March 20, 2012
Researchers Point To Specific Insecticide As Bee Killer
Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com
A growing concern over the dwindling honeybee population has scientists working to try and pin down the culprits behind the decline in numbers, and new research suggests that an insecticide may be the cause.
Researchers wrote in the journal Environmental Science & Technology that neonicotinoid insecticides have played a key role in killing off the pollinators.
The University of Padua team said widespread deaths of honeybees have been reported since the neonicotinoid insecticides were first introduced in the late 1990s.
They suspect the population decrease may be due to particles of the insecticide made airborne by the drilling machines used for planting, which contaminates the air, paralyzing the nerves of honeybees.
The Italian researchers found during their study that the honeybees that flew through the emission cloud of the seeding machines used to plant corn were dying.
They tested different types of insecticide coatings and seeding methods in an attempt to make the pneumatic drilling method safer.
The team found that all of the variations in seed coatings using neonicotinoid insecticides killed honeybees that flew through the emission cloud.
Although this study is new, the results are nothing that scientists and beekeepers did not already speculate or know.
Eric Mussen, a bee expert for the University of California, Davis, told RedOrbit in an email that the insecticide in the study is just one of many devices used by man to help kill off honeybees.
"The neonicotinoids are simply one of a number of types of insecticides that can outright kill or, at sublethal doses, negatively impact honey bees and other bees, as well," Mussen, Ph.D, an extension apiculturist at UC Davis who was not a part of the research, told RedOrbit.
He said exotic mites and diseases have presented more challenges into the honeybee population than exposures to pesticides.
"However, as pesticides continue to be formulated to be more effective target pest eliminators, they tend to impact non-targets more, as well," Mussen wrote.
According to Mussen, things may never return back "to the good old days", because so much of the bee habitat has been overtaken by airports, shopping centers, residential areas and other developments.
"Even undisturbed areas, that used to produce large expanses of blooms, inexplicably tend to have sparse numbers of plants on them, now," he said.
He said our air and soil contain pollutants from decades of exposure, so even if everyone was to stop all new pollution, it would not clean things up immediately.
"We have a lot of research ahead of us to determine what synergisms are occurring in our
beehives," Mussen said. "Once we have that knowledge, then the commercial crop producers will do what they can to help protect our bees."
Researchers wrote in a paper "The Plight of the Bees" published last year in the same journal as the new study that individuals do not have to wait for research and policy to make their own difference.
They said individuals can modify their landscapes around their home to make them healthier for bees.
"Promoting the health of bee pollinators can begin as an individual or local endeavor, but collectively has the far-reaching potential to beautify and benefit our environment in vital and tangible ways," the authors of The Plight of the Bees paper wrote in the journal.