Bee holocaust

Pesticides killed 50 million bees in one month, study concludes

The insecticide fipronil is the main cause

These pesticides are lethal to the bees and impact their central nervous system

Bee at the Smithsonian Pollinator Garden
Pesticides can kill bees. Photo credit: Flickr/vpickering

Clinical tests have revealed that the 50 million bees who died in January in the southern state of Santa Catarina in Brazil died from poisoning by pesticide.

The lab tests were paid for by the public prosecutor’s office. The bees were killed mainly by an insecticide called fipronil commonly used on soya plantations in the region, although there were chemicals involved.

Fipronil is banned in several countries such as Vietnam, Uruguay and South Africa after research confirmed it can kill bees.

Santa Catarina is Brazil’s largest honey exporter and 99% of its production is organic certified. Producers are worried that the massive bee death toll will taint the region’s reputation.

The dead bees were found during an inspection of local apiaries in January. A local farming development organization collected samples of the dead bees from the two cities that recorded the highest toll, Major Vieira and Rio Negrinho, and sent them to the public prosecutor.

The lab tests detected three pesticides: Bayer’s trifloxystrobin fungicide and triflumuron insecticide, and, in larger quantities, fipronil, which was introduced to the country by Basf, who owned patents over its active ingredients until 2008.

“These pesticides are lethal to the bees and impact their central nervous system. The ones who do not die during flight go back to the hive and infect the other bees,” says Rubens Onofri Nodari, an agronomy teacher at Santa Catarina’s federal university.

Since the new extreme right-wing government took over,  a staggering 382 pesticides have been greenlighted for use in Brazil by the new government, some of which are banned in Europe. In a recent trip to Germany, Brazil’s environmental minister, Ricardo Salles, who has been hard at work dismantling environmental agencies in the country, had scheduled meetings with Bayer and Basf in Berlin, according to a report by The Intercept. He was branded a climate criminal by German environmentalists.

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