Science

Pesticides Partially Responsible For Bee Population Decline, Policy Makers Get Involved

By Hilda Scott , Mar 28, 2013 03:49 PM EDT

Pesticides are a necessary tool for agriculture but widespread use is affecting honeybees. Scientists found that two common pesticides cause brain damage in bees.

The pesticides are known as neonicotinoids and organophosphate miticides and impair the learning and memory of bees.  Exposure to the pesticides affects the ability for bees to find food. It also makes it harder for the bees to find their way back home to their hives. When this happens, the queen bees will die from hunger or not produce enough new offspring.

Scientists cited that pesticides may offer an explanation for the decline of the honeybee population. The total number of bees throughout Europe, North America and Asia is getting smaller. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared to decades ago, four species of bees have declined by as much as 96 percent.

"Higher pathogen prevalence and reduced genetic diversity are, thus, realistic predictors of these alarming patterns of decline in North America, although cause and effect remain uncertain," said the study.

As reported by Science Recorder, beekeepers in Europe reported a loss of 30 percent of hives per year. The European Commission asked European governments to institute a temporary moratorium on neonicotinoids. The UK and Germany are against the memorandum and are among the 14 of 27 that oppose the proposal.   

In the U.S., policy makers are also trying to come to an agreement for pesticide regulation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was criticized by the Natural Resources Defense Council for taking advantage of a loophole that allowed 10,000 untested pesticides to be used. The report was followed by a lawsuit filed by beekeepers and environmental activists.

Bees pollinate just about 90 percent of the world's commercial agriculture, which includes many fruits, vegetables and nuts. The yields of coffee, soya beans and cotton depend on pollination by bees. Other factors that account for the decline of honeybees include the loss of habitats and diseases, according to researchers. 

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