Why are bees disappearing?

I was reading some science news when I came across this one that talks about how a specific pesticide may reduce the bee-queens’ ability to lay eggs. The topic came to my mind immediately. It is something we have heard, it’s not new, but it’s NOT getting better in any way. So yes, bees are having a bad time out there folks. But why?

Neonicotinoids and pesticides.

Even though this is the family of pesticides analysed in the previous study, this organic compound have been pointed out as very harmful for bees before, like in this Harvard study that relates neonicotinoids to CCD (Collony Colapse Disorder).

bee hive

While it seems pretty obvious that a pesticide wouldn’t help bees, what makes this family of insecticides so dreadful for them? It happens that, when spread at the terrain, the insecticide is collected by the plats’ roots and distributed throughout all the vegetal system. This is what makes them so effective, because any little aphid or insect that may drink the plant juices at any leave of stem will get immediately intoxicated.

Bees are not interested in plant sap, they get exposed while collecting polen and nectar from the flowers.

Imidacloprid chemical structure

Neonicotinoids are widely used neuro-toxic compounds very similar to nicotin (another insecticide), being Imidacloprid rank 1 among all other insecticides at world level. The EU have restricted the use of some neonicotinoids already. But this looks like a small step forward, specially if we consider how much remains still unknown about plants-insects-animals-pesticides interactions in the first place.

Not only the insecticides though.

But if we want to be completely honest we cannot blame chemistry and hang the sign of “public enemy number one” around its neck right away. Agricultural practices are also damaging how bees interact with their environment. Specially those ones that are related to mass use of pesticides to start with, like mono-species massive plantations (monoculture). Ironic, right?

Mites and natural enemies of bees have been always there, so they are not to be blame here. They are not helping of course, but they are an opportunistic evil and not the origin of this problem.

If you want to hear more about all this, I cannot but recommend this TED talk gave by Marva Spivak. You will like it for sure and, according to her words, planting flowers may make a difference for bees indeed. We should’t lose track of the other bad guys in this film, but who doesn’t like flowers? Go bees!

house flowers

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