Honeybee populations, both wild and farmed, are falling dramatically in Europe and the United States, as well as Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Brazil.
In Europe, it has been calculated that mortality rates in bee colonies are at around 20%, while in the United States the bee death rate was as high as 40% last winter. Along with the bees, other pollinating insects-bumblebees, butterflies and moths-are also showing a striking decline.
Falling bee populations have been blamed on a number of causes, which can take effect individually or in conjunction with each other.
• Pathological factors. The bees suffer from specific diseases and parasites that weaken them and often kill them.
• Climate factors. Climate change can have an effect, for example by changing flowering periods, which can catch bee colonies unprepared.
• Environmental factors. Beekeepers have long been particularly concerned about this issue, and it is clear that the main cause of collapsing bee populations is industrial monocultures, which kill biodiversity and use large quantities of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. In particular, neonicotinoids (linkto: click here), the world's most commonly used insecticides, are highly toxic and often lethal. These neonicotinoids are used on almost all crops and are often applied directly to the seeds, pervading the plant. Traces can last in the soil for up to 19 years. In January 2013, the EFSA officially recognized the high toxicity of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, then later in the year, fipronil. But the story is far from over.
Why must we act?
Because bees play a hugely valuable role, helping to ensure:
• Diversity in our diets. Without the pollination carried out by bees, a large number of wild and cultivated plant species would no longer exist, and our diets would be much poorer and less varied. In Europe alone it has been calculated that 84% of the 264 cultivated species depend on insect pollination and that 4,000 different crops grow thanks to bees.
• The planet's well-being. Without pollination and with the disappearance of natural botanic biodiversity, our planet's entire hydrogeological system would be dramatically destabilized. The loss of pollination has consequences not just on the availability of food, but also on the survival of botanical elements that are critical for the environmental equilibrium and the life forms that depend on them.
What can you do?
• Take a stand and fight for agriculture to be compatible with bees and the environment.
• Choose products grown cleanly, without the use of neonicotinoids and killer molecules, in differentiated agricultural systems. Clean agriculture is the bees' best friend. And if the bees are happy, you'll be happy too.
• Ask our politicians to ban harmful pesticides and favor clean farming.
• Plant a wildlife-friendly garden.
• Follow the Slow Europe campaign.
Click here to read the 10 Syngenta lies on bees and neonicotinoids.
Marla Spivak, professor and researcher of entomology at the University of Minnesota (USA), explains the dangerous consequences of the decline of bees and pollinators in clear language and simple concepts, with her passion for bees.