News / Science & Technology

Plant Fungicide Might Hurt Honeybees

Plant Fungicide Might Hurt Honeybeesi
X
August 13, 2013 2:07 PM
A widely used chemical used to fight plant disease is hurting honeybees in an unexpected way, according to new research. As Megan McGrath reports for VOA, it may be contributing to the widespread loss of honeybees that pollinate many fruits, vegetables, nuts and other crops.
Megan McGrath
A widely used chemical used to fight plant disease is hurting honeybees in an unexpected way, according to new research, and may be contributing to the widespread loss of honeybees that pollinate many fruits, vegetables, nuts and other crops.

Die out

Honeybee hives in the United States and elsewhere are dying and researchers are trying to understand why.

“The number of colonies that die every winter has been one in three," said Dennis VanEngelsdorp at the University of Maryland. "So on average 30 percent of the colonies have died every winter over the last six winters. And that’s an astronomical number.”

VanEngelsdorp's research team examined the pollen that honeybees carried to their hives, and found that it was contaminated with high doses of 35 different pesticides. They also found that eating certain fungicides made bees more susceptible to infection by Nosema, a deadly microbe.
 
But fungicides are essential to US agriculture, according to pesticide industry researcher Mike Leggett, with CropLife America.

"Fungicides are used, and have been used, pretty broadly, for centuries, for protection of plants from plant disease,” Leggett said.

He also points out that many of the other pesticides VanEngelsdorp found in the pollen actually made the bees less likely to be infected with Nosema.
 
“I think it’s interesting research that adds to the body of research that’s available, but I’m not really sure that the conclusions reached were… you know, well-supported,” he said.
 
Multiple stressors

Maryland farmer and beekeeper Keith Ohlinger has watched his bees die every winter. Researchers are investigating the effects of a variety of factors, including pesticides, diseases and malnutrition. Many people, including Ohlinger, think widespread bee death is caused by many different stresses at once.
 
“What I felt it was, was a compilation of a lot of little things," said Ohlinger. "I didn’t feel that there was probably one smoking gun. But there’s a division there, some people feel that it is just one thing.”
 
He does feel sure pesticides are a part of the problem.

“Maybe I’m just not educated enough, I don’t know, but my view is, if you can take a bath in it, it’s probably safe," he said. "And I don’t know many of the things that they’re putting out right now that anybody would come out of a bath in for any length of time and go, ‘Wow, that was great, I feel much better!’ You know?”
 
Honeybees are essential to agriculture. This makes the search for an answer to the bee die-off especially urgent for VanEngelsdorp's team.

“One in every three bites of food we eat are directly or indirectly pollinated by honeybees. So without honeybees, we wouldn’t have that variety in our diet,” said VanEngelsdorp.
 
Even as a third of the country's food supply depends on honeybees, a third of those bees continue to die each winter.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 11, 2013 10:30 PM
I have heard Nosema for the first time. I learned online nosema is a serious disease for honey bees which has no effective treatment. To increase the number of honey bees, import is one choice for bee keepers. It is reported that import from Australia has been once prohibited in Japan because Austaralian bees were found to be infected by nosema. I hope effective treatment for nosema would be developed as early as possible. Thank you.


by: Kitagawa Keiko from: Daikanyama,TKO
August 10, 2013 7:11 PM
I'm surprised that one in three honeybees have been dying over the last six years.
That means total number of honeybees is approximately 1/700 compared with that six years ago.
But does our foods reduce to 1/700 from six years ago ?
Are we affected the dies of honeybees ?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid