Neonicotinoids and pyrazoles are killing off honeybees, scientists discover

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(NaturalNews) New insights into how crop chemicals are annihilating honeybees have emerged out of Brazil, where researchers say they've identified the mechanics behind bee-killing pesticides like fipronil (pyrazoles) and imidacloprid (neonicotinoids). A study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry found that these two types of insecticides, which are widely used in conventional agriculture, cause a deterioration in the cellular function in bees, leaving them with an often-fatal energy deficit.

Since the infamous colony collapse disorder (CCD) is characterized by a failure of bees to forage and find their way back to the hive, the researchers involved with the new study decided to look at how pesticides might be interfering with the bees' mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are the energy producers of cells, and it has been widely speculated that agricultural chemicals like fipronil and imidacloprid somehow interfere with their normal function.

It turns out that this hypothesis is correct. Researchers took tissue samples from the heads and thoraces of Africanized honeybees and evaluated them based on their bioenergetics function, an indicator of how energy is produced and transferred within the cells. What they found is that, when honeybees come into contact with even sublethal doses of certain crop chemicals, their normal mitochondrial bioenergetics become inhibited, leading to a lack of energy production.

"These insecticides affect the nervous system of pest and beneficial insects, often killing them," said Daniel Nicodemo, lead author of the study from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Dracena, Brazil. "Sublethal effects related to insect behavior have been described in other studies; even a few nanograms of active ingredient disturbed the sense of taste, olfactory learning and motor activity of the bees."

Neonicotinoids sap honeybees of their 'energy currency,' leaving them unable to function

In order for the body to function properly, cell mitochondria must be able to produce enough adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the "energy currency" that is used to store energy for cellular processes. When ATP is lacking, mitochondria are unable to pay, if you will, for the production of needed energy, rendering the organism at a deficit.

In the case of bees, this lack of ATP synthesis can be catastrophic, as bees rely upon high levels of oxygen consumption and energy metabolism to fly and navigate. When herbicides that interfere with mitochondrial bioenergetics impede this process, bees simply don't have the muscle strength to perform their pollination duties, resulting in many of them getting lost or dying.

"If something goes wrong [with ATP synthesis], the energy production is impaired," added Nicodemo. "Similar to a plane, honeybees require clean fuel in order to fly."

A paper released by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) back in early 2013 identified clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, three neonicotinoid pesticides, as causative agents in CCD. The regulatory body determined that sublethal doses of these chemicals are a major threat to bees and bee larvae, which later that year led to a ban on their use.

According to, the ban is a temporary one that will remain in effect for two years. At the end of the two-year trial, the latest data will be incorporated into a new review that will determine whether or not neonicotinoids will remain outlawed. This latest study, however, affirms the original findings that neonicotinoids, as well as pyrazoles, are, indeed, killing bees and must be outlawed to preserve their existence.

Sources for this article include: [PDF]

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