A new study from Harvard supports a long suspected theory that widespread pesticide-use is killing the world’s bees.
The study published in the Bulletin of Insectology suggests that the world’s most widely used class of insecticide, neonicotinoids, is responsible for the death of colonies.
The researchers worked with beekeepers in Massachusetts, studying 18 bee colonies from fall 2012 to spring 2013 at three locations. At each location in the study, two colonies were treated with realistic doses of imidacloprid, two with clothianidin, and two were untreated control hives. Half of the colonies they studied that were exposed to the popular insecticides abandoned the hives and eventually died with symptoms resembling colony collapse disorder. Comparatively, none of the colonies that were free of pesticides saw a decline.
The researchers wrote it was perplexing to watch honeybees vanish from neonicotinoid-treated colonies because honeybees don’t usually abandon their hives in the winter. The sudden fleeing of hives is practically suicide for honeybees, which normally cluster together inside the hive for warmth to survive the winter.
“It is striking and perplexing to observe the empty neonicotinoid-treated colonies because honey bees normally do not abandon their hives during the winter,” the scientists wrote. “This observation may suggest the impairment of honey bee neurological functions, specifically memory, cognition, or behavior, as the results from the chronic sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposure.”
Earlier research showed neonicotinoid exposure can damage the renowned ability of bees to navigate home.
So what will it take to stop the assault on bees? The EU passed a ban on the pesticides for two years — a ban the UK fought despite the fact that a study recently revealed the UK is suffering one of the worst rates of honeybee colony deaths in Europe. What hope do we have to reverse this devastation when governments seem to willingly turn a blind eye to the truth?
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