. state to ban the sale of neonics to consumers; farmers, however, will still be allowed to use them.

The following cities have moved to ban or limit neonicotinoids use: Seattle and Spokane, Washington; Portland and Eugene, Oregon; Skagway, Alaska; Boulder City, Colorado; and Shorewood, Minnesota.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vowed to halt the use of neonicotinoids on wildlife refuges beginning January 2016. Neonicotinoids are largely banned in the European Union; however, last summer, after being pressured by the National Farmers Union, lawmakers in the UK lifted the ban, allowing the use of two neonicotinoid pesticides for 120 days on 5 percent of oilseed rape crops.












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