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Page added on July 25, 2013

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Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought thumbnail

As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.

Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.

Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.

Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two years in Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But vanEngelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health.

“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “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.”

The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying.

“It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says vanEngelsdorp.

qz.com



11 Comments on "Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought"

  1. TIKIMAN on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 12:06 pm 

    Bees pollinate over 30% of all crops on Earth. If they disappear, humans will not survive.

  2. dsula on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 12:39 pm 

    So the future is eating hamburgers & beer instead of fruits. Hmmm.

  3. rollin on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 12:54 pm 

    Exactly what many suspected. But of course there are enough maybes and possibly’s to stuff a horse. So nothing will be done.

    The same thing is happening to all of you and your relatives, high cancer and inflammatory disease rates and nobody pointing a finger at the protected chemical ag companies. It’s in your food and water, very difficult to get away from. We get cancer and bees get immune-suppression. Organic foods are one way to reduce chemical toxification.

    “It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says vanEngelsdorp.
    Maybe it’s magic and the chemicals just appear there. Spraying aerosols and they don’t drift for long distance – are these people thinking at all?

    Are they spraying for mosquitos in your area? Good luck dealing with organophosphates (nerve toxins).

  4. Mike on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 12:55 pm 

    Bullish for cotton buds and unemployment. Who needs bees when we can pay peasants to do it for us……/sarcasm

  5. Hugh Culliton on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 1:42 pm 

    Dsula: what do you think beer and cow feed is made from? If the bees go we’re hooped.

  6. baptised on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 4:17 pm 

    I completely agree with this article. Bee’s are being “hit” at so many angles, chemicals, mites,etc. But for bee hive collapse, when bee’s leave a perfectly good hive it is microwaves from cellphone towers.But just like the maybe’s that chemical users will manipulate. Heck little Johnny not being able to call mommy, will not be tolerated.. Bee’s be damned.

  7. Roland Schmidt on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 4:55 pm 

    I’m a hobby-beekeeper in Germany. Beekeeping here is very different from the US. Most beehives are owned by several ten thousand hobby beekeepers like me. We are producing honey for our own need, for selling it in the neighborhood, or for giving it away as a sweet alternative e.g. to a bouquet of flowers.
    There are professional beekeepers, too, but their number is estimated to only 100-150 in Germany. Most of us hobby beekeepers do not transport the beehives to any other place, and those who do so, don’t drive thousands of miles, like the US beekeepers, but at maximum, let’s say, 150 miles. Therefore, the bees have a possibility to adapt to the climate of a region, and long transports which are surely a stress for the beehives don’t take place. A statement like ” 60 % of the bees are needed to pollinate one crop” does not make sense in our system, because most beehives are not on a nation-wide market for pollination.
    Of course, pesticides and fungicides are a serious problem here, too. Some years ago, some 12.000 beehives died in the Rhine valley – but only on the German side. The pesticide which caused this was forbidden on the French side of the river.

    I also have lost half of my beehives in fall 2011, but i could multiply the surviving beehives. I don’t really know what has caused these losses.

    The best thing one can do for the bees is keeping them in one region, pollinating the crops around them and nothing else.

  8. DC on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 5:31 pm 

    Q/The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

    AND

    Q/The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD.

    Notice what is happening? In the US of Toxicity, you are simply not permitted to point a finger at the toxis US chemical industry in any way or form. Amerikans should consider themselves lucky there corporate overlords even allow research into the symptoms of there poisons to be researched. Because that is what is going on here. The symptoms are being researched, but the cause shall remain forever nameless, and thus ‘blameless’ as well.

    I saw something similar at work re: a report about cancer alley along the US missisipe river. The EPA reseacher was allowed to point out cancer occurs in various clusters, oddly enough all located right near the areas numerous chemical and oil plants. What he wasnt allowed to do, was actually point out the obvious cause. Instead he called it, ‘various environmental factors’ or something like that.

    Thats about as much as you can get away with in the US of Monsanto. Say anything more and they will ruin your career and or life.

  9. Kenz300 on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 6:32 pm 

    We need to take better care of our environment…..

    Are the bees the canary in the coal mine for the human race?

  10. GregT on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 8:02 pm 

    The coal mine is getting crowded, there are far too many canaries. Which one will die first?

  11. actioncjackson on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 8:44 pm 

    Hopefully Monsanto dies first.