Mystery solved: Here's what's killing bees

Researchers finally pin down the most likely cause of the insects' widespread collapse -- and the fix will not be easy.

By Kim Peterson Jul 25, 2013 1:37PM
Honey bee pollinating flower (© Flickr Open/Getty Images)Honeybee colonies across the nation have been devastated over the past year, leaving scientists desperate to root out the cause. One team of researchers may have found the answer.

Colony collapse disorder, as it is called, has destroyed as much as half of the honeybee hives that farmers need to pollinate fruit and vegetable crops. As a result, some experts are predicting crop shortages and higher food prices.

But to fix the problem, you need to find the cause. A new study out this week points to the most likely factor: a combination of pesticides and fungicides that farmers use to keep crops healthy.

Those chemicals hurt bees' ability to fight infection from a parasite called Nosema ceranae, Quartz reports. The fungicides are particularly harmful because bees that ate pollen with those chemicals were three times as likely to get infected by the parasite.

The pollen the researchers collected for their study was from the East Coast and had an average of nine pesticides and fungicides. One sample, however, contained 21 chemicals.

Researchers still aren't able to say that those fungicides are the definite cause of bee death, but this is as close to an answer as we have at this point. "There's growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals," the study’s lead author told Quartz.

If fungicides are the culprit, it would be a surprise to many farmers, since fungicides have to this point been considered safe for pollinating bees.

But the link is there. And what farmers do with that information could affect the survival of bees across the country.

More on moneyNOW

Tags: Food
Jul 25, 2013 2:28PM
You can thank MONSANTO for this. They are pushing genetically modified seeds which require lots of pesticides and fungicides. They will end up causing us to starve. Actually non GM seeds are doing better for yields.
Jul 25, 2013 3:36PM
This is a poorly written article . . . and even worse, very poorly researched.

On February 28, 2009, CBS aired a segment on "60 Minutes" titled "What's Wrong with the Bees?"  At that time they identified pesticides as the likely cause.  So, it's not that the "new study" has revealed anything not already known for years.  

Since then, numerous scientific studies and practical field research by bee farmers and bee suppliers have conclusively demonstrated the primary cause of Colony Collapse Disorder is honeybees ingesting neonicotine-based pesticides, chiefly among these the insecticide Clothianidin (find more on this on Wikipedia).  According to scientific research "When administered to the bees orally, a mere 2.8 to 3.7 nanograms is sufficient to kill 50% of honeybees. One kernel of corn can contain enough clothianidin to kill 80,000 honeybees." 

In April 2013, the European Union voted for a two-year restriction on neonicotinoid insecticides due to the danger posed to honeybees.

For the article's author to state "Researchers still aren't able to say that those fungicides are the definite cause of bee death" is absurd . . . it's not a fungicide, but an insecticide, that's the problem!

The real thrust of this article should have been about how the EPA has been asleep-at-the-switch regarding identifying and addressing this problem in the United States.  I suspect it's another sad tale of "follow the money". 
Jul 25, 2013 2:01PM
did it really take years and tons of money to determine the painfull obvious
Jul 25, 2013 3:00PM
And our government gave the OK to use more pesticides on our food. What are the farmers going to do when the bees are gone? Pollinate the crops by hand. We'll stave to death without bees. What a bunch of morons. 
Jul 25, 2013 2:59PM

And what farmers do with that information could affect the survival of bees across the country...


not to mention the survival of the people across the country -- no bees, no food.


Jul 25, 2013 2:54PM

WHY is this only a "surprise" to farmers and the companies that sell this crap with massive price supports using Federal ENTITLEMENT programs and MY tax dollars!


Good lord people read a science book once in awhile (one not coauthored by a Monsanto crony that is).

Jul 25, 2013 3:57PM
Also, everyone wants a beautiful lush weed free lawn these days and can somehow afford paying lawnscapers large amounts of money to do it for them. The removal of clover and weeds involves the use of chemicals. Clover is a big source of nector for honeybee's and it can't "bee" too healthy for the creature's who feed on and ingest the treated clover.  Homeowners are just as guilty as anyone else for the demise of honeybee's...maybe even more so.  
Jul 25, 2013 3:03PM
Did not surprise me at all living in the farmlands if u challange that a certain spray or chemicial method is bad you catch holy hell ,, it;s like everywhere else,, the almighty dollar talks way above any othery issues and it's sad, i have yet to see the first honeybee around my place this year
Jul 25, 2013 3:11PM
they have known this for a couple  of  years . the  pesticides used  on  corn  ethanol  folks  so  we are back to  greed. Europe    banned this  stuff  years  ago  more  smoke  and  mirrors  government  controlling  things  again
Jul 25, 2013 4:10PM

A generation ago America learned this lesson.  Birds, from common sparrows to the American Eagle, were dying off because of overuse of chemical pesticides.  President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent these kind of national poisonings.


Now, the big conglomerates have paid off politicians to crush the authority of the EPA, and that has allowed several corporations to sneak around the protective regulations that kept America's food supply safe.


Want safe food? Demand more funding for inspectors and the EPA.  Safe foos should not be a political football.

Jul 25, 2013 2:20PM
News flash... smoking cigarettes is bad for your health
Jul 25, 2013 4:14PM
So, if you're a beekeeper that really cares for your bees, don't contract with any farmer that uses fungicides.  That will change farmer attitudes.
Jul 25, 2013 3:11PM
But the photo accompanying the article is of a bumblebee. not a honeybee.
Jul 25, 2013 3:14PM

A world with an affordable human population wouldn't need all the pesticides and fungicides (and fossil fuels and pollution and energy). Very little will stay the same or improve.


That is, until the elephant in the living room, global population, is first put on a markedly negative growth rate.

Jul 25, 2013 4:19PM
People need to re-assess what they allow people to put on their food.  Here is a good example:  I used to have a worm bin, and one day I put in a tablespoon of decaf coffee grounds in the bin, and that little bit killed every worm.  So if decaf is poisonous to worms, what is it doing to the people that drink it.  I only have had that one cup of decaf, but just because one cup doesn't make you sick, doesn't mean it might not have a cummulative effect.  Just like Nutrasweet, they found out it causes nervous system problems in children if they drink enough of it; then what does it do to adults?  Doesn't anybody put two and two together and say "hey, I'd rather drink water?  or if coffee bothers me, I'll switch to cocoa.  Why does eveyrbody have to use chemicals to sove their problems and then ignore the repercussions of the chemical poisons?
Jul 25, 2013 3:00PM
I thought for sure they were going to find a link to Global Warming or George Bush. :o)
Jul 25, 2013 3:22PM

I'd like to see the experimental design, the data and the stats.


Couldn't find anything in that link related to this story. There is no mention of who is on the "team of scientists", what peer reviewed journal their work was published in or what their source of funding was...

Jul 25, 2013 3:01PM

"Researchers still aren't able to say that those fungicides are the definite cause of bee death."


Then i guess the Mystery has not been solved then has it?

Jul 25, 2013 4:35PM
Yeah, and everybody is all aflutter about the stock market, the non-existent 'recovery, and money, money, money and we are losing our pollinators worldwide. Despite all of man's accomplishments and his technology, he owes his existence to four inches of top soil and the fact that it rains.
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