Since 2008, the global economy wasn’t the only thing that collapsed. In fact, in the big picture, the honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) — responsible for the decimation of some 10 million beehives, worth US$2 billion — is a much more severe problem.
Suspected CCD triggers have run the gamut from parasites to lack of adequate nutrition to pesticides. Now the best evidence seems to indicate that pollen contaminated by a combination of certain pesticides and fungicides is the culprit.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture, published in PLOS ONE, bees collect the contaminated pollen and return to the hive where large numbers of the entire colony die. Bees exposed to the contaminated pollen have a markedly less able to resist a certain parasite, Nosema ceranae. While the study attributes massive numbers of bee deaths to the contaminated pollen, it’s careful to tiptoe around calling it the specific cause of CCD. Nosema ceranae has been linked directly to CCD.
Until now, fungicides were thought to be harmless to insects so pesticide labels warning against use around pollinating bees have not been used on fungicides.
What makes this especially difficult is that researchers have tended to think that a single cause of CCD could be found and a single class of parasite or pesticide could be dealt with. The new research indicates that it’s a much more complex, multi-faceted problem caused by multiple pesticide and fungicide chemicals and their near innumerable possible interactions.