For the last decade or so, honeybees have been disappearing at an alarming rate. There's a name for it – colony collapse disorder (CCD).
There have been a number of theories as to why this is happening, including the proliferation of cellular powers. Increasingly, however, suspicion is focusing on one answer to the mystery – pesticides.
Researchers in Europe have provided the latest evidence. Their findings, published in the Journal of Chromatography A, found dead honeybees they examined had traces of 57 different pesticides.
There is a very important reason consumers should be concerned with the bees' disappearance.
"Bee health is a matter of public concern -- bees are considered critically important for the environment and agriculture by pollinating more than 80% of crops and wild plants in Europe," Tomasz Kiljanek, lead author of the study, said in a release.
The problem is also of great concern in the U.S. Agriculture officials worry that CCD, should it continue unabated, could put food production at risk.
While previous research has suggested pesticides might be what is killing off the bee population, the question has been, which pesticide. This latest study, from the National Veterinary Research Institute in Poland, suggests it's not just one pesticide, but a combination of many.
And with many pesticides now in use, scientists are left with the difficult task of finding which ones are proving lethal to the bees. They also have to take into consideration the possibility that certain combinations of pesticides, or prolonged exposure, could be doing the damage.
Nothing has been scientifically proven
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that to date, there has been no scientific cause of CCD that has been conclusively proven. While pesticides may be a prime suspect, since the 1980s bees have been under attack from new pathogens, from deformed wing virus to nosema fungi.
“CCD may even be a result of a combination of two or more of these factors and not necessarily the same factors in the same order in every instance,” the USDA concluded.
The nature of CCD is extremely odd. Not all of the bees die. The majority of the worker bees simply disappear, leaving behind the queen and immature bees. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports observed cases of CCD have actually declined over the last five years.
If pesticides are indeed behind CCD, it has yet to be explained why it only affects the worker bees and is not continuing to claim increasing numbers of victims.