Are neonicotinoids contributing to the decline in bees?

Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-16 10:26:14-04

The buzz of bees is getting quieter. They are, according to some scientists, the single most important insect to humans, but their populations are drastically declining.

Ohio State Entomology Professor Reed Johnson is working to find out why so many bees have gone silent. For 20 years, Johnson has worked with the insects. In that time though, he has never seen them in this much despair.

One major reason he says is neonicotinoids, a type of insecticide, widely available and widely used on crops and landscaping in every corner of the country.

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“In crops where they’re applied when bees are present or in landscape applications in cities where they’re applied when bees are present, the bees are likely to die from that exposure,” he said.

Bees are critical to our food supply, pollinating an estimated one in every three bites of food we eat.

What are neonicotinoids?

“The crops that are really healthy for us, here in Ohio, cucumbers are totally dependent on bees for pollination; pumpkins, watermelons, apples, all of that good stuff that we get that’s healthy for you depend on insect pollination,” said Johnson.

Farmers are scrambling and purchasing honey bee hives to install in their crops to keep their fruits and vegetables alive.

Over the last five years though, it’s estimated the bee population has declined by more than 30 percent.

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“The problem is there are more people and more crops out there and the number of bees has not been expanding proportional to the amount of area that needs to be pollinated, so that’s really where the crunch is,” said Johnson.

Johnson says reducing the use of pesticides, allowing flowering weeds like dandelions to grow freely and planting more flowers can all help in maintaining the bee population.

“Our health will suffer as the pollinators health suffers and we just won’t have these foods that are good for us,” he said.

Scientists say a new wave of insecticides will hit the market in a couple of years that target bugs, but are not harmful to bees.