The use of pesticides creates a problematic feedback loop for the farmer – and a deadly environment for the honeybee.
As honey bees work hard pollinating crops, they face exposure to pesticides. Sometimes they are killed immediately. Sometimes they take the pesticide back to the hive. Sometimes their central nervous systems are compromised and they are unable to remember and identify the different nectars they need to survive. Sometimes they cannot find their way home.
Pesticide levels in hives have contributed to Colony Collapse Disorder. This happens when there is a sudden loss of adult bees from the hive. Studies from the University of Maryland have shown a link between chemicals and the loss of bees. They were also able to find a link between the chemicals and the bees inability to fight off parasitic infection, another contributor to Colony Collapse Disorder.
The type of pesticides recognized as being most harmful to bees is the neonicotinoid class. This pesticide is absorbed by the plant. When bees collect the pollen and nectar from plants treated with neonicotinoids, they are particularly sensitive to the effects. Bees may become drawn to plants treated with neonicotinoids, somewhat like a person’s draw to nicotine, harming themselves in the process.
Crops suffer when there are not enough bees to help pollinate them – yields sharply decline, reducing the income of the farmers and the food available on the market.
The California almond crops provide 80% of the world’s almonds and rely heavily on honey bees to pollinate them. Loss of bees equals loss of almonds. Other major fruit crops, including blueberries, apples, and melons, require the pollination services of honeybees in order to produce a successful harvest.
Currently, there are no laws prohibiting the use of pesticides that are affecting bees negatively. As more research comes to light, perhaps laws will change. Our food supply and our ecosystem depend on our pollinators. The bees want to be free of pesticides.
Sources: “The Harmful Effect of Pesticides on Honey Bees,” HiveandHoneyapiary.com, accessed 6/29/2015.
Helen Briggs, “Bees ‘get a buzz’ from pesticides”, bbc.com, accessed 6/29/2015.
“Exploring Impact of Pesticides on Bee Colonies,” wsu.edu, accessed 6/29/2015.
“Scientists confirm: Pesticides kill America’s honey bees”, rt.com, accessed 6/29/2015.