Beekeepers cannot manage the environmental pesticide contamination as easily as the wax contamination. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency does regulate and monitor pesticides, but they do not have the ability to monitor the interaction of these chemicals. With the large number of pesticides found in bees and pollen, interactions are likely.
"We are finding fungicides that function by inhibiting the steroid metabolism in the fungal diseases they target, but these chemicals also affect similar enzymes in other organisms," says James Frazier. "These fungicides, in combination with pyrethroids and/or neonicotinoids can sometimes have a synergistic effect 100s of times more toxic than any of the pesticides individually."
For CCD, bees are not dying in their hives, but are not returning to their hives. James Frazier notes it is difficult to observe bees outside the hive. The U.S. EPA only looks at acute exposure to individual pesticides, but chronic exposure may cause behavioral changes that are unmonitored.
"We do not know that these chemicals have anything to do with Colony Collapse Disorder, but they are definitely stressors in the home and in the food sources," says Dr. Frazier. "Pesticides alone have not shown they are the cause of CCD. We believe that it is a combination of a variety of factors, possibly including mites, viruses and pesticides."
The researchers, who also include Sara Ashcraft, research assistant, have a team uniquely suited to looking at the honey bee pesticide problem because they combine a toxicologist in Mullin, a physiologist in James Frazier and someone with connections to beekeepers across the country in Maryann Frazier.
"We now want to look at small versus large operations and organic versus nonorganic operations to se
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