Gardeners could be to blame for the decline of bees. A study showed that bees collect the majority of their pollen from plants other than crops, even in areas dominated by farmland.
American researchers found that pollen was actually contaminated by both agricultural and urban pesticides. They warned that the problem grows in summer months when gardeners increasingly use bug sprays, fungicides and weed killers to beat pests.
Lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Long of Ohio State University said “If you care about bees as a homeowner, only use insecticides when you really need to because bees will come into contact with them.”
Since 2006, beekeepers in Britain, Europe and North America have lost about a third of their managed bee colonies each year due to “colony collapse disorder”.
The team collected pollen from Indiana honeybee hives at three sites over 16 weeks to learn where the bees sourced their pollen and whether it was contaminated with pesticides.
Only a minority of pesticides in bee pollen had come from crops.
Although the area was blanketed in corn and soybeans, only around one third of pollen came from the crops.
The main pesticides found in the pollen were pyrethroids, which are typically used to control mosquitoes and other nuisance pests in flowering plants. Although toxic neonicotinoids which are traditionally sprayed on corn and soybean were also present, they were not in the large numbers that the researchers had been expecting.
Christian Krupke , professor of entomology at Purdue University in Indiana said “Our study bees were exposed to a far wider range of chemicals than we expected.”
The sheer numbers of pesticides found in pollen samples were astonishing. Agricultural chemicals are only part of the problem. Homeowners and urban landscapes are big contributors, even when hives are directly adjacent to crop fields.
The most common chemical products found in pollen from each site were fungicides and herbicides, typical crop disease and weed management products.
The toxicity of insecticides can increase when combined with certain fungicides, themselves harmless to insects.
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