Anatoly Rubtsov looked gloomily at the beehives lining his property. “The farm was loud, it sang,” he said. Right now, only a faint buzz is audible; however, an overpowering rotting stench hung in the air after a pesticide likely poisoned his bees.
Rubtsov, who retains a big honeybee farm on the edge of a small village in the Tula area south of Moscow, is one of the hundreds of beekeepers across Russia to report mass bee deaths which have robbed them of their livelihood.
Eighty-two bee colonies—almost the entire farm—have died since early July, and the survivors will unlikely make it through the winter, he mentioned.
That is around three million dead bees, and Rubtsov estimated his losses at 1.6 million rubles ($25,000).
All the bees in the neighborhood have met the same destiny.
People around Bobrovka are sure that the culprit is a local firm rising rapeseed, a cash crop with yellow flowers used for cattle feed, cooking oil, and biofuel, that handled its fields with insecticides on July 4.
Viktor Morozov, one other beekeeper who stored hives in a nearby forest, filmed empty pesticide containers on the ground alongside the rapeseed fields, however, said the workers rejected using a potent insecticide that contains fipronil.
A laboratory in Moscow eventually affirmed the presence on the rapeseed plants of fipronil, which is allowed in Russia provided certain precautions are taken however banned within the EU.
Worker bees collected the toxic nectar and brought it to the hive, where even bees born days later had been poisoned.
“They’re the living dead,” he stated, peering on the bees crawling chaotically on the bottom of one hive, unable to fly. “The whole farm is doomed.”