The European Union recently voted to ban (or at least limit) three pesticides, which have been linked to large-scale bee die-offs. The three neonicotinoids damage the bees’ neurotransmitters so that they become lost and cannot find their way back to their hives.

Neonicotinoids are used directly on seeds rather than sprayed onto foliage or fruit. A recent study by the American Bird Conservancy found that neonicotinoids have a negative impact on “birds, terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife.” Birds can die from consuming the seeds directly and agricultural runoff from farms using neonicotinoids can poison groundwater and contaminate lakes, rivers and streams.

While the UK, Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland, Spain, Lithuania, Slovakia and Austria opposed the ban outright, claiming insufficient data, Germany, home to the largest neonicotinoid manufacturer (Bayer) publicly supported the ban, but lobbied for a loophole. Sneaky, right?

Meanwhile in the US, 31% of honeybee colonies died during 2012. Despite the EU’s ban, authorities in the US say there is no evidence that neonicotinoids are the main cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. But they are one of the causes.

From the Guardian:

In a report last week, the federal government blamed a combination of factors for the rapid decline of honeybees, including a parasitic mite, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and genetics, as well as the effects of pesticides. But scientists and campaign groups have singled out the use of a widely used class of pesticides, which scramble the honeybees’ sense of navigation.

Pic: Erik Hooymans (Wikimedia Commons)

Pic: Erik Hooymans (Wikimedia Commons)

So ban them already. Agricultural production in the US is gravely threatened by CCD and government inaction due to “uncertainty” or more likely pressure from pesticide manufacturers is no excuse to simply do nothing.

From Time Magazine:

Since 2006 an estimated 10 million beehives worth about $200 each have been lost, costing beekeepers some $2 billion. There are now 2.5 million honeybee colonies in the U.S., down from 6 million 60 years ago. And if CCD continues, the consequences for the agricultural economy — and even for our ability to feed ourselves — could be dire.

You see, we depend on honeybees to pollinate crops like apples, pears, almonds, peaches, berries, cucumbers – you name it.

But Colony Collapse Disorder is not the only thing that’s killing the bees off. In fact, if CCD were itself to disappear the bees would still be dying. The Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite, is perhaps even more of a threat to honeybees than CCD. Furthermore, research has found that the average hive contains 6 different pesticides, with a grand total of 121.

How do you like them apples? Not a hell of a whole lot, I’ll wager.

Read more in Wired.