Apr 8, 2013 10:35 AM by Samantha Ptashkin

Killer Pesticide? Tucson bee expert weighs in on dying honeybee population

TUCSON- As we head into the heart of bee season, researchers are all abuzz about a common pesticide, which they say may be to blame for a declining honeybee population.

The fairly new class of pesticides are called "neonicotinoids".

Two recent studies in the Journal Science say they cause honeybees to become disoriented, which means they can't find their way back to the hive. "Whether it causes a colony to die, there's really no evidence of that," says Dr. Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman of the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson.

In fact, Dr. DeGrandi-Hoffman says the honeybee decline over the years is much more complicated. "One of the factors that really effected colonies last year was the drought in the Midwest," DeGrandi-Hoffman says. "There weren't as many flowering plants for bees to use as pollen sources."

Besides weather, DeGrandi-Hoffman says honeybees are killed by parasites and disease. "It's a result of stress and compromised physiology," DeGrandi-Hoffman says. "Pesticides are just one of many things that can do that to foraging honey bees."

Whatever the cause, she says it should concern all of us. "Honeybees really are the cornerstone to American agriculture because over $30 billion worth of agriculture relies on pollination from honeybees," DeGrandi-Hoffman says.

The foods we depend on to keep us healthy, like fruits and almonds, all rely on honeybee pollination.


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