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Beekeeping, Bumblebees, Honey Bees, Latin Literature

Am I the Only One Confused about Neonicotinoid Pesticides?

Alius simul atque gratum alicui aliquid fecit, promptus est ad beneficium illi in accepta referendum; alius ad id non promptus est, ceterum tamen apud se ut de debitore cogitat et novit, quod fecit: alius quodammodo ne novit quidem, quod fecit, sed similis est viti, quae uvam protulit et nihil praeterea appetit, postquam semel fructum suum genuit. Ut equus, qui cucurrit; ut canis, qui feras investigavit; ut apis, quae mel confecit, ita homo qui bene fecit, uon clamore rem extollit, sed ad aliud transit, ut vitis ad uvam iterum, suo tempore gignendam

Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Chapter 5
from  http://www.felix.org/node/34468

English: Titlepage of an 1811 edition of Medit...

English: Titlepage of an 1811 edition of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, translated by R. Graves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a warmish day, warmer than it has been around here for the past few weeks.  Warm enough for the bees to venture out, buzzing around both hives as I write.  I still have that contemplative hangover from Easter, as evidenced by the reference to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.  Truth to tell, he was a bit of a terror to Christians by all account, so perhaps Easter and Marcus Aurelius–not the happiest of confluences.

But, I want to put aside this awkward juxtoposition, to contemplate the subject of the post, provoked by the liveliness of the bees, but also by two pieces of information that have come across the desk in the past few weeks, the first being a general letter from the British Beekeeping Association on the subject of neonicotinoids, the second being a blurb from the last Private Eye relating to the same subject.

The European Union and Neonicotinoid Pesticides

I suppose there must be some people who are not aware of the growing concern over the risks such pesticides may pose not just to honeybees but to other pollinators such as bumble and solitary bees.  Earlier in the month, the EU postponed its decision over a moratorium on the use of such pesticides.  According to the Private Eye piece, “Sting in the Trail,” (No. 1336, 22 March-4 April 2013), the postponement was the result of lobbying  from the pesticide industry.

The UK and Neonicotinoid Pesticides

Private Eye claims that the UK’s Environment Secretary was among those who thought a decision should be postponed, especially as the government’s own Food and Environment Agency (Fera) was in the process of conducting its own studies.  PE goes on to say that Fera has already produced two reports which not only downplayed the risk, but were also produced for a major seller of neonicotinoid presticides (Fera does provide a disclaimer on the reports that says they were produced for a “commercial client.”).  Of course, we shouldn’t take PE’s assessment of the reports; they are both online:

Six Bees

Six Bees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HoneyBee Disease in Europe  (to be fair, this seems really only to deal with diseases.  If anyone can point out where in the report pesticides are mentioned, I’d appreciate it!)

Neonicotinoid Pesticides and Bees   To my non-scientist eye, the language here seems non-commital, the writers not willing to draw conclusions regarding the risk of toxicity.  Again, I am happy to be proven wrong.

I don’t know if this makes anything clearer; of course, the title seems to be screaming for one conclusion:

Neonicotinoid pesticides ‘damage brains of bees’

The BBKA and Neonicotinoid Pesticides

The BBKA in its letter circulated to members earlier this month does not take a stand one way or another on the risk of this type of pesticide, (it is generally opposed to them, although its relationship with suppliers has been a point of contention in the press) preferring to reserve judgement until there are more considered results from the Fera field studies.  It does recommend watching the Environmental Audit Committee meeting of 27 Feb on Insects and Insecticides.  It is interesting to note that at the moment the Chief Scientific Advisor to DEFRA contends that there are no risks observed in the UK.  I highly recommend watching this, if only just for the workings of how these issues are discussed, decisions made.

Aside from a general concern over the use of pesticides, for the BBKA, one concern seems to be that all pollinators not be lumped in together:  We are not convinced that it is possible to easily extrapolate data from bumble bees to honey bees. 

So UK no risk, EU risk…..what’s a humble beekeeper to think?

Of course, that may be the least of our worries:  The most lethal invader . . . Asian hornet that preys on native bees

So, maybe we should go back to our Easter contemplations.  I have my friend, Lisa Stepanski, to thank for reminding me of this part of the Easter service:  the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation

O vere beáta nox,
in qua terrénis cæléstia, humánis divína iungúntur.

Orámus ergo te, Dómine,
ut céreus iste in honórem tui nóminis consecrátus,
ad noctis huius calíginem destruéndam,
indefíciens persevéret.
Et in odórem suavitátis accéptus,
supérnis lumináribus misceátur.

O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth and divine to human. 
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night!

Ah, that’s better….

One man, when he has done a service to another, is ready to set it down to his account as a favor conferred. Another is not ready to do this, but still in his own mind he thinks of the man as his debtor, and he knows what he has done. A third in a manner does not even know what he has done, but he is like a vine which has produced grapes, and seeks for nothing more after it has once produced its proper fruit. As a horse when he has run, a dog when he has tackled the game, a bee when it has made the honey, so a man when he has done a good act does not call out for others to come and see, but he goes on to another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in season.

See Also  http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html  for full translation of the text.  Marcus Aurelius, although a Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, wrote the meditations in Greek.


11 thoughts on “Am I the Only One Confused about Neonicotinoid Pesticides?

  1. Hope our bees can navigate all the threats that face them this year.

    Posted by Emily Heath | April 3, 2013, 10:31 pm
    • I know! I am just hoping to get through the next week or so. And, I am a bit concerned about the amount of poo outside the opening of one of the hives. I would like to think it it because they couldn’t hold it with this cold weather rather than it might be dysentry.

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | April 4, 2013, 10:55 am
  2. Beautiful Marcus Aurelius quotation – ashamed to say I relied on your English translation to truly appreciate it (reading Classics at University was a long time ago).

    Posted by iago80 | April 3, 2013, 11:00 pm
    • Well, truth to tell, I also have to refer to dictionaries etc. And, that is not a translation of mine. I find when I translate on my own, and then look at other translations there can be a rather big difference. It doesn’t help that you seem to have to fill in a lot of gaps with extra English vocab to make the original sound intelligible, never mind poetic. I do like a good Stoic philosopher, but struggle with M.A. because of the persecution thing…..

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | April 4, 2013, 11:00 am
  3. I don’t think the neonicontinoids pesticides problem will be going away anytime soon…there’s just too much money involved.
    Great picture of 6 bees. I’ve got a photo of 6 bees on a St. John’s Wort, but it wasn’t very sharp. What is that flower?

    Posted by solarbeez | April 4, 2013, 4:39 am
  4. It is a difficult issue. I tend to proceed that all chemicals should be considered harmful unless proven otherwise. But then are we any better off with that approach? Regarding the photo, you’ve got me there. This a stock photo from Wikipedia Commons. It probably wouldn’t matter as I am rotten with flower names. I’ll ask around though….

    Posted by mylatinnotebook | April 4, 2013, 11:04 am
  5. Totally understand how you feel. I started a petition to US government and having a hard time even on a Beekeepers’ forum convincing people to sign it.

    Ran across this:

    Posted by limonandrey | April 12, 2013, 5:02 pm

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