As Linda Howe has reported on Dreamland, the sudden disappearance of honey bees in many parts of the country may be related to pesticide exposure. The latest reports suggest this is not necessarily due to the pesticides sprayed on the plants that bees pollinate, but the pesticides sprayed INSIDE the hives to kill mites.

For the past decade, beekeepers have treated their hives with pesticides to combat two kinds of mites that attack the bees. Entomologist Walter (Steve) Sheppard says, “To keep bees, especially on a commercial level, beekeepers have needed to use some sort of chemical control of these mites. Normally, Varroa mites will kill a colony within two years, if they?re not treated and the use of these pesticides brings with them a risk of accumulation in the wax.”

Sheppard says honey bees could also be exposed to pesticides during their foraging flights, if they visit fields and gardens that were recently treated with the chemicals. That source of exposure has been a concern for beekeepers since pesticides came into wide use in the 1950s.

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