Without bees, pollination wouldn’t exist and without pollination, human beings wouldn’t have very much to eat. So what if honeybee health was greatly affected by commonly used pesticides, causing colonies to die en masse? These effects are both widespread and long-term to the “beneficial pollinators responsible for the growth of crops, plants, and ecosystems.”
Neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide and most commonly used insecticide, not only “impairs bee brain function,” but it also “slows the growth of bee colonies,” according to UnsafeFoods. While recent studies have proven the “negative impact the chemical” has on bees and their health, many scientists say the damage done to bee populations from pesticides is irreversible.
“Our results confirm the exposure of bees to neonicotinoids in their food throughout the world,” researchers from a Swiss scientific study wrote. “The coexistence of neonicotinoids and other pesticides may increase harm to pollinators.”
And bee loss is on the rise. While the exact cause of bee death is “really tricky,” May Berenbaum, head of the entomology department at the University of Illinois and a Nation Medal of Science recipient, said that bee loss may be “attributed to the location of the hives.” He further explains that bees might be “affected by farmers improperly spraying pesticides and the relative proximity to the hives.”
Studies done in Canada and Europe, funded in part by Bayer CropScience and Syngenta AGhave, determined that neonicotinoids is a major contributor to “hive collapse and decrease in the overall number of pollinators available to pollinate” the world’s food system, according to UnsafeFoods.
Aside from pesticides having a negative affect on bee populations, new research conducted by the University of Illinois states that honey bees are highly attracted to chemically-laced flowers uniting the connection between pesticides and bee population.
The study, which “tested honey bee consumption of different sugar syrups, some plain and some with different concentrations of common pesticides,” determined that bees prefer syrup with low levels of pesticides over the plain syrup or the syrup with high concentration of pesticides, according to EcoWatch. The study did note that “laced sugar syrup is not the same as a flower in the wild,” but in combination with other factors, pesticides are very dangerous for overall health of the bee.
While pesticide manufacturers argue that the chemicals affect insects that eat crops and bees are not the “intended targets of neonicotinoids,” according to Scientific American, studies conclude “that the resilient insect is suffering from the chemical [which] means less-adaptable species might be in trouble, too.”
“I hope that my study kind of makes the debate go away,” says Amro Zayed, an entomologist who studies social insects at York University in Toronto, said.