The smoking gun in the bee die-off from pesticides revealed

18 Nov 2015

We’ve known for some time that the great bee die-off has been in some way related to pesticides, but no formal link has been found, until now.

Known officially as colony collapse disorder (CCD), the great bee die-off has threatened the very existence of honeybees worldwide – bees are one of the most important players in our ecosystem due to their pollination of many of the crops we grow for food.

And now, publishing in the British Royal Society journal Proceedings B, a team of French researchers is now saying their research is the ‘missing link’ connecting bee deaths to pesticides.

According to the BBC, the researchers tagged a number of wild honeybees and found that as they foraged around crops that were treated with the pesticide neonicotinoid they died off at a rate much higher than what would normally be seen.

When discussing their findings, lead researcher on the study, Dr Mickael Henry of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), said: “We could find evidence of troubles at the individual scale in the field but these troubles were compensated for by the colonies.

“The population inside the hive was able to compensate for the increased loss of worker honeybees by increasing brood production.”

Other bees more vulnerable

However, other researchers who have been extensively researching the topic have said that while the honeybees have been able to at least hold off the most severe of die-offs, other pollinating insects may not be so resilient, so more research into pesticides’ effects is needed.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Alan Dewar of Dewar Crop Protection said: “The conclusions from this work, which are very simple in contrast to the study itself, show that bees, or at least honeybees, can compensate for adverse effects of pesticides in their environment.”

The findings that link neonicotinoid to the bee die-off is likely to maintain the case for the European Union-wide ban on the pesticide that was first introduced two years ago, but is up for review at the end of this year.

In Ireland, at least, we have been one of the world leaders in bee protection, having signed a deal in September to commit to a five-year plan to aid in bees’ efforts to pollinate crops as one-third of our 98 bee species are threatened with extinction.

Bee in honeycomb image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic