The decline of honey bees is a widespread concern that will affect e.g. crop fertilisation and honey production. Last year the EU banned the neonicotinoid pesticides that were thought to have the biggest effect on bee populations. Many in the UK were appalled by this ban. Farmers in particular were upset saying that the chemicals are vital for preventing crops from being destroyed. But on the other hand if there are no bees to pollinate the crops there will be no crops to be destroyed. It is a complex issue and a viscous circle as we can't kill the bees and then expect them to pollinate the crops.
Researchers in Harvard recently published new results on the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides showing that the chemicals trigger colony collapse disorder. Will this be an incentive for governments to take a closer look at the current insecticide policies? Or will farmers get the last say- again?
It is striking and perplexing to observe the empty neonicotinoid-treated colonies because honey bees normally do not abandon their hives during the winter," the scientists wrote. "This observation may suggest the impairment of honey bee neurological functions, specifically memory, cognition, or behaviour, as the results from the chronic sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposure." Earlier research showed neonicotinoid exposure can damage the renowned ability of bees to navigate home. The new research follows similar previous work by the same group and comparison of the two studies shows that cold winters appear to exacerbate the effects of neonicotinoids on the bees. In the cold winter of 2010-11, 94% of the insecticide-exposed colonies suffered CCD compared to 50% in the new study.