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Controversial Pesticides May Threaten Queen Bees. Alternatives Could Be Worse.

11:31 EDT 29 Jun 2017 | Meridian Institute

Two studies published Thursday in the journal Science found that neonicotinoid pesticides harm bee colonies, contributing to the loss of not only worker bees, but also queens. The two studies involved large-scale field and lab research to mimic natural conditions across three countries in Europe and in Canada. Both found the pesticide to have negative but different effects on bees, and both found that bees are picking up the neonicotinoids from surprising sources. The pesticides are popular with farmers because they don’t have to be sprayed throughout the season; they are used, instead, to treat seeds or soil before planting. In theory, that should also mean less exposure for bees than sprayed pesticides. The new studies, however, seem to suggest that neonicotinoids persist in the soil, which explains how bees could be exposed even near fields of treated corn seeds. The current studies, while extensive, raise more questions. Particularly, what should be done? Some activists want to ban neonicotinoids completely, but experts worry that farmers will turn to older and potentially more harmful chemicals. Amro Zayed, one of the researchers in the Canadian study, recommends restricting the use of insecticides until after a pest problem occurs. Randy Oliver, a beekeeper and science blogger, agrees, saying, “Neonics are still vastly overused as risk management, rather than as needed treatments for actual pest control.” Another potential strategy, says Richard Pywell, one of the study authors, is limiting exposure by supplying other flowers near fields that could serve as a refuge for bees. Such wildflower refuges could both protect pollinators from exposure to pesticides and address an even greater threat to bees - habitat loss.

Original Article: Controversial Pesticides May Threaten Queen Bees. Alternatives Could Be Worse.

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