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Pesticides Key Driver of Bee Colony Collapse?

Bee colonies have been dying at alarming rates over the last few years. Things are so bad that South Dakota's 93 commercial beekeepers (and everyone else who likes to eat and thus needs bees to pollinate crops along with making honey) have to consider it "hopeful" news that only 23% of bee colonies collapsed last year, compared to 30% the year before. 18.9% die-off is considered the threshold for profitability. Ugh.

So what is decimating the bee colonies? This industry newsletter lists the following possibilities:

Bee health is impacted by a variety of stresses, such as viruses and other pathogens, parasites like varroa mites, problems of nutrition from lack of diversity in pollen sources, and even pesticides combining to weaken and kill bee colonies, said Jeff Pettis, research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md [Allison Floyd, "More Bee Colonies Survived This Winter, Survey Shows," Growing South Dakota, 2014.05.16].

Did you notice that we mention that one human cause, pesticides, last in the list? New research from Harvard suggests we should move widely used neonicotinoid pesticides to the front of the line:

...a new Harvard study fingers neonics as the key driver of colony collapse disorder. The experiment couldn't have been simpler. Working with nearby beekeepers, Harvard researcher Chensheng Lu and his team treated 12 colonies with tiny levels of neonics and kept six control hives free of the popular chemicals. All 18 hives made it through summer without any apparent trouble. Come winter, though, the bees in six of the treated hives vanished, leaving behind empty colonies—the classic behavior of colony collapse disorder. None of the six control hives experienced a CCD-style disappearing act, although one did succumb to a common-to-bees gut pathogen called nosema [Tom Philpott, "Did Scientists Just Solve the Bee Collapse Mystery?" Mother Jones, 2014.05.20].

Neonicotinoid producer Bayer disputes the findings, of course... because they have a product to sell and shareholders to keep rich.


  1. bret clanton 2014.05.21

    MONSANTO is watching you.........

  2. Eve Fisher 2014.05.21

    "So what if the bees collapse? We'll import all our fruits and vegetables and nuts! La, la, la, la...."

  3. grainofsalt 2014.05.21

    Any news on actions being taken to limit these neonicotinoid pesticides yet? Most people understand how important bees are to food production. I'm glad Harvard found a man made connection to the bee's demise, it means something can be done to prevent the bee loss. Maybe, we need to call our Senators and Representatives and push for action.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.21

    Grain, this really detailed CBC report says the EU banned neonicotinoids last year. Bayer is challenging that ban in court. The CBC report also cites Canadian and Dutch research connecting neonics to bee death.

  5. G-Man 2014.05.21

    Cory, Eugene has already banned the use of Neonicotinoids. Sorry, we are long ahead of you in the Beaver State...

  6. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.05.22

    Bayer and the rest of the neonic manufacturers are writing commentaries and LTEs in MN trying to get us to believe that they're actually focused entirely on what's best for the environment because they really "Care". Yeah, everyone believes that. Ick.

  7. lesliengland 2014.05.26

    corporate sugar-"fed up" katie couric (huffpo 5.26.14)

  8. 1800Flowers 2014.05.26

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