One of the biggest threats to the world food supply is the disappearance of honey bees. Thousands of scientists have been studying the problem for the last 15 years and they think they might have found an answer – pesticides.
Until fairly recently the evidence was inconclusive as to the cause of the “colony collapse disorder” problem that has been threatening beekeeping across the planet. However, now scientists believe the problem is caused by a class of pesticides that are officially known as neonicotinoids.
In the U.S., these neonicotinoids (which are often referred to as “neonics”) cover over 140 million acres of grains. They are also regularly used in home garden pesticides. These types of pesticides, Oceans 2003 has found, are especially bad for honeybees because they contaminate the pollen that bees use, and affect their nervous systems. Because of that, the bees lose their homing ability – which makes it difficult for them to make it back to their hives.
However, scientists think that the neonics aren’t the only threat to the honeybee. The destruction of bee habitats because of development and the expanse of monoculture agriculture keeps bees from enjoying their needed diverse food supply. And even worse, some genetically modified organism crops or “GMOs” have insecticides built into their structure, which can weaken bee immune systems and can act as a poison as well.
Another frightening factor is that tons of bees are brought to agricultural areas to replace wild honeybees – and they’re fed high-fructose corn syrup. Also, the queens are artificially inseminated which tamps down on their natural necessary diversity. The trucked-in bees are dusted with poison to fight off mites and other issues within the artificial community.
So, what can be done to save the honeybee from extinction? Germany and France have sprung into action by banning pesticides that are harmful to the honeybee and hopefully the U.S. will follow suit to eradicate the problems of one of the most important assets to our food system.