A mysterious malady that has been killing honey bees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.
The disease, called Colony collapse disorder, first surfaced around 2005. Colony collapse disorder -- which follows a "sudden loss of a colony’s worker bee population," has gotten dramatically worse in the past year.
Beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor. The pesticides are absorbed by plants and transported throughout a plant's vascular tissue, making the plant potentially toxic to insects.
Four professional beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups said they would try to get a court to order the EPA to take action. The groups filed their lawsuit against the EPA in the Northern District Court of California, demanding that the regulatory agency suspend the use of pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam.
In the United States, such pesticides are routinely used on more than 100 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton, and are in some home gardening products.
The European Commission has been pushing for a neonicontinid pesticide ban in the EU, but chemical companies have been protesting. Syngenta and Bayer, two of the top producers of the pesticides, recently proposed a plan to expand bee habitats and increase monitoring in an attempt avoid restrictions on their products.
Bees, along with birds, bats, butterflies, beetles and other small mammals, are involved in pollinating plants used for food and some species have seen a 90 percent decline in their populations over the last decade, according to the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, a collaboration of more than 120 organizations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico that promotes the role that pollinators play in food systems.
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