In recent months, Brazil has jumped to the center of world news for the sad events in which it has become a protagonist on the environmental front. Alongside the devastating fires that are destroying the Amazon and the related deforestation, another bad news concerns bees. In fact, between December 2018 and February 2019 a very serious death hit these small but indispensable allies of biodiversity. Beekeepers in four local states found 500 million dead. An impressive figure.
The news was spread starting from an investigation conducted by two investigative journalism agencies, Agência Pública and Repórter Brasil. The territory most affected was Grande do Sul, the main honey producer in Brazil, with about 400 million dead bees. The states of Santa Catarina, Mato Grosso do Sul and San Paolo follow.
The causes of death
Initially it was assumed that behind the slaughter of bees there was the so-called Beehive Depopulation Syndrome (Ssa), still little known phenomenon due to which the colonies of Apis mellifera they perish abruptly. From a more careful analysis, however, it emerged that the symptoms were different. The investigations then turned their attention to other possible triggers, reaching a bitter conclusion. Apparently the cause of the death would be mainly one, moreover of anthropogenic origin: the indiscriminate use of pesticides.
In fact, in most of the deceased bees traces of fipronil, a broad-spectrum insecticide on whose use the European Union has imposed restrictions for several years, precisely to combat the death of pollinating insects.
Behind the widespread use of the pesticide there would once again be the hand of the policies implemented by the President Jair Bolsonaro, criticized several times for his questionable stances on environmental issues.
The use of insecticides in Brazil has increased significantly in recent times and it was precisely Bolsonaro who eliminated the restrictions on these dangerous substances. As pointed out by Greenpeace, in the last three years the use of as many as 193 pesticides and herbicides containing chemical agents banned in Europe has been reported in Brazilian territory. Of these, 40 percent would be highly or extremely toxic.
Threats to bees
For several years now, science has focused attention on the link between pesticides and bee deaths. A report published in the spring of 2018 byEuropean Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that almost all current uses of neonicotinoid pesticides endanger bees, both domestic and wild. As a further aggravating factor in the decline of precious pollinators, there are the effects of ongoing climate change.
The data show that global warming has a heavy impact on the relentless decline in domestic and wild bees. The alarm was also raised by the WWF on the occasion of the #Beesafe campaign. According to the Environmental Association, a first sign would come from the significant decline in honey production. In 2018, production in our country for example dropped by 80% due to the drought experienced in the previous year. The picture does not seem to improve with the passage of time. According to the latest Ismea report on beekeeping sector: “In 2019, the estimated production loss of acacia and citrus honey is over 10 thousand tons, equal to more than 40% of the average annual production expected under normal conditions”.
Like many other species also for bees, in short, the fate does not look rosy at all. We recall that over 70% of agricultural production for human consumption depends on their presence. A future without bees is therefore unthinkable.