Pesticides may be to blame for the dwindling honey bee population, according to a Purdue University study.
Powdery waste from seed planters was found to contain as much as 700,000 times a bee’s lethal dosage of neonicotinoid insecticides, as well as traces of clothianidin and thiamethoxam, in dead bees and hives around Indiana.
According to Christian Krupke, co-author of the study published in PloS One, “We know that these insecticides are highly toxic to bees; we found them in each sample of dead and dying bees.”
Large portions of waste found was talc, used to help coat crops with insecticides. The talc is not harmful to bees, but when it gets blown off plants and into the air, it tends to bring some insecticides with it, settling on nearby vegetation.
“This material is so concentrated that even small amounts landing on flowering plants around a field can kill foragers or be transported to the hive in contaminated pollen,” said Krupke. “This might be why we found these insecticides in pollen that the bees had collected and brought back to their hives.”
Low levels of pesticides were also found in soil, as long as two years after treated seeds were planted.
As Greg Hunt, study co-author says, “It’s like death by a thousand cuts for these bees.”