Scientists Find Potential Culprit For Colony Collapse Disorder

A chemical previously thought to not harm bees actually leaves them vulnerable to parasites, according to a new study by the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The journal PLOS ONE published the study today, which points to fungicides, previously thought to be harmless to honey bees, as a culprit in causing mass illness in bees, which eventually leads to Colony Collapse Disorder.

Miticides, previously thought to only kill non-beneficial insects, were also pointed to as a source of illness in bees.

Quartz writer Todd Woody explained it thusly:

"...bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they're designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

'There's growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,' Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study's lead author, told Quartz."

Scientists also found that honey bees are less attracted to native North American crops. "...crops that saw high levels of pollen collection by honey bees are Old World crops that evolved with honey bees as natural pollinators. Crops native to the New World, where honey bees have been introduced, yielded little or no pollen in our samples."

The result of this study, if anything, may be new labeling standards for agricultural chemicals.

Read the original study here.

About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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