A controversial type of pesticide linked to declining global bee populations appears to scramble bees’ sense of direction, making it hard for them to find home. Starved of foragers and the pollen they carry, colonies produce fewer queens, and eventually collapse.
The phenomenon is described in two new studies published March 29 in Science. While they don’t conclusively explain global bee declines, which almost certainly involve a combination factors, they establish neonicotinoids as a prime suspect.
Heather Pilatic of the Pesticide Action Network recommended a return to pest management strategies used widely through the 1990s, when the rise of pesticide-treated seeds and genetically modified crops allowed farmers to change their growing strategies.
“When you plant the same crop, year after year, you’re creating the conditions for a pest infestation,” Pilatic said. “In the mid-1990s, we were doing a really good job of pest management with corn in particular. With the introduction of treated seeds, and in particular of genetically engineered corn, it all unraveled. But we know how to do it. We were doing it 20 years ago.”