Are bees threatened by insecticide use? New studies say yes. (+video)
Scientists found that one class of insecticides may harm both bumblebees and honeybees in two recent studies. Bees' important role as pollinators may be threatened.
Scientists have discovered ways in which even low doses of widely used pesticides can harm bumblebees and honeybees, interfering with their homing abilities and making them lose their way.
In two studies published in the journal Science on Thursday, British and French researchers looked at bees and neonicotinoid insecticides - a class introduced in the 1990s now among the most commonly used crop pesticides in the world.
In recent years, bee populations have been dropping rapidly, partly due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Scientists also fear pesticides are destroying bee populations, but it is not clear how they are causing damage.
"In North America, several bumblebee species which used to be common have more or less disappeared from the entire continent," while in Britain, three species have become extinct, he said in a statement.
Bees are important pollinators of flowering plants, including many fruit and vegetable crops. A 2011 United Nations report estimated that bees and other pollinators such as butterflies, beetles or birds do work worth 153 billion euros ($203 bln) a year to the human economy.