Bee-killing neonicotinoids and the British government

This video from the USA says about itself:

Science Bulletins: Bee Deaths Linked to Common Pesticides

May 2, 2012

Several recent studies have questioned whether exposure to common pesticides might be impairing bee performance and contributing to the observed population declines. Neonicotinoids are a family of pesticides chemically related to nicotine, and are widely used in both large-scale agriculture as well as in home gardening products. This type of pesticide circulates through flowering plants and collects in nectar and pollen. Recent studies conducted by several research groups have shown that even low doses of neonicotinoid pesticides can impair bees’ navigation abilities and reduce the growth of bee colonies. Insects, particularly bees, are the dominant pollinators in temperate regions worldwide. Declines of honey, bumble, and solitary bees may lead to serious repercussions, not only for crop plant production but for the reproductive success of wild flowering plants, as well.

This latest Bio Bulletin from the American Museum of Natural History‘s Science Bulletins program is on display in the Hall of Biodiversity until June 6, 2012.

Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History.

From Wildlife Extra, about Britain:

Buglife questions Defra Minister’s TV statements about Neonicotinoids and bees

Defra Minister David Heath on ITV

July 2013. On Thursday 18th July ITV’s Tonight programme investigated the current bee and wild pollinator crisis which threatens food security. Defra Minister David Heath appeared on the programme and made a number of statements about neonicotinoid pesticides that are highly questionable.

Discounting the conclusions of over a hundred studies by independent scientists which show that neonicotinoids are an environmental risk, David Heath stated “There’s abundant evidence that this is a substance which is toxic in the laboratory…What we have not been able to demonstrate yet is there’s any linkage between that and what you see in field conditions where you have much lower dosages than were applied in the laboratory tests”.

Contradicted the opinion of the Government’s own scientific advisory group

This statement contradicts the opinion of the Government’s own scientific advisory group, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP). In the January 2013 meeting “Members commented that the laboratory and semi-laboratory studies reported in the literature represent sound science. The main questions raised were about whether the nature of the exposure was realistic, and information to date suggests the exposures were reasonable”.

David Heath also stated that “Wouldn’t you expect there to be some evidence after all of these trials, somebody to have gone on and said “What’s actually happening in the field?” but they haven’t”.

Again the ACP advice contradicts this statement. In January the committee discussed the Government’s flawed neonicotinoid study on bumblebees and noted that there were actually statistically significant links between levels of neonicotinoids and bumblebee health in the field. This link was ‘modified’ in the final report was published by removing data. The European Food Standards Authority expressed concerns about “inconsistencies and contradictory statements” and questioned how the report “elaborated and interpreted the study results to reach their conclusions”.

David Heath blamed the flaws in the study on it being rushed through because of action taken by the European Commission. “Because we were doing it against a deadline set, not by any scientific research, not by any idea of do we find out the actual facts about this, but by a politically imposed timetable, which I’m afraid I think was quite wrong”. However, in 2009 Buglife produced a scientific review that clearly identified a credible risk to wild pollinators from neonicotinoids and submitted the report to the Prime Minister’s Chief Environmental Advisor at 10 Downing Street. However successive administrations were complacent and failed to respond to the issues raised in Buglife’s report.

Finally David Heath stated that “The risk is by banning neonicotinoids you actually encourage farmers to use other, perhaps slightly outdated technologies in terms of insecticides, pesticides which could be far worse for the bees”. Buglife is not aware of the scientific basis for these claims and will be asking the Government to clarify which insecticides it is referring to and to set out the evidence that indicates that they are more damaging to the environment than neonicotinoids.

Matt Shardlow, Buglife CEO, said “There have been profound concerns about the impact of neonicotinoids on wild bees, moths, hoverflies and aquatic life since 2009. Successive governments did not take the science seriously and appeared complacent. Now that the high risk that has been scientifically proven and a partial EU wide ban put in place the unwillingness of the UK Government to take regulatory action or to investigate impacts on soil and river ecology appears to go considerably further than complacency”.

To find out more about the Buglife campaign, visit

Neonicotinoids cause stress in bees which leads to colony collapse: here.

Fish in polluted water cannot smell

From Scientific American:

Fish Cannot Smell in Polluted Waters

Fish in lakes tainted with heavy metals are losing their sense of smell

By Brian Bienkowski and Environmental Health News

Perca flavescens Yellow Perch

When lakes recover from metal contamination, fish can recover their sense of smell. Pictured: Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens). Image: Flickr/Matt Tillett

Fish in lakes tainted with metals are losing their sense of smell, stoking concern among experts that the problem could devastate populations.

But if the fish can just get into cleaner water – even if they’ve been exposed to pollutants their whole life – they start sniffing things properly again, according to new research out of Canada.

Fish use their sense of smell to find mates and food, and to avoid getting eaten. It helps them navigate their often murky world, and it is necessary for their growth and survival. But when metals contact fish nostrils, the neurons shut down to protect the brain.

Metals already have been linked to impaired reproduction and growth in fish but now they are proving to be “covert toxics,” said Keith Tierney, a University of Alberta assistant professor who did not participate in the new study. “If you can’t smell food, or avoid predators, you’re more likely to die – simple as that.”

Greg Pyle, a professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, said he suspects that impaired sense of smell “has meaningful and profound effects” on many fish species. It may be jeopardizing entire populations of fish, including some endangered species.

“We’ve tested everything from leeches to water fleas to several species of fish,” Pyle said. “Every species and every metal we’ve observed has had effects at low, environmentally relevant concentrations.”

Most contaminated lakes have a metallic mix, making it hard to tease out which pollutants are to blame.

In the latest study, Pyle and his team of researchers took yellow perch that lived in Ontario lakes contaminated with mercury, nickel, copper, iron and manganese, and put them in a cleaner lake. Within 24 hours of basking in the clean water, the fish regained their sense of smell.

This shows “fish from metal contaminated lakes have the ability to recover once the lake recovers,” the authors wrote in the paper published in last month’s Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety journal.

The researchers used wild fish from two lakes with metal contamination (Ramsey and Hannah lakes) and from a cleaner one (Geneva Lake). Ramsey and Hannah, located in Sudbury, Ontario, are polluted from more than a century of mining, particularly with nickel. Hannah Lake is one of the worst-polluted lakes in the area, while Ramsey is similar to other North American lakes near industrial areas. Geneva Lake is far enough northwest to escape most contaminants.

Just as the clean lake revived the sense of smell for the Ramsey and Hannah fish, Geneva Lake’s perch had decreased smell after just 24 hours of hanging out in the dirtier lakes. Their response times to substances that smelled like their food dropped 75 to 59 percent.

Similar results have been reported with minnows and perch, with metals apparently reducing their ability to escape predators.

Some metals attack specific neurons in the nostrils that respond to certain smells, Pyle said. Nickel targets the neurons that help fish smell food, while copper – at low concentrations – targets the neurons that help fish avoid predators. At higher concentrations, copper impairs their smell for everything.

“Copper is a poster child for water pollution,” said Nathaniel Scholz, an ecotoxicology program manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “Copper is intensively used as a pesticide, fungicide…It’s found in cars, in boat paint, so boatyards are often contaminated. And it’s often found in industrial discharge and near legacy mining operations. It’s a rare pollutant that’s both agricultural and urban.”

Humans are using and abusing freshwater resources at an accelerating rate. David Biello reports: here.