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WSU Honey Bee Researcher Explores Possible Link Between Pesticides and Colony Collapse Disorder

Honey bee health is crucial to the nation's farmers and fruit growers, who rely on honey bees to pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries and watermelons. Together, honey bee pollinated crops are worth more than nine billion dollars a year to the American economy.

PULLMAN, Wash.—The sudden disappearance of honey bees in many parts of the country might be related to pesticide exposure, according to Washington State University entomologist Walter (Steve) Sheppard.
Beekeepers have struggled as hives have failed soon after the bees embark on their pollen-gathering season. In what has become known as “colony collapse disorder,” honey bees leave the hive and don’t return.
“I don’t think we really know what we’re up against with colony collapse disorder,” said Sheppard. This summer, his research team is exploring the possibility that exposure to pesticides in the hives is contributing to colony collapse.
For the past decade, beekeepers have treated their hives with pesticides to combat two kinds of mites that parasitize the bees.
“To keep bees, especially on a commercial level, beekeepers have needed to use some sort of chemical control of these mites,” said Sheppard. “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.”

VIDEO: WSU Honey Bee Researcher Looks for Cause of Colony Collapse

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