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Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Pesticides May Be Killing Off Honeybees

by Molly Cotter, Inhabitat.com

Since 2004, the number of honeybees in the U.S. has been nearly cut in half. While similar massive declines are prevalent around the world, scientists are still trying to figure out what exactly is causing the disappearance of the honeybees. A new study by the U.S. government’s premier bee expert Dr. Jeffrey Pettis suggests that nicotine-based chemicals found in popular pesticides have a dangerous effect on exposed bees and could be a major contributor to the missing bee mystery.

Bees pollinate 70% of the world’s crops, and their diminishing presence is detrimental for farmers all over the world. Dr. Pettis spent months researching bees exposed to neonicotinoid chemicals and found even the tiniest amount made them three times more vulnerable to infection. The pesticide chemical attacks bees’ immune systems, weakening their bodies and often times confusing them, leading bees to wander away and lose their colonies.

The chemicals are very popular, and they were considered an environmental breakthrough because they can be applied to the seeds of a crop rather than the plant. While this and other studies bring pesticide issues to light, others believe the bee population decline to be related to weather, developmental, or evolutionary survival issues.

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