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Pesticides to Blame for Decline in Bee Populations?

The four year-old crisis of the disappearing bee is deepening.  Harsh winter conditions led to a massive bee die-off and a new study found bee pollen and hives laced with pesticides.

Bee populations have been on the decline for years, but in 2006 scientists noticed an alarming drop in population and found that entire colonies were being abandoned as bees went off to die elsewhere, a phenomenon labeled “colony collapse disorder.”

With bees disappearing, farmers are scrambling to find enough of the little guys to pollinate their crops.  The seriousness of the situation became clearer this spring when a hive shortage threatened the almond crop in California, which supplies the bulk of the world’s almonds.

Many culprits could possibly be behind the bees demise including viruses, bacteria, mites, chemical exposure and poor nutrition, but scientists are now zeroing in on pesticides. As the Associated Press reports:

“A study published Friday in the scientific journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) One found about three out of five pollen and wax samples from 23 states had at least one systemic pesticide — a chemical designed to spread throughout all parts of a plant.

The PLOS study found 121 types of pesticides in 887 bee wax, pollen, and hive samples.  Though the data seems conclusive, federal officials assure the public that the pesticides are not a risk to honey sold to consumers.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also come under fire for allowing certain pesticides to be sold in the US, which could be harmful to bees.  In 2008 Bayer Crop Science gained conditional approval to sell a pesticide, which it was required to label as “potentially toxic to honey bee larvae through residues in pollen and nectar.”

The National Resources Defense Council sued the agency, saying it did not give enough notification for the new pesticide application.  The NRDC won the case, but the product had already been on the market for one year.

While the big agencies battle it out and bee populations suffer you can help the honeybees in your area plant some native flowering plants to provide food.  Haagen-Dazs’ Help the Honey Bee campaign and Web site has valuable gardening tips to help attract bees to your yard.

Article by Raegan Payne appearing courtesy Celsias.

photo: tibchris