Science, threats to bees and colony collapse disorder

April 18, 2014


Paul Driessen

Almonds need honeybees for pollination, but bees that do the work face multiple threats. Properly identifying and addressing the risks is vital for commercial beekeepers, growers who operate this $4 billion-a-year California industry, and all who savor honey and almonds.

Beehives have been hit hard in recent years by many problems, including colony collapse disorder, which occurs when bees in a colony disappear, leaving behind only a queen and a few workers. Last year, U.S. beekeepers experienced an average 30 percent overwinter bee loss.

Some blame a new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids and want them banned. However, a ban would force farmers to use pesticides that are more toxic to bees.

In Canada’s western provinces, almost 20 million acres of 100 percent neonic-treated canola is pollinated annually by honeybees and leaf-cutter bees. Both species thrive on the crop, suggesting that neonics do not cause colony collapse disorder. Honeybee field studies by Canadian universities and a United Kingdom government bumblebee field study likewise found no adverse effects from neonics on bees.

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