500 Million Bees Die Within Three Months In Brazil
Around 500 million bees have died within just three months in Brazil, with researchers saying pesticides are likely to be the main cause of death.
The plummeting numbers of bees were reported by beekeepers from four Brazilian states, with the country's southernmost state Rio Grande do Sul reporting 400 million deaths alone.
Seven million bees were reported dead in São Paulo, with 50 million also dying in Santa Catarina and 45 million in Mato Grosso.
Aldo Machado, vice president of Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul beekeeping association, told Bloomberg: "As soon as the healthy bees began clearing the dying bees out of the hives, they became contaminated. They started dying en masse."
With the spotlight already on Brazil, in light of the three week-long fires that have raged through the Amazon rain forest, this latest news only adds to the country's bleak environmental outlook. Bees are incredibly important of course - not just to Brazil, but the world - with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimating that about 75 per cent of the planet's food is dependent on bee pollination.
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The falling population of bees in Brazil reflects declining numbers in the rest of the world: in the UK, for instance, the BBC reporting earlier this year that a third of wild bees and pollinating insects are in decline.
In the US, meanwhile, colony collapse disorder (CCD) - whereby bees disappear from their hives - has been affecting the country's bee population since 2006. The cause is unclear, but the use of pesticides by farmers is strongly suspected.
In Brazil, the link between the deaths and the country's use of pesticides has been an easy one to make; under the former leadership of President Michael Temer and current President Jair Bolsonaro, the South American country has become the largest buyer of pesticides in the world, including some 193 weedkillers and pesticides that are currently banned in the European Union, reports Greenpeace's Unearthed.
Bolsonaro is already facing huge scrutiny over his handling of environmental issues, with the BBC reporting that many conservationists have accused the President of encouraging the clearing of land by loggers and farmers, speeding up the deforestation process and leading to incidents like the current rain forest tragedy.
With this news of the country's depleting bee population coming in the wake of reports that Bolsonaro is seeking to further deregulate pesticide rules in the coming months, it's another big blow to a country that boasts one of the richest biodiversities on the planet.
Featured Image Credit: PA