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What’s killing the world’s bees? New study claims a surprising culprit

What’s killing the world’s bees? New study claims a surprising culprit thumbnail
Scientists have found what they believe to be the strongest factor leading to the worryingly steep decline of bumblebees… fungicides.

The discovery has now been added to the growing list of threats that could potentially lead to the extinction of the essential pollinators. The revelation that common fungicides are having the strongest impact on the insects came as a surprise, as they typically affect mold and mildew, but appear to be killing bees by making them more susceptible to the nosema parasite or by exacerbating the toxicity of other pesticides.

The discovery was made during a landscape-scale study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which used machine learning technology to analyze 24 different factors and how they impacted four bumblebee species.

The study collected ‘subjects’ from 284 sites across 40 US states and tested them against various factors like latitude, elevation, habitat type and damage, human population and pesticide use.

For context, about 75 percent of the world’s crops are fertilized by pollinators. The widespread decline of bees has been attributed to a number of factors including pesticides, destruction of their habitats, disease and climate change, but until now it was unclear which was the most decisive factor.

READ MORE: 1st bee species officially placed on endangered species list

The unexpected culprit behind bee decline means “people have not been looking in all the places they probably should,” according to lead author of the study, Cornell University’s Scott McArt.

We threw everything but the kitchen sink at this analysis and the ‘winner’ was fungicides,” McArt said to UMass. “It turns out that fungicide use is the best predictor of bumblebees getting sick and being lost from sites across the U.S.”

I was definitely surprised,” said McArt, to The Guardian, as “fungicides have been largely overlooked,” until now. Going forward, McArt says researchers will have to carry out “much more work on fungicides and their role in bee declines” if humanity is to make any progress in regenerating the dying species.

Common systemic pesticide sprays are used worldwide to manage landscapes, and are often found in nectar and pollen. Another recent study, published in same journal, found chemicals are causing severe nutritional stress on honey bees, affecting their survival rates by a whopping 50 percent.

The Canadian government recently failed to protect bees after rejecting a plea by environmentalists to completely ban the use of insecticides, instead opting to continue their use of neonicotinoids, promising to consider limiting the use of pesticides by March 2018.


10 Comments on "What’s killing the world’s bees? New study claims a surprising culprit"

  1. Sissyfuss on Sat, 30th Dec 2017 10:20 pm 

    And once again crapitalism reigns over science and a concern for the health of the natural world. We are so going to get what we deserve.

  2. dave thompson on Sat, 30th Dec 2017 10:36 pm 

    Silent Spring coming to a planet that you live on.

  3. Davy on Sun, 31st Dec 2017 5:57 am 

    Ecological decay is similar to the warming of the oceans by climate change. We are now noticing phase change with the environment. We are seeing the effects of man’s expansion and his introduction of highly volatile organic compounds into the environment everywhere. He has introduced invasive species everywhere. He has supplemented polycultures with monocultures including his vast urban networks on the best land. He has altered watersheds and ground water systems. He has now influenced the climate everywhere through the carbon system.

    We are seeing the cumulative buildup of all these factors converging into one big extinction process. It has likely tipped into abrupt change with many species and local ecologies failing and knocking on into others in cascading contagions of failure. Sure, this is happening slowly but like peak oil the effects don’t rest. In a finite world of limits there is also a finite amount of species and when they are gone they are gone. Generalized failure is the result we see everywhere today. The oceans and cryosphere is where it is the most pronounced. Some places will fare better than others. Some may even expand and thrive.

    This is a succession process. Humans forget this is what nature does with evolution and its cyclical planetary system of systems. We want to think we are exceptional and responsible for this. Yes, we are the key reason for this but it is nature’s nature within human nature that is doing this. The human ego, which is little more than an abstraction, believes we are the lord of the planet. The planet is doing what a living planetary system does. Humans can’t escape this with rationalism. Maybe in some way we are Nature self-reflecting on her handy work with shame and sadness. We are Natures conscious perhaps. We are animals procreating, eating and defecating also little different than other animals just exponential and linear instead of cyclical and balanced. That said as self-conscious rational animals we may want to pay attention to extinction in our own little human world of abstractions before we are part of that process.

