image credit: Don Hankins (Flickr CC)

The jury is in: common agricultural pesticides disrupt the navigation systems of honeybees and reduce the weight and number of queens in bumblebee hives.

Two separate studies showed strong links between pesticides and the epidemic disappearance of honeybees in the US and UK, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Experiments showed that honeybees died or failed to return to their hives in much greater numbers than expected. Bumblebees exposed to typical levels of pesticides saw their hives populations shrink by 10% versus hives not exposed. What’s worse is they almost lost their ability to produce new queens. Only queens live through the winter, so no new queens means no more bumblebee colonies.

From the Guardian:

The new research strongly links the pesticides to the serious decline in honey bee numbers in the US and UK – a drop of around 50% in the last 25 years. The losses pose a threat to food supplies as bees pollinate a third of the food we eat such as tomatoes, beans, apples and strawberries.

Germany, France and Italy have already banned certain suspect pesticides, but the UK and US governments want more proof – even now.

And of course the pesticide companies themselves either deny or minimize the significance of the new studies on CCD.

Read more in this article from the Associated Press.