Study: Pesticides Are ‘Killing Honeybee Population Worldwide’

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Dying? Honeybees are being wiped out by new pesticides that have left them far more vulnerable to disease, the top U.S. bee expert has warned

A new generation of pesticides could be are to blame for Britain’s vanishing honeybees, a study has shown.

The chemicals, which are routinely used on farms and garden centres, attack the central systems of insects and make bee colonies more vulnerable to disease and pests, researchers say.

The claims, which appear in an unpublished study carried out at the US Department of Agriculture’s Bee Research Laboratory, add to the evidence that pesticides are partly responsible for the mysterious decline of one of the world’s best loved insects.

Wildlife campaigners today called for urgent research into the links between the chemicals and the collapse of bee colonies around the world.

Scientists are baffled by Britain’s disappearing honeybees. Since the 1980s numbers have fallen by half.

The new study, led by Dr Jeffrey Pettis, one of the U.S.’s top bee experts, found that exposure to a class of pesticides called neo-nicotinoids makes bees more susceptible to infection – even at doses too low to be detected in the creature’s bodies.

Neo-nicotinoids, which were introduced in the 1990s, are applied to seeds and are found in low levels throughout a growing plant – including in its pollen and nectar.

They were introduced to replace controversial organo phosphates because they appeared to be harmless to mammals and people and are used on oil seed rape, wheat, sugar bed and garden centre plants.

The U.S. research has yet to be published, but is discussed in a new documentary film The Strange Disappearance of The Bees.

Neo-nicotine insecticides attack the central nervous system and are absorbed by every part of plants that are treated with them. Bees and other pollinating insects can absorb them and carry them back to their hives or nests

Insect charity Buglife today said previous studies in France had found a link between pesticides and vanishing bees.

Director Matt Shardlow said: ‘This American study shows that even at levels where you can no longer detect the substance in bees, it is still having an impact on their health.

‘People have been wondering what is the cause of the decline of bees and moths and bumblebees in Britain. And the research is further evidence that pesticides are a potential cause.’

The Co-op is so concerned about neo-nicotinoids it has banned them on its UK farms.

Bayer – the German chemical giant that makes many of the neo-nicotinoids used in Europe – insisted its products did not harm bees.

A spokesman said it was difficult to comment on unpublished studies and that it was impossible to look at the methods used by the researchers.

‘I’m sure there are some very interesting effects Dr Pettis has seen in a laboratory, but in reality, when you get to what’s important to everybody which is what happens in the field, you don’t see these things happening,’ he said.

‘Bees are very ,very important insects to BayerCropScience and we recognise their importance.’

Honey bees are essential for British farmers and are thought to contribute around £200million to the economy by pollinating crops on farms, allotments and in gardens.

By David Derbyshire
Last updated at 12:20 PM on 21st January 2011

Source: Daily Mail

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