New research links pesticides to colony collapse disorder

Three new studies released in the past two weeks, including one Thursday by Harvard University, implicate pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids, as one of the most critical factors contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of pesticides that are said to be particularly toxic to honey bees and are used as seed treatments in crops from corn to almonds, as well as in lawn care and flea products.


One of the new studies released in Science last week shows that sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposure disrupts honeybees’ foraging and homing abilities. While another new study shows that environmentally relevant neonicotinoid exposure reduces queen fitness in bumblebees, causing an 85 percent reduction in the number of queens produced. In the Harvard study, researchers found that 94 percent of the hives had died after exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide called imidacloprid at levels hypothesized by the study team to have been present in high fructose corn syrup since the introduction of neonicotinoids into corn seed treatments in 2004-2005.


According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, colony collapse has actually seen improvement lately. AFBF calls the studies questionable and over-hyped since they don’t provide any new information. AFBF recognizes the importance of pollinators to agriculture (according to USDA, farmers rely on about 2.68 million bee colonies annually to pollinate crops) and is concerned about what might actually be causing the loss in bee numbers.


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