Many people don't think that the collapse of bee populations is as big a mystery as it's made out to be. An EPA memo, leaked last month, reveals that a commonly used pest-control chemical can disrupt bee colonies.
This substance, sold in the USA as clothianidin, disrupts the nervous system of insects, and it's been a suspect in the mass death of honey bees for years. It's still available widely. Recent documents intimate that the EPA has known for a long time the chemical could be harmful to bees, but has kept it on the shelves while bee populations plummet.
All over Europe, many species of bird have suffered a population crash. [snip]
Ornithologists have been trying desperately to work out what is behind these rapid declines. Urban development, hermetically sealed houses and barns, designer gardens and changing farming practices have all been blamed, but exactly why these birds have fallen from the skies is still largely unexplained.
However, Tennekes thinks there may be a simple reason. "The evidence shows that the bird species suffering massive decline since the 1990s rely on insects for their diet," he says. He believes that the insect world is no longer thriving, and that birds that feed on insects are short on food.
So what has happened to all the insects? In the Nineties, a new class of insecticide – the neonicotinoids – was introduced. Beekeepers were the first people to notice a problem, as their bees began to desert their hives and die, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
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