This is part of the book “Stéphane Foucart et les néonicotinoïdes. The World and disinformation 1“, where I present the reasoning developed by the journalist in the corpus. What is said in this chapter is my view on what the journalist writes. All quotes are translated (by me), except the ones marked between [ ] in the french version (french quotes are to numerous to be marked in this one).

The first alerts, in 1994, concerned the excess mortality of honey bees. However, wild pollinators are also affected and, more generally, we observed a disappearance of insects. This could have disastrous consequences, both for beekeeping and for agriculture in general.

a. The alert: the excess mortality of honey bees

For just over a decade, massive honey bee mortalities have been reported around the world – mainly in the United States and Europe.” (1)

Already in 1994, French beekeepers warned of the excess mortality in their hives, of which imidacloprid was already suspected. (45) (54) The Epilobee survey looked at the health of European apiaries. Combining winter and summer mortalities, the countries with the highest beehive mortality were:

  • Belgium 42.5%,
  • the United Kingdom (38.5%),
  • Sweden (31.1%),
  • Finland (29.8%)

Conversely, deaths were lower in Greece (9.1%), Italy (7.6%) or Spain (16.3%). If we look only at the beekeeping season (summer?), France had the highest mortality: 13.6% compared with less than 10% in all the other countries studied. (15)

In the US, while historical loss rates were 10 to 15 % at the end of winter, they reached 30 % in 2014. (18) UNAF estimates annual losses in France at 30%. (48)

According to Gérard Arnold, winter losses should normally not exceed 5%. According to other researchers, this rate should be between 5 to 10%. (47)

More broadly, the beekeeping sector is doing poorly: French production has fallen sharply in recent years :

  • less 28% between 2004 and 2010 (5)
  • divided by half between the 90s and 2014 (15)
  • divided by 3 between the 90s and 2016 (27) (36)

Beekeepers were more than 4,500 to cease their activity each year (in 2013). (5) The FFAP had, on November 6, drawn up “a dramatic inventory of the beekeeping sector”. (12)
This decline would be all the more worrying as the organization as a colony would be “a guarantee of resilience that the bumblebees which live in micro-colonies or the solitary bees which are even more fragile” do not have (EASAC 2015). (57)

b. Pollinators’ decline

We often talk about honey bees, but wild pollinators in general are very important for pollination and disappear quickly. Indeed, according to a study by Laura Burkle (2013), “the diversity of wild pollinator species has been halved in 120 years” and “the rate of visits of a small flower endemic to this region of North America was divided by four during this period.” (6)

IUCN issued a statement on April 2 announcing that in Europe, “30 of the 68 species of the genus Bombus found on the continent are in decline and 12 are threatened with extinction. ” (17)

It also estimated in 2016 that 16.5% of vertebrate pollinator species (birds, bats, etc.) are threatened with extinction and that more than 40% of bee species in Europe could be threatened. (25)

A study published by Nature in October 2019 observes a drop of 67% between 2008 and 2017 of the weight of arthropods captured on a sample of 150 German meadows, of 78% of their number and of 34% of their diversity. (61)

c. The disappearance of insects: the “windshield effect”

The decline of insects is reveled for all to see by the fact that the windshields of automobiles, even the less aerodynamic ones, are no longer soiled by the impacts of insects along the road. (30) (54)

The study published in 2017 in PloS One by Hallman et al. (2017) provided proof of this:
“A study published in October 2017 in the journal PLoS One indeed indicates that the quantity of flying insects fell by more than 75% between 1989 and 2016, in some sixty rural areas in Germany, representative of most landscapes Western Europe dominated by human activities. ” (48) (idem: com (30) (35) (41) (56)

These measures would affect not only Germany, but also, according to Dave Goulson (himself a co-author of the study) France and the United Kingdom with similar farming systems. More broadly, it could be “representative of a much larger situation”, in which case we would “be facing an impending ecological disaster.” (35)

Vincent Bretagnolle reportedly observed in 2017 in the “Plaine et Val de Sèvre workshop area” that the number of Poecilus cupreus, a ground beetle abundant in agricultural environments representing (initially ?) 70% of individuals (ground beetles?) captured in the area, was reduced by 85 % in twenty-three years. (35)

d. Birds decline

The Museum national d’histoire naturelle (MNHN) and the CNRS published on March 20, 2018 the results of 2 bird monitoring networks. They evoke a phenomenon of “massive disappearance”, “close to an ecological disaster”:

“The birds of the French countryside are disappearing at incredible speed […]. On average, their populations have shrunk by a third in fifteen years.” (43)

The two surveillance networks have different methodologies:

  • The MNHN network (program of temporal monitoring of common birds, the STOC program) brings together the observations of ornithologists.
  • The CNRS network has mobilized 160 measuring points of 10 hectares monitored since 1994 in the “CNRS Plaine et val de Sèvre” zone in 450 km² of agricultural land.

It would be particularly worrying. Thus, according to the coordinator of the STOC network, Frédéric Jiguet:

“That birds are doing badly indicates that the entire food chain [food chain] is in bad shape. And this includes the microfauna of soils, that is, what makes them alive and enables agricultural activities.” (43)

e. Dramatic consequences

The pollinators’ decline is a critical issue. Their services are in fact estimated at

  • $17.6 billion in the US (18)
  • €15 billion in the EU for wild pollinators alone (61)
  • €22 billion “to European agriculture” (7) (9)

Along the same lines, the IPBES report published in February 2016 evaluating that “pollination-dependent crops contribute 35% by volume of crop production globally. “

“The decline of pollinators, bees, butterflies and birds, poses a serious threat to global food production. And endangers the livelihoods of millions of people.” (25)

Bees are “pollinating insects essential to 84% of plants cultivated in Europe”. (15)