THE BLOG

More UK Stores Protect Bees: Bees Drawn to Floral Spark

02/28/2013 01:49 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2013

In January (2013) Homebase, B&Q and Wickes removed products containing bee-toxic insecticides called neonictinoids. Recently, Notcutts, Hillier, Squires, Blue Diamond and SCATS, some 78 outlets across the UK, pulled products containing neonictinoids from their selves.

Also, Scotsdale Garden Centre has capitulated from Facebook pressure by its followers and will shortly remove neonictinoids from their stores, too.

Oddly, the UK government has resisted banning neonictinoids to safeguard not only the bees but soil organisms, birds that feed upon them and to obviate these chemicals from persisting in waterways for up to a decade of more.

Both the United States and UK have experienced a 50 percent drop in bee populations over the past 25 years. In 2012, UK and French researchers reported that neonictinoids harm the bee's navigation system. Bees exposed to neonictinoids experienced high death rates and many were unable to find their way back to the hive.

In mid February (2013) The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) co-released a very disturbing study entitled: "State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals." There are close to 800 chemicals known or suspected to be capable of disrupting the human endocrine system.

Chemicals found in insecticides, electronics, personal care products, cosmetics, and as additives or contaminants in food are known to disrupt human hormones. These toxic chemicals are also very evident in dust particles and waterways around the globe.

The UNEP and WHO study found the following:

Forty percent of young men in many countries have low sperm counts.

High rates of genital malformations in baby boys;

Adverse pregnancies including preterm births and low birth weights are occurring in many countries.

Global rates of endocrine related cancers like: breast, endometrial, ovarian, prostrate, and testicular and thyroid have significantly increased over the past half-century.

A dramatic worldwide trend toward earlier breast development in young girls and increases in the risk factor for breast cancer.

In addition, obesity and Type II diabetes are at an epidemic levels. The study notes that 1.5 billion adults, globally, are over weight. The number of people diagnosed with Type II diabetes has jumped in 1980 from 153 million to 347 million people by 2008.

The study concludes by noting that when endocrine disrupting chemicals are restricted -- wildlife populations recover and overall ecosystem health problems abate.

The fact that the European Union is calling for a ban on neonictinoids is a crucial first step. Friends of the Earth UK are to be congratulated for a successful campaign to raise awareness of the importance of our bees.

The bees provide humans with most of the food we eat including pollinating clover for both beef and dairy industries, the cotton we wear, 2.2 billion pounds of honey we consume annually, 44 million pounds of beeswax used annually, and powerful medicines to help fight arthritis, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.

The latest bee research from the UK is a breathtaking discovery revealing a rapid and dynamic communications between plants and bees with electrical signals.

It turns out that bumblebees carry a positive electrical charge because they fly in air, which is full of all kinds of tiny dust particles and other charge molecules. Friction from these particles causes the bumblebees to loose electrons leaving them with a positive charge.

Flowers, on the other hand, grow in the earth, they are grounded and therefore posses a negative charge.

When bumblebees land on a flower they generate their own electric field, a force is created. A tiny spark results when the two are connected. This appears to improve the bee's memory of floral rewards e.g. nectar and pollen. The force enables bumblebees to also discern whether other bees have previously visited and fed upon the flower.

Clearly, it is crucial that we reduce the amount of toxicity in the environment. Currently, we use in excess of five billion pounds of insecticides, worldwide.

A recent U.S. study has found that populations of American bumblebee, the rusty-patched bumblebee, the western bumblebee and the yellow-banded bumblebee are all in trouble.

A new worldwide study found that wild bees are significantly better at pollinating that 'managed' honeybees. In fact, wild pollinators increased the full yield of fruit of 41 crops in 20 countries, whilst honeybees increased the yield by only 14 percent of the same crops. Worldwide we have very little data on populations of wild pollinators, which is all the more reason to immediately curtail the use of neonictinoids.

In America the early reports of winter honeybee die-offs range between 40 and 50 percent (normal rates between 9 and 13 percent). This has caused the rental of 1.6 million beehives for the biggest pollination on Earth - California almonds to reach a rate of $200 a hive, an all-time record. There are simply just not enough healthy hives in the U.S. to pollinate the 760,000 acres of almond trees. As we poison bees the price of food continues to rise.

Have we reached what professor Rachel Carson warned us about in 1962? "Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we now have acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy Nature. But man is part of Nature, and his war is inevitably a war against himself."

Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster, biologist and author of The Incomparable Honeybee.