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Here’s What’s Killing Bees…and Why We’re All Screwed

Here’s What’s Killing Bees…and Why We’re All Screwed

Americans may have largely shrugged off the ongoing mass bee deaths, but at least scientists are still on the case. Supporting several previous studies, new research by the USDA and University of Maryland links pesticides to Colony Collapse Disorder, which not only threatens the existence of bees, but also the human food supply. Moreover, the research also suggests that fungicide plays a similarly large role in bee deaths.

While previous research has found correlations between pesticide use and bee fatalities, what makes this new study unique is the in depth autopsy performed on affected bees. Specifically, scientists looked at the combination of toxins with which the bees were dealing. The average pollen sample contained nine different pesticides and fungicides, though one test was found to include 21 such chemicals.

This chemical exposure is too much for most bees to contend with, leaving them particularly weak and susceptible to parasites. Putting this theory to the test, researchers gave pesticide-laden pollen to healthy bees and found they were no longer able to withstand infections.

In particular, when fungicides were present in pollen, bees were three times as likely to succumb to parasitic infection. This discovery is important because, while pesticide use is supposed to be restricted to minimize exposure to bees, fungicides are not regulated since they aren’t thought to harm insects.

“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have [been] led to believe,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, one of the study’s authors. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.

Since chemicals seem to be working in conjunction to devastate bee populations, Europe’s current solution of banning certain pesticides may be too narrow of an effort to actually save bees.

This University of Maryland study is not the only one examining pesticides and bees to emerge in recent weeks. An international study demonstrated that neonicotinioids (a particular kind of pesticides) not only killed bees, but also bat and amphibian populations. Another study more concretely showed how diminishing bee populations similarly decreases plant reproduction. Fortunately, Monsanto hasn’t managed to buy and silence every research firm that finds its practices responsible for bee deaths!

According to USDA, one in three bites of food we eat is the direct or indirect result of bee pollination. Experts anticipate that the reduction in pollination due to fewer bees will result in higher food prices in the near future. Hopefully all of this research will spawn substantial action.

Although protecting the bees should be motivation enough in itself, it also means protecting the food supply on the whole. It would be really shortsighted to continue dismissing Colony Collapse Disorder as one of nature’s unsolvable mysteries.

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1:47PM PDT on May 20, 2014


12:14AM PST on Feb 8, 2014


1:13PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

Good to hear that at least one study points the finger in a direction that we already know is bad for us, bad for nature in general, and bad for the planet.

5:59AM PST on Nov 21, 2013

I use nothing in my yard but water. Marigolds are lawn mowed and grow back for bunnies to eat. My 17' butterfly bushes are loaded with bees from spring when they start to grow, many butterflies when they arrive late September and in early November when they are cut down to 5' for protection. I grow milkweed and in the fall get to blow out tons of wishes. Small sunflowers are pretty and give bees and butterflies their lunch. It's not that hard to take care of a yard with just water when you need it. At least I can feel good about doing what I can to help our environment. Very very few companies with money take the time to do it.

2:35PM PST on Nov 12, 2013

lead by example my yard or fruit trees are not sprayed with pesticides-use hula hoes for the weeds or hand pull- vineagar& water&dishsoap good for other little critters in your yard that need extracted.

11:41AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

so sad

3:41PM PST on Nov 7, 2013

"...a rise in food prices in the near fuure..." And a cut in SNAP, which leaves us buying cheaper, less healthy foods.

9:53AM PST on Nov 7, 2013

It is encouraging to read these comments, but it is very concerning to realize that the number of Americans who are completely unaware of any of this, still far outnumbers those of us who do know about both the problem, and the cause. And then -- add the people who know, but don't give a damn. Furthermore, this is a democracy (still; sort of), and large corporations -- like Monsanto -- are now "people," too; enormously wealthy "people" to boot.

But I agree with Susan B., who has committed to be a Bee Warrior above: [In spite of the odds] "...whether it does or not I will be fighting to save them as best I can. peace." Thank you Susan! To Arms!!

9:14AM PST on Nov 7, 2013

It seems like in protecting something (for human usage) we are hurting something else. Isn't that just typical. When the weeds grow up between our sidewalk slabs people comment "just spray it with weed killer". Sorry, I have cats that nibble grass outside and the deer and groundhogs. I don't want them to die a painful death from poisoning to save me from a not totally perfect sidewalk. Until we find kinder methods of controling certain things then we should't use them at all. Makes me wonder if we're also eating things, like perservatives, that are causing health problems and we don't even know it.

9:04AM PST on Nov 7, 2013

When will mankind wake up to the fact he is destroying this planet
Whats the use of all the stuff we see in the news about extending life and medical breakthroughs if there is no planet

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