The member nations of the EU voted for a near-total ban of neonicotinoid insecticides, over the objections of farmers and pesticide manufacturers. Known as neonics, the chemicals are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world and have been linked by scientific studies to the decline in honeybees and other pollinators, said BBC News.
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey found neonicotinoid insecticides in 74 percent of the water samples they analyzed from 10 major tributaries of the Great Lakes. The insecticides were "detected in every month sampled and five of the six target neonicotinoids were detected." Environmental Health News says the study "suggests the Great Lakes' fish, birds and entire ecosystems might be at risk" from the insecticides that are believed to be a factor in high mortality rates of honeybees.
Research by the University of Saskatchewan provides “the first direct evidence that neonicotinoids can harm songbirds and their migration,” said the Guardian, by causing the birds to lose weight and their sense of direction.
Seventy-five percent of honey samples taken from around the world contained traces of neonicotinoids — a class of insecticides harmful to honeybees, says a study published in the journal Science.
Beekeepers lost one-third of their colonies in the year ending in March, down 6 percent from the previous year and the lowest loss rate since 2011-12, when less than 29 percent of colonies were lost, says the Bee Informed Partnership of university researchers. Assistant entomology professor Dennis vanEngelsdorp, of the University of Maryland, said the decline in losses was encouraging but added, "It's hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses."
A U.S. district judge in California ruled that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act when it issued 59 registrations from 2007-12 that allow use of neonicotinoid insecticides in agricultural, landscaping and ornamental uses. District Judge Maxine Chesney issued a mixed verdict that upheld some the issues raised by beekeepers and environmental groups but denied others.
A petition filed with EPA calls for the agency to treat seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides as a pesticide, ending an exemption for the seeds. The petition was backed by three national beekeeper associations, worried the insecticides are a factor in population declines of honeybees.
Cornell University says its researchers found that honeybees, used to pollinate orchard and fruit crops, "encounter danger due to lingering and wandering pesticides, according to an analysis of the bee's own food," called beebread and made form pollen. In the study, based on 120 colonies placed near 30 apple orchards in New York State, the beebread in 17 percent of the colonies showed the presence of acutely high levels of pesticide exposure after several days of foraging by the bees while apple trees were in flower.
The European Commission is considering draft regulations to ban the mostly widely used insecticides in fields across Europe in order to protect bees, according to documents obtained by The Guardian via the Pesticide Action Network Europe. A vote is expected this May; if passed the ban could take effect within months.