Scientists finally know how one common pesticide is harming our bees


Bee populations have declined at alarming rates over the past 20 years, but researchers are just beginning to understand the impact of human activity on our pollinators. Scientists recently uncovered how one of our most commonly used insecticides is wiping out bees.

A new study provides a clearer understanding about the specific threats neonicotinoids pose to bee populations. They were approved for commercial use in the 1990s and are used on nearly all corn and canola crops and about half of all soybeans.

RELATED: Honey bees take over Times Square

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Honey bees take over Times Square
Beekeeper Hannah Baek works to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Bees swarm around a building in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Beekeepers Andrew Cote and Hannah Baek work to prepare a hive to take a large swarm of bees that they had removed from a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Bees swarm around a building in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Beekeeper Andrew Cote dumps a large swarm of bees that he had removed from a building in Times Square to a new hive at Bryant Park in New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeepers Andrew Cote and Hannah Baek remove a container holding a large swarm of bees that they had removed from a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Bees poke their heads out of a container holding a large swarm of bees that were removed from a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeepers Hannah Baek and Gus Iodise to prepare a hive to take a large swarm of bees that they had removed from a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote dumps a large swarm of bees that he had removed from a building in Times Square to a new hive at Bryant Park in New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote prepares with Gus Iodise and Hannah Baek to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works with Hannah Baek to use a specialized vacuum cleaner to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works with Hannah Baek to use a specialized vacuum cleaner to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote inspects a large swarm of bees on a building before removing them in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works with Hannah Baek to use a specialized vacuum cleaner to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works with Hannah Baek to use a specialized vacuum cleaner to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works with Hannah Baek to check the suction of a specialized vacuum cleaner before removing a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works with a specialized vacuum cleaner before removing a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works with a specialized vacuum cleaner before removing a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works with Hannah Baek to use a specialized vacuum cleaner to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote works with Hannah Baek to use a specialized vacuum cleaner to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Andrew Cote drinks water after removing a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Beekeeper Hannah Baek works to remove a large swarm of bees that had taken up residence on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A small number of remaining bees fly around wax that a large swarm had left on a building in the Times Square district of New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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Beyond lowering bees' life expectancy, neonicotinoids reduce reproductive success and suppress bees' immune systems, according to the study. Researchers found colonies are also more likely to permanently lose their queen after prolonged exposure.

SEE MORE: Backing Off These Pesticide Restrictions Could Be Bad For Bees

The scientists said they hope their findings will influence lawmakers in regulating insecticides.

But some researchers note that neonicotinoids aren't the only cause of declining bee populations, citing other harmful factors like habitat loss, climate change and the widespread use of other harmful pesticides.


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