Just the other week I reported that new research was linking bee deaths to seed insecticide exposure, and specifically the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Now the Independent reports that a new research paper, published in the German science journal Naturwissenschaften, has shown that bees exposed to minute doses of imidacloprid—also a neonicotinoid pesticide—are left considerably more vulnerable to infections caused by a deadly parasite, nosema:
Researchers found that bees deliberately exposed to minute amounts of the pesticide were, on average, three times as likely to become infected when exposed to a parasite called nosema as those that had not. The findings, which have taken more than three years to be published, add weight to concern that a new group of insecticides called neonicotinoids are behind a worldwide decline in honey bees, along with habitat and food loss, by making them more susceptible to disease.
With a British supermarket banning neonicotinoid use on its own brand produce, and temporary bands in France and Germany leading to a rebounding of bee numbers, the push for a Global ban on neonicotinoids looks set to continue gathering momentum.
Meanwhile Dr Julian Little, a spokesman for Bayer CropScience, makers of imidacloprid, argued that folks should be focusing on diseases and parasites, not pesticides—except, of course, that these findings suggest that there's an interaction between these related threats. With climate change and habitat loss adding pressure too, it would be silly to assume that a neonicotinoid ban would fix everything. But given the mounting evidence against these chemicals, and the crucial role of honeybees in our food system, it may be that Bayer needs to start looking for other sources of revenue.
head on over to the Independent for the full story on the imidacloprid research.