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Spraying insecticides on fields causes death of 80,000 bee colonies in 25 Russian regions

Specialists beware of counterfeit that may replace natural honey on the counters

VORONEZH, July 19. /TASS/. Spraying insecticides on agricultural fields caused the death of about 80,000 bee colonies in 25 regions of Russia, the damage of beekeepers exceeded 2 bln rubles ($31.7 mln), acting director of the Federal Scientific Center of Beekeeping, Anna Brandorf told TASS.

"In 25 regions of Russia, about 80,000 bee colonies were killed <...>. This happened at apiaries, which are located near the [agricultural] fields treated with insecticides. Another 20% of bee colonies will add to these losses in the spring, as toxic substances fell into the nests, and the bee families that survived are very weak now, and it is possible that they will also die later. They also brought nectar from the fields to the nests, which can also contain insecticides, so the queen bee may not survive on such food," the expert said.

According to her, there are about 3.5 million bee colonies in Russia and their mass death was recorded in May-June in all regions of central Russia, in the south of the country, in the republics of Udmurtia, Tatarstan and Mari El and in the Altai Territory.

"This year had an early spring, the flowering dates shifted a little and plant pests came out earlier. This year there are three generations of pests versus two generations [last year] — therefore, farmers had to use more insecticides," Brandorf explained.

According to her, a beekeeper suffered a loss of more than 26,000 rubles ($412) from the death of each bee colony.

"The bee farm costs about 9,000 rubles ($142), but it could bring, on average, 40 kg of honey at 400 rubles ($6) per 1 kg, as well as pollen, wax and propolis which is about 1,000 rubles more. Thus, the beekeepers lost not just the bee colony they will have to buy, but they have not received enough products they could sell — overall, the losses stand at more than 2 bln rubles ($31 mln), " she added.

"The death of bees will affect the volume of honey collected this year — it will fall several-fold and will be replaced with counterfeit <...> The consumer may not notice this, because there are manufacturers of honey products, and if they become more active now, the cost of natural honey will not grow much. <...> After all, the consumer does not know much about the difference between 'natural honey' and 'blueberry honey' or 'currant honey,' although the latter may not even contain any honey," she noted.

In May-June, in the regions of the Central Federal District, a massive death of bees was recorded after agricultural fields treatment. Regional departments of Russia's consumer rights watchdog began to look into the situation. They studied more than 100 samples of dead bees provided by apiary owners from Voronezh, Kursk, Belgorod, Tambov and Lipetsk regions. Experts concluded that the reason for the mass death of bees was poisoning with plant protection products, namely insecticides. According to experts, production, storage, sale and use of pesticides and agrochemicals in Russia in recent years is almost uncontrolled.