We've all heard that bee populations are dwindling. Far less clear, however, is what's actually causing the slump. Now, two studies have provided some of the most compelling evidence to date that a popular class of insecticides may be contributing strongly to the collapse.
Scientists call the mysterious wasting-away of the the world's bee populations "colony collapse disorder." Researchers have come up with numerous hypotheses to explain the collapse, including parasites, viruses, and — yes — insecticides, but quantifying the impact of these and other suspects has proven to be an onerous task.
Two studies, which are published in this week's issue of Science, opted to take a closer look at a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids have been linked to colony collapse in the past; the incredibly effective pesticide works by spreading throughout the seeds and stems of treated plants; making its way into nectar and pollen supplies, where it is picked up by pollinators like bees; and, finally, attacking the nervous system of the exposed insects.