2 Aug 2019 12:50

Bee deaths affect 30 Russian regions, but damage not always significant - expert

MOSCOW. Aug 2 (Interfax) - Cases of bee deaths have been reported in 30 regions of Russia, the president of the National Union of Beekeepers, Arnold Butov said.

"Thirty of our regions have suffered, but in some 5% [of bee colonies have died], in some maybe 7%. But I haven't heard of any above 30%," Butov said at a press conference on Thursday.

He said the final data on bee deaths are not in yet. "In the regions, deaths range from 5% to 30%, there are such examples. In some [regions] not a single bee has died. We are now doing the tally. As soon as we know all the numbers that will say exactly how many bee colonies have died, we will report to the government on what the approximate damages are," Butov said.

He estimated that Russia has about 5 million bee colonies, 97% of which are in the private sector.

The reason for the mass bee deaths this year is "absolutely incompetent use of toxic chemicals and pesticides by those quote-unquote specialists who are employed at farms and agricultural holding companies," Butov said. Government oversight bodies are not paying attention to this sector now and there have been violations, he said.

The problem has also been triggered by the dramatic increase in rapeseed crop areas this year, as well as the fight against hogweed with herbicides. Herbicides should not be used, because they destroy everything living in the soil. The seeds should be destroyed, in order to prevent the rampant spread of this plant, which is melliferous, Butov said.

As a result, honey production in Russia could decrease, he said, without giving an estimate. "There will be less honey, naturally," Butov said. However, the decline might not just be due to mass bee deaths but also to cold weather.

"We have another negative phenomenon, cold nights. It's cold and bees are not flying out, not pollinating plants and not producing honey. This factor will also affect the amount of commercial honey," Butov said. The hope is that it will get warmer, and if it does production could pick up, he said.

Mass bee deaths were reported at the start of the summer in a number of Russian regions, including Udmurtia, Saratov, Lipetsk, Kursk, Bryansk and Ulyanovsk regions, and Altai Territory. It has been said that this could be due to gross violations of regulations for safe application of pesticides by farmers.

The production, storage, sale and application of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals has not been controlled in Russia for the past eight years, according to Russian plant and animal health watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor. This leads to compounds that are toxic to many insects and dangerous for animals and humans being spread over huge areas, penetrating the soil and contaminating bodies of water and plants.

The Agriculture Ministry reported earlier that 39,600 bee colonies had died in 25 regions as of July 29, or 1.3% of the total number, which it put at 3.09 million colonies.