A heap of dead bees depicted in "The Vanishing of the Bees." Bee populations have been crashing all over the world in recent years.

Two Studies Tie Mysterious Decline in Bee Populations to Specific Pesticides


The collapse of honey bee populations in recent years has been one of the underpublicized environmental crises likely to have real-world consequences for humans—plainly put, bees are dying, scientists don't know why, and food as we know it will suffer if we can't reverse this trend. A frequently cited estimate is that one-third of the food we eat depends on pollinating bees.

According to a report at msnbc.com, two studies have now shown that a widely-used pesticide may be at least partly to blame. The group of chemicals known as neonicotinoid insecticides are used frequently to keep insects from damaging flowering crops like corn, sunflower and cotton.

A study by British scientists found that honey bees exposed to allegedly non-lethal levels of the pesticide encountered impaired homing ability and a higher mortality rate away from the hive. Meanwhile, French scientists found that bumble bees exposed to the pesticide "had a significantly reduced growth rate and suffered an 85% reduction in production of new queens," according to MSNBC. Scientists from both study groups professed surprise at the magnitude of their findings.

CropLife America, a pesticide industry group released a statement critical of the studies, saying many other factors were not taken into account and asserting that the doses of pesticide used were "unrealistic."

The bee problem has been addressed by a recent acclaimed documentary, Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by actress Ellen Page:

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