    BTW, in my own little world my personal project at regenerative natural efforts is paying off handsomely. I have introduced native grasses along with multiple grasses and weeds introduced since the white man came here. This farm is a polyculture. I have allowed woody draws to regenerate and provide cover and habitat. I am maintaining fields such that they do not get overgrown and become invasive infested monocultures. I have introduced animals into part of the open areas and brushy areas with a grazing system. I have done this without the introduction of chemicals and fertilizers. I am protecting the watershed from animal and human waste. The quail population, which is an indicator species is thriving. I have two bee hives and a local bee guru has 10 hives. They are doing well enough considering how hard it is to raise bees. I got lots of honey this year. I am managing the wood resources for fuel. I have left many weeds that flower for butterflies that most farmers would eliminate. I just try to manage them.

    I am happy with this effort and it makes me feel good to give back to nature. Yet, I am under no illusion bad things are ahead. Climate change will likely strike with a vengeance soon especially in the summers with drought and extreme heat. I am hoping my polyculture efforts and low animal stocking rates will pay off and get me through what will likely be dangerous conditions during the 3 summer months of the year.

  4. DerHundistlos on Sun, 31st Dec 2017 7:41 am 

    As I have been saying all along, it’s not one single cause but a witch’s brew of pesticides, pollution, habitat loss, global climate change, invasive parasites that are causing the bees’ immune system to crash. The exact same thing is happening with bats, excpet in this case the culprit is termed, White Nose Syndrome. Several years ago, scientists were shocked to discover tens of thousands of dead and dying bats in New England. Since then, the syndrome has spread to the South and Midwest. We should all be deeply concerned as bats serve as Mother Nature’s most important insectivore. The Department of Agriculture estimated that US farmers will be forced to spend billions more on lethal pesticides to compensate for the loss of bats, thereby exacerbating this catastrophe.

    Come on folks, these are the canaries in the coal mine and they are telling us on natural world is in terminal decline. For this reason, I predict at any time we (humans) cause the entire ecosystem to implode. Jesus, the signs are EVERYWHERE and nobody is paying attention. We brought it all upon ourselves.

  5. DerHundistlos on Sun, 31st Dec 2017 7:48 am 

    By the way, this article was published by the Russian Times, which is an excellent source for the REAL events confronting the world. Al Jazeera is as well, although the US congress voted to remove Al Jazeera channel from cable/satellite. Just so fucking shallow and dumb.

  6. Anonymous on Sun, 31st Dec 2017 9:08 am 

    Fungicides have not been overlooked as a cause, they have been written up like crazy. And “machine learning” is correlation statistics. Which had been done in lots of ad hoc studies and now was done more systematically. All that said, I think there is a reasonable possibility that the fungicides weakening concern is correct hypothesis. But we still don’t know since it is a lot of complicated statistics and not a smoking gun.

  7. Anonymous on Sun, 31st Dec 2017 9:10 am 

    I would be fine with RT and AJ on the tube. I’m not a conspiracy theorist and am ex military. But RT and AJ have some interesting stories some times. It’s nice to be able to at least look at other perspectives. For instance, I still think Peyton Manning used PEDs.

  8. ____________________________________________ on Sun, 31st Dec 2017 11:56 am 

    Them bees are dying bigly because they are depressed. No one seems to know how to grab them by their pussies the right way.

  9. tahoe1780 on Sun, 31st Dec 2017 12:38 pm 

    “natural world is in terminal decline” Indeed! When the methane is released from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, no amount of prepping will be enough.

  10. onlooker on Sun, 31st Dec 2017 1:18 pm 

    Yes the clathrate gun the ultimate doomsday scenario leading to a Mass Extinction Event

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