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Chemical Puts Beekeepers and Lawn Growers At Odds

Colony Collapse Disorder linked to common lawn chemical
by Press Release
September 2, 2007

Portland, ME- The onset of autumn always brings heightened advertising for grub control products for lawns. With the winter of 2007-2008 not far off, however, comes an urgent reminder from beekeepers about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which wiped out tens of thousands of hives of bees across North America last winter and spring. That desire for a grub-free lawn has placed some homeowners and landscape contractors in direct conflict with the bee industry.

“The issue is that the primary product used to control grubs contains a chemical compound known as Imidacloprid, which is most commonly marketed as Merit,” said Paul Tukey, founder and spokesperson for SafeLawns.org, a national non-profit organization. “Imidacloprid is known to be toxic to bees and many beekeepers see a direct link to this chemical and the disappearance of bee hives. Many countries are employing the ‘precautionary principle’ and pulling Imidacloprid from the shelves. In the U.S. however, homeowners and farms are using more and more of it, especially since many of the other products such as Diazinon that folks were using to kill grubs and other insects have already been banned due to their proven toxicity.”

Colony Collapse Disorder was coined in 2006 as catch phrase for a disturbing, unexplained phenomenon that saw nearly a quarter of United States’ honeybee colonies suddenly disappear within a few months. Though many thought the problem was limited to western North America, beekeepers across the U.S, Canada and Europe also reported the problem. In addition to the production of honey, honeybees pollinate every third bite of food ingested by Americans, according to a Cornell University study, including approximately $14 billion in produce.

Research at Penn State and elsewhere has suggested potential links to bee decline and the new pesticide. “If bees are eating fresh or stored pollen contaminated with these chemicals at low levels, they may not cause mortality but may impact the bee’s ability to learn or make memories,” stated a Penn State report published in December of 2006. “If this is the case, young bees leaving the hive to make orientation flights may not be able to learn the location of the hive and may not be returning, causing the colonies to dwindle and eventually die.”

“Before last November I knew very little about Imidacloprid,” said David Hackenberg, owner of Hackenberg Apiaries in Lewisburg, PA., and past president of the American Beekeeping Association. “In the past few months I have come to know more than I want to know about this newer type of pesticide. From what I have learned so far, I am convinced that Imidacloprid plays a role in CCD.”

Given all this information, many American farmers aren’t willing to take any chances and are forsaking any products containing Imidacloprid. “Pollination is so important to us, we agreed not to use these new materials,” said Darren Hammond, farm manager for Jasper Wyman & Sons of Maine, the nation’s largest producer of wild blueberries. “Our primary competitor and all of our outside growers have also agreed not to use these products. We’re not saying there’s definitely a link between bees and Imidacloprid; that’s for the researchers to decide. We’re just not willing to take the risk.”

To combat grub infestations, Tukey suggests other approaches not involving chemicals — including the use of naturally occurring beneficial nematodes, which are non-toxic, as well as organic soil management. “Time and time again these chemical products have proven to be questionable for our health, our pets’ health or the environment in general,” said Tukey, author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual. At SafeLawns.org, we’re committed to promoting organic alternatives that don’t offer these same risks.”

For the beekeeping brethren, those risks just aren’t worth it.

For the entire article, please visit www.SafeLawns.org.

Safelawns.org is a national non-profit group whose mission is to create a broad based coalition of non and for-profit organizations committed to educating society about the benefits of organic lawn care and gardening, and effect a quantum change in consumer and industry behavior.

August 30, 2007 Lauren Annicelli

202-544-5430

lannicelli@didiongroup.com

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