Study: Insecticide Is Killing Wild Bees


A new study says a widely-used insecticide is damaging wild bee populations. Wild bees are important, because they pollinate crops andwild plants

Environmentalists in the United States and Europe say chemicals calledneonicotinoids are causing a drop in the number of bees.

These insecticides are among the most commonly-used worldwide.Farmers often use seeds treated with the insecticides.

The chemicals target insects that eat crops, and they do not spread beyondthe field. But they do get into pollen and nectar, which is where the beescome into contact with them.

Maj Rudlof is a researcher at Lund University in Sweden. She led theneonicotinoids study.

She and other researchers studied bees in fields. Half of the fields weregrown from seeds treated with neonicotinoids. The other half was grownwith seeds that were not treated. She spoke about the results of the study in a video released by the journal Nature, which published it:

“The most dramatic result we found was that bumblebee colonies almostdidn’t grow at all at the treated sites compared to the controlled sites.”

She says there were about half as many wild bees per square meter intreated fields as in untreated ones.

Dennis vanEngelsdorp is an entomologist, a scientist who studies insects. He works at the University of Maryland. He was not involved with theresearch on neonicotinoids. But, he says banning the chemicals may not be the answer. He says they are not as bad as other insecticides. He spoke to VOA on Skype.

“In many cases, (neonicotinoids) are actually the safest alternative and soby banning it, what you’re doing is forcing farmers to use products that mayeither be just as bad or worse.”

He says farmers often use the chemicals too much, and that may be hurtingbees. Mr. vanEngelsdorp thinks farmers might not need to stop usingneonicotinoids completely. He says the chemicals should be used moresensibly, or, in other words, only when necessary.

The same chemicals are thought to be linked to a problem with Europeanhoneybees – the bees kept by farmers to pollinate crops. The problem iscalled Colony Collapse Disorder. The worker bees from a beehive, orcolony, suddenly disappear. Farmers do not see the dead bees around thehive

A United States Department of Agriculture report included information aboutthe effects of neonicotinoids. It said the chemicals make the bees morelikely to become sick. The bees cannot fight the viruses that commonlyaffect them.

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Michael Harvey

Michael Harvey has been a contributing writer and journalist for the Pluto Daily since January 2014.