Bee Deaths Linked to Seed Insecticide Exposure

nosha/CC BY-SA 2.0

Bees are insects. So a connection between troubled honeybee populations and insecticide exposure is hardly extraordinary. And neonicotinoid pesticides are a prime suspect in helping to cause bee deaths in recent years.

It's why the British Cooperative supermarket group banned neonicotinoids from its own farms. And there is evidence that bans on neonicotinoid pesticides in France and Germany have already delivered improved bee survival rates. Now Science Daily reports that researchers from Purdue University have identified a clear link between bee deaths in agricultural fields and the use of neonicotinoids:

Analyses of bees found dead in and around hives from several apiaries over two years in Indiana showed the presence of neonicotinoid insecticides, which are commonly used to coat corn and soybean seeds before planting. The research showed that those insecticides were present at high concentrations in waste talc that is exhausted from farm machinery during planting.

Of course, between pests, diseases, climate change and habitat loss, attributing all of the recent problems that bees face to insecticide use seems both foolish and implausible. As Tyler Prize nominee May Berenbaum explained to us in our live chat about bees, we really need to focus on overall health of bee populations and the resources they depend on.

Nevertheless, this is one more sign that we should be very careful about the chemicals we put out into our environment. And it's yet another sign that urban beekeeping has increasing value in an industrial food system.

Check out the Discovery Network's Bees on the Brink page for more on the plight of the honeybee.

Tags: Agriculture | Bees | Conservation | Insects | United States

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