bee, bees

Documentary Presents New Bee Disappearance Theory

October 05, 2009 08:00 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
A new U.K. film points to a certain pesticide as the root cause of colony collapse disorder among honeybees, but some dispute the claim.

Seeking Answers to a Baffling Question

Over the past five years, various theories regarding Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) have been suggested, but the documentary "Vanishing of the Bees" could present the most compelling hypothesis to date. According to Michael McCarthy for The Independent, the film's assertion of "a new generation of pesticides that weakens the bees and makes them more susceptible to other diseases" already has some people up in arms.

Neonicotinoid pesticides, much of which is produced by the German firm Bayer, include chemicals like imidacloprid, a substance banned in France due to concerns among beekeepers. Neonicotinoid pesticides "are applied to seeds rather than sprayed on to growing plants," allowing the chemicals to seep directly into plants, and into insects that eat the plants. Filmmakers George Langworthy and Maryam Henein suggest in their film "that long-term, low-level exposure to these compounds may be having a sub-lethal but debilitating effect on honey bees," McCarthy reports.

For its part, Bayer has "rejected the allegations," and is "insisting that its products did not harm bees," according to McCarthy. "If you look at a country where they have restricted the use of neonicotinoids, France, they have a worse bee problem there than they do in the UK," Dr. Julian Little, U.K. spokesman for Bayer CropScience, told McCarthy.

In May 2008, however, The Guardian reported that Germany had temporarily banned clothianidin and all other neonicotinoid pesticides following "reports from German beekeepers in the Baden-Württemberg region that two thirds of their bees died" after an application of clothianidin. At the time, a group of North Dakota beekeepers was taking Bayer to court after they lost "thousands of honeybee colonies in 1995, during a period when oilseed rape in the area was treated with imidacloprid."

Little responded to the BBC's Farming Today that the instance in Germany was "an extremely rare event and has not been seen anywhere else in Europe," according to The Guardian.

Reactions: Celebrities and scientists come forward

This week, Liam Gallagher, front man of the U.K. band Oasis, came forward to lead a "save the honeybees" campaign. "The bees are vanishing. We've got to save them before they all buzz off. It's important. It's a really worthwhile cause," Gallagher said, according to the Web site Spinner. Honey helped the singer recover from "a throat virus," which inspired him to promote "The Vanishing of the Bees."

In the U.S., beekeeper David Hackenberg has issued a warning that CCD will worsen in Britain, and put out a call for further research into what is causing it. Hackenberg was the first to describe CCD in the U.S. and makes an appearance in "Vanishing of the Bees," according to Louise Gray for the Daily Telegraph. U.K. scientists are now performing additional "research at a secret location" to allow freedom from chemical companies' influence.

Related Topic: Watch "Vanishing of the Bees"

On the "Vanishing of the Bees" Web site, watch the trailer, learn where and when to find screenings of the film, and discover ways to help the cause, such as bee friendly gardening techniques. 

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