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Purdue Educates Farmers About Insecticides’ Effect On Bees

honeybee on dandelion

Photo: mommammia (Flickr)

Honeybees that come in contact with neonicotinoids become impaired and could die if exposed to high enough concentrations.

Two new studies conducted in France and the U.K. have found reasons for heightened concerns about a specific pesticide used on corn because of the negative effects it has on honeybees. Combined with a Purdue University study released earlier this year, bee specialists hope the findings will encourage Indiana farmers to stop using the product.

Corn seed farmers buy each year is treated with insecticides called neonicotinoids. Based on several studies, agriculture experts have shown the chemical can be fatal to bees and smaller doses can still have a detrimental effect on the colony.

Tracy Hunter with Hunter’s Honey Farms located outside Martinsville says he has been dealing with a variety of diseases in his own honeybee colonies and neonicotinoids are now another issue.

“The dust from that chemical is blowing over onto flowers that are in bloom around the field such as dandelions at that time and when the honeybee forages on that dandelion, it picks up that chemical,” he says. “This was a serious problem in Europe in 2010 and it was a pretty serious problem in 2011.”

Entomologist and bee specialist Greg Hunt was a lead researcher on the Purdue University report that identified different ways bees come in contact with the pesticide. Hunt says Purdue is starting to publicize the impacts of the chemical by holding a webinar with the extension officers in each of the state’s counties. Those officers will then pass what they learn on to farmers.

“Once farmers are aware that it could potentially be a problem they may make some changes to their planting practice,” he says.

But with difficult farming seasons the past few years, Indiana farmers are already struggling with low yields and could be unwilling to take on any additional risks. Hunt says the state could eventually ban the product, but that process would take several years and many more studies.

Studies showed other chemicals previously used on the crop were harmful to humans and other vertebrates. Those insecticides have been replaced with neonicotinoids.

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