News / USA

Pesticides Contribute to Decline in World's Bee Population

Raising Crops Linked to Declining Bee Population Worldwidei
June 13, 2013 7:28 PM
A steady decline in the overall honeybee population year to year is a growing problem worldwide. The decreasing bee population could contribute to a dramatic increase in commodity prices for goods dependent upon pollination by honeybees. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Illinois, researchers continue to study the decline as beekeepers are struggling to keep their colonies, and their profits, alive.
Raising Crops Linked to Declining Bee Population Worldwide
Kane Farabaugh
A steady decline in the overall honeybee population year to year is a growing problem worldwide. The decreasing bee population could contribute to a dramatic increase in commodity prices for goods dependent upon pollination by honeybees. Researchers continue to study the decline as beekeepers are struggling to keep their colonies, and their profits, alive.

Terrence Ingram considers himself a naturalist. He said he’s best able to commune with the natural world around him at the center of a swarm... of bees. “I love beekeeping. It’s one of God’s greatest miracles."

Since 1954, Ingram has raised tens of thousands of honeybees in managed colonies behind his house in rural Apple River, Illinois.

“We had 250 hives at one time. We sold five, six tons of honey a year,” said Ingram.

Falling honey supplies

But that amount is dwindling. "Now we’re down to about probably four tons." And that's not because the 73-year-old Ingram is slowing down, but because he says there are fewer bees producing honey, something he blames on the use of insecticides and herbicides in the farmland surrounding his property. The gradual decline in his bee population began in 1996.

“Every three weeks that summer, they were spraying with the airplane, and by the end of the year, I didn’t have any of my 250 hives left,” he said.

This phenomenon caught the attention of researchers like Purdue University Entomology Professor Christian Krupke.

“There have been similar reports from Europe in the past, and so we looked into it a little bit further from the point of view of wondering first of all what is killing these bees, and second how are these bees acquiring whatever this toxic chemical is,” said Krupke.

There are many reasons for the worldwide bee decline, not just insecticides.

But in this instance, Krupke and his colleagues focused on insecticides - known as neonicotinoids - that adhere to the seeds as they are planted in the ground, rather than from spraying above.

“The two compounds that kept coming up when we tested these dead bees were the pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Those are insecticides that are applied to corn seed. The key route for those acute bee kills that we have seen in past years and again this year is the planter exhaust. The talc that contacts seed and then is exhausted,” said Krupke.

Omitting insecticides

About 30 years ago, there were about 4 million of these kind of managed bee colonies throughout the United States. Today, there are less than 2 million, and researchers say that’s due in part to the introduction of these insecticides.

“Can we get by without neonicotinoids insecticides in these field crops? I think we can. I believe we have data that show that we can. So that’s maybe something that’s a little more promising as far as reducing the stress on the honeybee population,” said Krupke.

In December, the European Union plans to ban the use of certain insecticides researchers linked to bee deaths. But no such restrictions are planned in the United States. For Illinois beekeeper Ingram, some of the damage already done is permanent.

“We’ve got many bee keepers who have quit, just gone out of business because they can’t succeed,” he said.

But not Ingram, who said his passion for bees is just as strong as it was when he tended his first colony, more than 60 years ago.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Av from: Fl
June 16, 2013 11:17 AM
We live in SW Florida. Our neighbor threw out a half dead purple bougainvillea. The lure of saving the plant was too strong due to my love of the flowering varieties and the joy I experience in propagating, especially those with the chance of proliferating such beautiful blooms.

That gorgeous purple bougainvillea is now thriving in it's new home, my yard. Since replanting this free 6ft tall topiary with its color of such reverence and royalty, PURPLE, we have had a problem with bees. We have had the beekeepers out numerous times. The most recent colony was easily 800,000 bees. This is in a residential neighborhood, so needless to say, this swarm was threatening to our neighborhood, elderly, children, dogs, etc....but, most alarming to our home, besides the constant expense to remove them and the fact they blocked our cars and front entry to our home, my husband is deathly allergic to bee stings. One bee sting could have him rushed to the hospital, we are now on a mission to get the word out about bee colonies successes and also the dangers around the color purple.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs