Pesticides to Blame for Dead Bees?
ANTHON, IA —
It's a world wide mystery that's becoming a big problem, bees are dying off in huge numbers around the globe.
You might have seen the effects, everything from fewer bees to pollinate crops to higher prices for honey.
Now a new study suggests a common pesticide may play a role.
"This will probably be one that we'll lose," said Mike Divis, a local bee keeper from Anthon, Iowa, looking at one of his colonies Wednesday.
Mike Divis has been a bee keeper for more than a decade, and since 2006 his bees have been dying.
They were victims of a world wide condition: colony collapse.
"We lost about 50% last year and it's been quite a struggle the last few years," said Divis.
Recent studies might have an answer.
Neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide used in everything from corn and soybeans to lawn care.
"There seems to be some pretty strong evidence that these class of insecticides has a role to play," said Matt O'Neal an Associate Professor of Entomology at Iowa State University.
In a study at Harvard University scientists were able to replicate colony collapse by feeding honeybees high fructose corn syrup laced neonicitinoids.
"That's just one of several studies where scientists have shown that these insecticides have a significant impact on bee health and their mortality," said O'Neal.
Surrounded by farm fields, Divis believes his bees take pollen from treated crops back to their hives.
"Then they feed that to the baby bees and the bees become sick," said O'Neal.
He's fighting back by feeding his bees artificial pollen and sugar water when he can, but that's an expensive solution.
"It scares me to even think what we have had to put into this bee business just to survive, just to keep it going," said Divis. "I don't have an estimate, but it's thousands and thousands of dollars that we've lost."
And while neonicitinoids seem to affect bees, researchers say everything from viruses to mites may be to blame for colony collapse.
"I think we do need more studies to determine just how much of the neonicitinoids are contributing to colony collapse disorder," said O'Neal.
For now Divis is doing all he can to keep his bees healthy.
Matt O'Neal with Iowa state says one way to cut back on the harmful effects of neonicitinoids would be to only use those pesticides when it's absolutely necessary.
If you'd like to take a look at the Harvard study, please follow this link: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/04/pesticide-tied-to-bee-colony-collapse/