More than 500 million bees have died in Brazil in the last three months.
In the state of Rio Grande do Sul, 400 million dead bees were found – with beekeepers in four states reporting the mass deaths.
Vice president of Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul Beekeeping Association, Aldo Machado, said that his bee colony had been decimated a mere 48 hours after the insects first showed signs of illness.
The die-off has been pinned on a deadly concoction of pesticides, reported Bloomberg.
Most of the dead bees showed traces of Fipronil, an insecticide banned by the European Union and classified as a potential human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Researchers have blamed the use of pesticides – chemical substances which are used to kill pests.
Bees have a really important role in the food chain – with around one-third of the food we eat relying on pollination mainly by bees.
These include fruits and vegetables such as avocados, broccoli and cherries.
What’s happened to the Brazilian bees?
The main cause of death for these bees has been the use of pesticides containing products that are banned in Europe, such as neonicotinoids and fipronil.
The EU imposed an almost total ban on neonicotinoids last April because of the serious harm it could cause to bees.
But in the same year Brazil lifted restrictions on pesticides – despite opposition from environmentalists who called it the “poison package”.
The use of pesticides in Brazil has increased, according to Greenpeace, with 193 products containing chemicals banned in the EU being registered in Brazil in the last three years.
The country uses pesticides because its economy is so reliant on agriculture.
The EU had imposed a total ban on neonicotinoids in April 2018, a group of insecticides particularly toxic to bees.
However, later in 2018, Brazilian congress approved a controversial bill to lift a ban on these pesticides, despite strong opposition from environmentalists, according to BBC.
Bloomberg reported that since January, Brazil permitted sales of a record 290 pesticides, 27 per cent higher than the previous year.
Additionally, international environmental non-profit Greenpeace reported that 40 per cent of Brazil’s pesticides are “highly or extremely toxic”, and 32 per cent of these are banned in the EU.
In the run-up to his presidency, Bolsonaro received strong support from agribusinesses, and promised to abolish Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA, a promise which he seems to be making good on.
What’s the story globally?
Things aren’t looking good for bees around the world.
In the United States, beekeepers lost four in 10 of their honeybee colonies in the past year, making it the worst winter on record.
In Russia 20 regions reported mass bee deaths, with officials also warning it could mean 20% less honey being produced.
At least one million bees died in South Africa in November 2018, with fipronil being blamed.
And countries such as Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Turkey have all also reported mass die-offs of bees in the last 18 months.
Unfortunately, humanity is in the midst of an insect extinction, with more than 40 per cent of insect species declining, according to The Guardian. Population declines of bees can ultimately result in a collapse of the global food production industry.