Chemicals Meant to Help Bees Might Hurt Them

Recent research shows pesticides commonly used to combat parasites can contribute to bee die-offs.


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A recent study of four Virginia beekeeping operations found three farms that sprayed their beehives with a commonly used chemical had changed the composition of bees’ digestive systems. Researchers speculate that the microbiome alterations could make metabolizing peptides and sugars more difficult. While the three pesticides tested are specifically intended to improve bees’ health, scientists have implicated other agricultural pesticides sprayed on crops as major causes of the massive die-offs associated with Colony Collapse Disorder. For example, another recent study found that some common insecticides could be responsible for a 39 percent decrease in bee sperm counts. A fourth farm, where the chemicals were not used, found that bees’ digestive systems had remained intact.

Photo courtesy of NASA