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Honey bees

Confirmed: Common pesticide crashing honeybee populations around the world

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: honey bees, pesticides, science

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(NaturalNews) Two new studies published in the journal Science have once again confirmed what several previous studies, including one compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), have found concerning the epidemic of colony collapse disorder (CCD) among bee populations -- neonicotinoid insecticides are largely responsible for causing this deadly phenomenon.

Scientists from both the U.K. and France have now undoubtedly proven that neonicotinoid insecticides, which are commonly used on major food crops, are causing bees to lose their ability to properly navigate the natural environment. And as a result, many of them end up getting lost when they are out pollinating and never return back to their hives, which has resulted in an 85 percent reduction in queen bee production, collectively.

For the first study, which was led by biologist Mickael Henry of INRA, a French agricultural research agency, a research team tagged honeybees with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips, and dosed some of them with neonicotinoid chemicals. They discovered that those exposed to neonicotinoids were twice as likely as the non-exposed group to lose their way and die outside their hives.

In the second study, David Goulson, a bee biologist at Scotland's University of Stirling, and his team exposed developing bees inside their hives to varying levels of neonicotinoids and set them free to forage in an enclosed field. After six weeks, it was determined that the bees exposed to neonicotinoids grew to be smaller in size than non-exposed bees, and also produced a shocking 85 percent fewer queens.

"Nests have annual cycles," explained Goulson about his team's findings. "They start with a single queen, and the nest grows through the season. If it doesn't get big enough, it doesn't have the resources to pour into rearing queens. The French study shows that exposure to neonicotinoids makes honeybees less likely to find their nest. That's likely the mechanisms that led to our nests growing more slowly."

But these findings are expected when considering that bees are insects, and neonicotinoids are designed to destroy insects. Whether applied to the outsides of seeds as they are planted, or sprayed on crops after they are planted, neonicotinoids are highly toxic to this vital plant pollinator. And the USDA has been aware of this for years, but done nothing about it.

"Bees' ability to navigate is very important," added Goulson. "When they leave their nest, they fly miles to gather food. Anything that makes them even a little bit worse at navigating or learning could be a disaster in those circumstances."

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