Bees thrive on farmland: study

A recent study has determined that cropland benefits bees.

In a paper published in the Journal of Economic Entomology (PDF format), University of Tennessee scientists, including lead author Mohamed Alburaki, compared beehives located in agricultural land to bee colonies in non-farming areas.

They found that bees that foraged on farmland thrived, and bees that foraged on non-farmland struggled.

“Our results indicate that the landscape’s composition significantly affected honeybee colony performance and development,” the paper’s abstract said.

“Colony weight and brood production were significantly greater in AG (agricultural) areas compared to the NAG (non-agricultural) area.”

Alburaki said in a University of Tennessee news release from early May that cropland provides more food for bees.

“Our study suggests that the benefits of better nutrition sources and nectar yields found in agricultural areas outweigh the risks of exposure to agricultural pesticides.”

The bees kept on non-agricultural land couldn’t find sufficient food, and two colonies in the experiment collapsed because of starvation, the news release said.

The findings contradict the position of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, which maintains that neonicotinoid insecticides, used as a seed treatment on crops such as corn, soybeans and canola, are a major threat to bee health.

In a statement released in March, the OBA encouraged the House of Commons agriculture committee to ban imidacloprid, a Bayer neonicotinoid.

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency has proposed phasing out imidacloprid because the insecticide may be hazardous to aquatic insects.

“The broad application of neonicotinoid pesticides like imidacloprid on field crops has been linked by PMRA to the decline in bee populations in Ontario,” the OBA said.

“Bees are exposed to these highly toxic, water-soluble insecticides via contact with dust from planting, from pollen gathered from target and adjacent crops.”

However, the PMRA, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California released a joint report in January 2016 that said imidacloprid is not a threat to honeybees when used as a seed treatment.

“We did not have positive findings of risk for the seed treatment uses we assessed,” the EPA said at the time. “Residue levels in pollen and nectar appear below the threshold for effects on honeybee colonies.”

The University of Tennessee scientists found pesticide residues in bee pollen, including imidacloprid, but at concentrations significantly below lethal levels for honeybees.

The researchers concluded that exposure to pesticides from agricultural land didn’t compromise bee colony productivity.

“We train agricultural producers on careful selection and conscientious application of pesticides to reduce bee exposure,” said Scott Stewart, an integrated pest management specialist at the university.

“But it’s becoming more clear that the influences of varroa mite and food availability are more important factors in honeybee health than agricultural pesticides.”


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  • Denise

    You can always replace the honeybee colonies.That’s NOT the problem. It’s the wild pollinators that are at high risk. Why are all the bumblebees (wild bees, in general) and Monarch butterflies disappearing? Can you explain that, please?
    They are, almost, as rare as hens’ teeth in agricultual areas!

    • Harold

      Apparently these researchers needed the bees to tell them that where there is a shortage of food they struggle or they die. Who’d of thought? I wonder if the bees with less food are still struggling and exactly for how long in history that this been happening? Could the same thing happen to humans? OMG.
      Academia; you gotta love it.
      Pesticides are placed into the environment only and so regardless of any plant growing. The monarch butterfly is part of the health of the environment as are other creatures, but – paid for – academia loves to narrow the environmental scope to sell their masters goods. Apparently the bees have just sold us neonicotinoid pesticides, and the funder’s could not be happier.

    • RobertWager

      Hi Denise
      There are a few incorrect things in your questions.
      1) Wild bees are not declining. The limited data show only two of many species are in decline. The anti-pesticide industry has been very good at moving the goal posts when the data clearly showed commercial honey bee pops were doing fine. They switched to wild bees as their canary in the coalmine example. But if you talk with entomologists they say wild bee populations are doing fine. And those that are threatened are because of habitat loss not pesticide use. This brings up the yield per acre discussion. Since it is very clear GE crops help farmers produce more per acre this results in less pressure to bring more wild land into production.

      Monarch butterflies is a different story. There are two main issues that affect their populations. Winter habitat loss in Mexico (logging) has had significant negative impact on their numbers. the other issue is agriculture (all forms) strive to reduce weeds 9milkweeds being just one) from their fields. Agriculture has been quite successful in reducing weeds and therefore reduce the food for Monarch caterpillars. Recent efforts to plant milkweed in non-agriculture lands is helping to reverse this trend.

      Hope this helps explain part of what is going on wrt bees and butterflies.

      • Denise

        It’s true the monarch butterflies are dealing with a double whammy. Winter habitats in Mexico are vanishing and ,at the other end of their journey, they are getting decimated because their main food source, the milkweed plant is destroyed with glyphosate- based herbicides and neonicotinoid insecticide poisoning.These are both systemic pesticides that enter the waterways and kill aquatic life, too.
        Wild pollinators and other insects are in decline. Just have a look around the prairies. Ask people who live in these areas. Check your windshield! How are the fruit trees doing?
        Beekeepers sacrifice their bees to pollinate crops,like canola. If they love their bees, they look for areas away from agricultural land to set up their hives.
        In Australia, they have had massive bee deaths and ,guess what?, they don’t have Varroa mites, yet. The fear is It could be imported from elsewhere. So why are their bees dying?
        It’s terrible what is happening there. Not only are their pollinators disappearing, so are their birds, bats and other insects.
        They have industry-controlled government, much like America. Chemical companies are in the driver’s seat.
        The main populace remains pretty much clueless about the devestation going on there and here ,for that matter, from neonicotinoid use.
        It builds up in the environment,yet the farmers use this neonic -coated seed product, every year. It’s not even necessary to use it ,year after year. It has been demonstrated that does not improve
        Chemical companies and industries are in control of the farmers.
        Practically all the seed they buy is treated with it, whether they need it or not. And it costs them more to buy treated seed.
        It’s hard to believe that people are willing to sit by and watch this destruction take place, once they know the truth. Time to get informed. It’s late in the game, already.
        “Why Are There Massive Bee Deaths in Australia?”

