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Pesticides Contribute to Bird Declines, Threatening Forests, Crops, and Ecological Balance

Monday, August 27th, 2018

(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2018) Beyond the visual and audial charms of some bird species, insect-eating birds play a significant role in controlling pests that can ruin crops or ravage forests. A meta-study by Martin Nyffeler, Ph.D. of the University of Basel in Switzerland finds that globally, birds annually consume 400-plus million metric tons of various insects, including moths, aphids, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other arthropods (invertebrate organisms with exoskeletons, paired and jointed appendages, and segmented bodies, such as insects, crustaceans, and spiders). This research reviews 103 studies that examine the volume of insects consumed by various birds in seven of the world’s major biomes. In consuming such volumes of insects that can inflict damage on crops, trees, and other plants on which organisms may feed or otherwise depend, birds provide significant services to ecosystems, to denizens of habitats, and to human food system and economic interests; they also keep local ecosystems in balance. Threats to birds — and thus, to those ecosystem services — include those from pesticide use. Of the 10,700 known bird species distributed across the planet, more than 6,000 are primarily insectivorous. The study indicates that forest-dwelling birds consume the majority of insects (approximately 300 million metric […]

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Pesticide Blamed for Deaths of Hundreds of Wild Birds

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2014) As many as 700 birds have been found dead in a wildlife reserve in New South Wales, Australia. Preliminary tests reveal that the pesticide, fenthion, was the cause of death for many little correlas, galahs and sulphur-crested cockatoos found over the past two weeks. Certain uses of fenthion for home gardens and a range of agricultural uses were scheduled for suspension by the Australian Government, but a few months ago fenthion use, long associated with bird kills, was extended for another year. For the past two weeks, dead birds have been found all along a mile of Troy Reserve on the Talbragar River, in New South Wales, Australia. Testing of samples from the dead birds indicated fenthion, an organophosphate insecticide highly toxic to birds, as the most likely cause of the deaths. Volunteers helped gather the carcasses to prevent raptors, such as whistling kites and tawny frogmouths, from feeding on the poisoned carrion. About 30 sick birds, including two kites, have been so far been rescued. Locals found the first deaths on February 27 but were initially prevented from collecting the carcasses out of concern about possible bird flu. About 200 dead birds were found […]

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Honeybees Vanish, Threatening Crops and Livelihoods

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2007) In 24 states throughout the country, beekeepers have been shocked to find that bees have been inexplicably disappearing at an alarming rate, according to an article in the New York Times last week. This loss of honeybees threatens not only beekeeper livelihoods but also the production of numerous crops, including California almonds, one of the nation’s most profitable crops. Although the reasons for the honeybee disappearances are unknown, pesticides may be one of the culprits. “I have never seen anything like it,” David Bradshaw, a California beekeeper, said. “Box after box after box are just empty. There’s nobody home.” Last month he discovered that half of his 100 million bees were missing. Beekeepers have fought regional bee crises before, but this is the first national affliction. Bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold. As researchers scramble to find answers to the syndrome they have decided to call “colony collapse disorder,” growers are becoming openly nervous about the capability […]

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