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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora