It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie — for the past 5 or so years, honeybee populations across the globe have been dying out, and scientists don’t really know why. That is, researchers hope, until now.
A pair of recent studies have pointed to pesticides as the main culprit for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the term scientists use for sudden declines in bee populations. So where are these pesticides coming from? Right inside the hive itself.
Beekeepers use high-fructose corn syrup to supplement hives decanted of honey; since a great deal of American-grown corn is sprayed with neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides, traceable amounts can often be found in the corn syrup.
A study published last month in the journal Science found that neonicotinoids interfere with honeybee’s ability to find their way home, thus disorienting them and likely contributing to CCD. The most recent study, led by Harvard biologist Chensheng Lu, had similar findings.
Neonicotinoids were only developed in the 1990′s, as an alternative to more harmful pesticides. Unlike their more toxic predecessors, these pesticides, are toxic during the entire growing season. CCD did not become a major issue until after neonicotinoids came into widespread use.