Bayer pesticide causes bee deaths in 11,500 colonies in Germany
(AFX International ProFeed 06/16 04:15:19)
FRANKFURT (Thomson Financial) - Bayer AG.'s seed treatment Poncho has been linked to bee deaths at 11,500 bee colonies in southwestern Germany since May and 700 beekeepers have filed damage reports, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, citing the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Poncho, containing the active ingredient clothianidine, is used on seeds to protect the growing plant against insects.
Bayer said the seed treatment companies that use Poncho may have handled the product incorrectly, allowing particles containing the insecticide to blow away during the sowing of corn to nearby areas where it was ingested by the bees.
German state-run crop research institute Julius-Kuehn Institut last week said clothianidine caused the bee deaths.
Germany's Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety in May suspended the sale of Poncho and seven other seed treatment products after clothianidine was first linked to the incidents.
The temporary ban so far has not led to a drop in sales at Bayer's crop chemicals unit because it came after the end of the corn sowing season, company spokesman Hermann-Josef Baaken said.
However, if the ban is continued into August it will affect the sowing season for canola, he said.
The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which is coordinating compensation payments, will announce at the end of the weak how much Bayer must pay to beekeepers, Baaken said.
Germany is the only country so far in which clothianidine has been suspended, so said.
Bayer said in May it was working on a certification system with seed companies to avoid faulty seed treatment in the future.
The company said it is also working with the manufacturers of certain pneumatic corn-sowing equipment to avoid the drifting of pesticide particles during sowing.
Bayer's Poncho generated 237 million euros in global sales in 2007. The company's CropScience division, which markets Poncho, had 5.8 billion euros in sales last year.
Rent-a-Hive: How much does it cost to borrow a colony of honeybees?
By Jacob Leibenluft
Posted Friday, June 27, 2008, at 7:00 PM ET
Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2194424/
The House Agriculture Committee heard testimony on Thursday about the toll Colony Collapse Disorder was taking on beehives nationwide. Growers complained that the skyrocketing cost of renting bees was forcing them to raise prices on crops. Just how expensive is it to rent a colony of bees?
Between $10 and $180, depending on the season. When you rent a colony of bees, you aren't just shelling out for the insects—the per-colony rental fee typically covers the cost of transporting the bees, setting up the hive and collecting the colony at the end of the contract. If you don't need a full hive's worth, you can buy (not rent) a package of bees and have them delivered via the U.S. Postal Service; three pounds of them might set you back $75.
Colony rental prices are highest from early February to mid-March, during the pollination season for almonds. The almond crops in California are entirely dependent on honeybees, and every spring they require more than half the commercial bee colonies in the nation. (Beekeepers as far away as Florida send their product to the West Coast to meet the demand.) This year, California almond farmers paid up to $180 a colony, and their appetite for the insects pushed up prices for growers all over the country. Rental fees can drop by more than a factor of 10 later in the spring, as beekeepers look for a place to leave their bees until a more lucrative season.
The price of a colony also depends on what you plan to do with it. In the Northeast, pumpkin and cucumber farmers pay more for hives because pollinating their patches isn't quite as nutritious for the bees and may limit the hive's growth. (Apple producers in Pennsylvania are reporting prices around $65 per colony this year, compared with $100 for pumpkin farmers.) But no matter what you're pollinating, prices are higher than they used to be: Increased demand overall, combined with a reduction in supply as a result of Colony Collapse Disorder, has made costs double or even triple in recent years.
When you order up a colony, expect your delivery to arrive via truck: For the cross-country shipments, about 450 boxlike hives are loaded into a semi and transported as quickly as possible, taking care that the bees don't overheat. Once the bees arrive, the hives will be unloaded at night—most bees don't fly in the dark—and placed in the fields. Over the course of pollination season, forager bees will roam free during the day and then return to the hive by dusk. The exact number of colonies needed to pollinate a field varies, but it's between one and two hives per acre for most crops. Depending on the time of year, the population of a colony will ebb and flow. A high-quality rental colony often has eight frames, each holding a sheet of honeycomb; each frame might have only 1,500 or 2,000 bees at the beginning of the almond season. Later in the year, however, the populations might triple in size.
Explainer thanks Keith Delaplane of the University of Georgia, Joe Traynor of Scientific Ag Co., Dennis van Engelsdorp of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and Shannon Wooten of Wooten's Golden Queens.
Jacob Leibenluft is a writer from Washington, D.C.