Neonicotinoids spell bad news for bees

Photo by Razvan Caliman via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As recently summarized by NPR’s agricultural reporter, Dan Charles, three high-profile studies have suggested that a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids may be a contributing factor in the serious declines in U.S. bee populations. (This matters on a food-related blog because bees are essential to the life cycle of many food crops; for one example, see this post about almonds as covered in another NPR story from Charles.)

As Charles notes, “The first blow came in January, from researchers at Purdue University who reported in the journal PLoS ONE that when insecticide-coated corn seed goes into the ground, farmers’ planting equipment releases a small cloud of dust containing neonicotinoid. The researchers were startled to discover that this “planter exhaust” contained a potent dose — easily enough to kill a bee. The Purdue researchers also found that bees often gathered corn pollen — contrary to a common assumption that corn’s pollen is unappetizing to bees. Today, there are two new studies, published in the prestigious journal Science. And both of them, although limited to laboratory observations, suggest that these insecticides pose a more serious threat to bees than government regulators realized.” For more, check out the full story.

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