A recent controlled experiment with bees that, according to Harvard University biologist Chensheng Lu, has distinctly linked neonicotinoid pesticides to Colony Collapse Disorder is bringing out objections from Bayer CropScience, a manufacturer of those particular pesticides. Neonicotinoids are pesticides chemically similar to nicotine.
Lu followed the same maintenance widely accepted by commercial beekeepers by feeding the bees high-fructose corn syrup, which increases bee energy. Lu then laced the syrup with imidicloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide used for pretreatment on seeds and spraying crops, more specifically corn. The tainted bees would end up making the lethal mistake of leaving the hive in the middle of winter, a common time for the disappearances. This brought correlation with Colony Collapse Disorder often not leaving carcasses and just a hive emptied of its workers.
Bayer is contending that Lu’s experiment over-employed the use of imidicloprid, is not field accurate, and that imidicloprid has been largely replaced by another type of neonicotinoid. Bee biologist Dave Goulson offers the same conclusion about the amount of neonicotinoids found in corn syrup.
Pesticide expert Charles Benbrook of the Organic Center and bee biologist Jeffery Pettis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture disagree. Benbrook cites that imidicloprid is chemically very similar to the newer incarnations and the true content in corn syrup is difficult to pin because its viscid nature gums up testing machines. Pettis states that the amount Lu had exposed the bees to is much less than the sometimes lethal amount of neonicotinoids found in plant sap; which bees are regularly exposed to.
Chensheng Lu’s study isn’t the first to conclude pesticides are a key role in Colony Collapse Disorder. In just the past two weeks, Lu’s experiment makes the third independent study analyzing the effects of pesticides on bees. The French released a study declaring common pesticides decrease the foraging success and survival of honey bees, and the British study covered neonicotinoid pesticides role in reducing bumble bee colony growth and queen production.
Because bees are the primary source of crop pollination, the threat of losing bees plays a dangerous role in our food production. This global issue must be resolved soon. For the past five years alone, Colony Collapse Disorder has resulting in an average yearly loss of 30 percent of managed honey bees in the US. The USDA has stated this is not a sustainable loss over the long-term.