(1) Pesticides Fog Honeybees’ Brains
In a study in the March issue of the journal Science, researchers at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in France fed bees sugar water laced with neonicotinoids. These insecticides are used as seed dressings, so they permeate all parts of the crops including pollen and nectar. The bees had miniature radio tags and were moved more than a half a mile from their hive.
In familiar territory, bees exposed to pesticides were 10 percent less likely to return home and only 31 percent less likely to do so in unfamiliar places. The chemicals cause “homing failure” in bees, so they are unable to find their way back to their hives. Using a computer model, the French scientists estimated that the hive’s population would then drop by two-thirds or more, depending on the number of worker bees exposed.
Some including a scientist for Bayer CropScience, the leading maker of neonicotinoids, and James Cresswell, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Exeter in England, have been critical of the study because it used a computer model. But May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in the New York Times that she felt the study was “very well-designed.”
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