Honey Bee Dangers Posed By Fungicides

Feb 13, 2017

Researchers studying honeybee die-offs have found a whole new class of chemicals that could be harming these crucial pollinators. That has serious implications for apple growers and other farmers of the Pacific Northwest.

You know those nasty brown spots that can ruin an otherwise perfectly delicious apple? Those are often caused by a fungus that apple growers try to kill with a fungicide.

"So the assumption--the long-standing assumption--is that fungicides won’t be toxic to insects."

But May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her colleagues found that fungicides can harm bees, by making it harder for them to metabolize their food. And, if bees can’t get energy from their food, they can’t fly. She says the takeaway is that

"Every kind of pest management approach can have unintended consequences," Berenbaum said.

Unlike other kinds of pesticides, fungicides are largely unregulated in many states, including Washington.

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