Perspectives on Honeybees and Pesticides

If you believe the headlines, honeybees may soon be endangered, pesticides are to blame, and regulations offer an easy solution. Yet headlines belie the truth of the matter: Some honeybees have left their hives to never return, but we really don’t know why.

Referred to as “colony collapse disorder,” the disappearance of honeybee colonies raises concerns that it will be increasingly difficult to produce food without enough of these pollinators. Ironically, the proposed “solutions” involving banning agro-technologies from pesticides to biotechnology, may do even more harm to agricultural production while not helping the honeybees at all.

A key target of the anti-pesticide crowd is a class of chemicals called Neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids encapsulate seeds, which eventually produces plants that systemically can fight off pests that otherwise would undermine crop production. The beauty of these products is you don’t need to engage in spraying. Evidence is weak that these products have a significant impact on bee colonies in real life settings, as compared to lab experiments.

If we really want to help the honeybees and ensure continued food production, we need to focus on finding out what’s really happening, rather than playing the blame game, banning products, and crossing our fingers that these policies will help. In fact, bans on some products could harm honeybees if the replacements prove less safe. While most of the news stories on the topic push incomplete information and hyped risks, there is some good information out there for those interested in the issue, ranging from research studies to investigative journalism to helpful opinion pieces. I have added a page to where those interested in this issue can find links to a number of thoughtful perspectives and research on the topic.  Check it out.

(This post was updated on 12-11-13.)