Honey bee colonies in the United States have been dying at high rates for over a decade, and agricultural pesticides -- including fungicides, herbicides and insecticides -- are often implicated as major culprits. Until now, most scientific studies have looked at pesticides one at a time, rather than investigating the effects of multiple real-world pesticide exposures within a colony.
Photo Credit: Kirsten S. Traynor
A new study is the first to systematically assess multiple pesticides that accumulate within bee colonies. The researchers found that the number of different pesticides within a colony -- regardless of dose -- closely correlates with colony death. The results also suggest that some fungicides, often regarded as safe for bees, correlate with high rates of colony deaths. The study appeared online September 15, 2016, in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
"Our results fly in the face of one of the basic tenets of toxicology: that the dose makes the poison," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD and senior author on the study. "We found that the number of different compounds was highly predictive of colony death, which suggests that the addition of more compounds somehow overwhelms the bees' ability to detoxify themselves."