Bees, as a species, are actually not doing too bad these days -- despite what we may hear. Although a number of studies have looked into different pesticides to see what may have caused a decline in the population, the drop of the entire group of insects has been small across the globe.
But, there is a segment of the bee world we should be concerned about.
As wasps and other cousins in the animal kingdom thrive, there has been a marked decline in the number of honey bee hives. Because of the role these insects play in the pollination process, the species is crucial to maintain for any crop-related operation.
On March 18, a study published in the PLOS journal took a look at some of the reasons behind the decrease in population among bees in America. Galen Dively, an emeritus professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, was lead author of the study that looked at the effects of the insecticide imidacloprid on honey bee colonies over a three-year period. What he and his researchers found was the most-commonly used pesticide had little effect on the colonies when taken in consideration of regular dosage levels.
The study determined the population drop had to be from a combination of items, including parasites, insecticides, disease, climate stress and malnutrition.
“Everyone is pointing the finger at these insecticides. If you pull up a search on the Internet, that’s practically all anyone is talking about,” Dively said in a news release. “This paper says no, it’s not the sole cause. It contributes, but there is a bigger picture.”
Imidacloprid is one of a broad class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. The solution is chemically very close to nicotine. One of the reasons why tobacco is such a hardy plant is because the nicotine keeps most herbivores away. It poisons them. Nicotine was used as an insecticide before, but because it is so toxic, it is rarely used.
“Honey bees have a lot of pests and diseases to deal with. Insecticide exposure is one factor among many. It’s not the lone villain,” Dively said.