      • StopGMO

        … Wild bees including other bees and pollinators ARE declining due to PESTICIDES. Habitats are being destroyed by pesticides. Milkweed is also being destroyed by pesticides, this is why they are none. It’s the PESTICIDES Mr. Yes, planting milkweed in non-agricultural lands is very helpful since they do not get sprayed! …

      • patzagame

        Hi Robbie,I have a question for you….Where the hell ARE the bees? I’ll take any bee at this point. The flowering trees are all in full bloom in my area,and there are literally NO bees in the flowers. Past years, the crab apples in my yard were literally in motion from the native pollinators,this year nothing,nada,zilch! I don’t live in an agricultural area,but it certainly isn’t urban. Oh and Monarchs? There hasn’t been any for years,sad that I have at least three acres+ of land,with a large population of milkweed,not a monarch to be seen. So the weather pattern in the U.S. moves west to east,..are the states on the Eastern sea board the last dumping ground for the aerial, industrial agri-chemical, toxic pesticide,GMO corn, middle states repository?

    • neil

      I don’t know why bumblebees are disappearing but the research I read on monarch butterflies is that they rely solely on the plant milkweed for habitat and we farmers killed milkweed for many years because it is is on the noxious weeds list and very competitive with our crops. since learning that it is the only habitat for monarch butterflies I plan on letting milkweed plants live but I haven’t seen any in my fields for over 10 years.

      • Denise

        Thank you so much.

    • Kānāwai Māmalahoe

      Several studies such as the one by GMO loving Cornell in Nature have proven transgenic Bt pollen kills Monarchs.

      In Hawai’i it is the combination of transgenic pollen, neonics and the 90 experimental and restricted use pesticide combinations they use on field trials for the globe’s transgenic corn traits.

      DuPont-Pioneer applied 90 different pesticide formulations containing 63 different active ingredients on Kaua’i from 2007 to 2012. The company sprayed on two-thirds (65%) of the days over this period and made from 8.3 to 16 applications per application day on average.

      The third-most frequently applied class of pesticides is also among the most toxic: the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos was sprayed an average of 91 days each year. [The EPA has written, concerning organophosphates and carbamates: “Both of these classes of older insecticides are very highly acutely toxic to bees and…are also very highly acutely toxic to humans and wildlife.”

      Hawaii national wildlife refuges were the first in the nation to ban GMOs and the bee killing neonicotinoids coating almost every transgenic seed grown regardless of the inefficiency.

      Bumblebees are actually said to be even more efficient pollinators than honeybees. Cane and Cacao rely on midge for pollination. Hawaii used to have tons of yellow faced black bees; however, the lack of lowland native forest habitats has been bad for the native bees.

    • Aaron Aveiro

      I work closely with three different bee keepers…you don’t “replace” bee they reproduce…..

  • Brenda Frick

    It would be nice to know what the comparison really is. Do bees do better on ag land than in industrial parks? Perhaps not surprising. Do bees do better on ag land than in natural areas? That would be shocking.

    • neil

      I thought the story said non agriculture land so I think that is natural areas. I agree it is surprising but we should keep an open mind to all research.

      • Kissing optional

        What does ‘what you think’ have to do with being open minded to all research?
        Do you ‘think’ an industrial park’ is ag land?

  • Denise

    Interesting, that the bees behave differently in Tennessee!

    • Kissing optional

      It isn’t the bees that are behaving differently, it is the chem industry researchers/funded pundits acting the same.

  • grinninglibber
  • Denise

    The notion that that GE crops save wild lands because farmers can produce more per acre is nonsense. Farmers bulldoze and drain everything they can to gain more acres.
    Is it much wonder the Rusty Patched Bumblebee is a “species at risk” since it makes it’s nests underground?
    I don’t imagine neonicotinoid- contaminated soil would make a good nesting ground for these bees. They nest in various places, including fields. That is a huge habitat loss due to pesticide use. Unfortunately, no one told them not to nest in these poisoned soils.. No wonder you don’t see them around,anymore.

  • Denise

    I don’t know what pesticides our municipality use to spray the road allowances and ditches, but I wish they would stop it… Just mow the damn grass when it needs it!
    We need to preserve the wild flowers, plants, and milkweed that grow in the ditches.
    When I stopped the municipal guy, on the road, to ask him to not spray along the road allowance which borders our property, I could hardly breathe. The spray fumes were so strong.
    Imagine what this is doing to the municipal worker( who was not even wearing a simple mask! ) breathing in those poisonous fumes, every day, untll this job is done?
    Yes. You can ask them to not spray along the road allowances bordering your property and they will abide by your request.
    The question is: Why are they spraying this toxic stuff, in the first place???
    It costs the municipality ,lots of money, for the chemicals and we don’t want or need this done.
    This pesticide poison sprays or runs into the sloughs, beside the roads, where our wildlife and aqautic life are trying to survive, despite all the odds.. Does this make sense to you?

  • Kissing optional

    The headline is bass ackwards.
    It should read ‘ Agricultural crops thrive in high bee populations’
    Typical chem lover distortion of reality for the grovelling of advertiser dollars and financial portfolio boosting.

  • Stephen Daniels


    • Denise

      Care to explain why or how spraying pesticides along road allowances makes sense?

  • Denise

    “Bees thrive on farmland” Really? Well ,I guess that means all is well.
    However, there is more to the story than what the pesticide industry would like you to know about.
    Apparently, neonics aren’t all that effective as an insecticide and it is linked to the loss of the beneficial ,very necessary wild pollinators, such as the bumblebees.


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