Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Preserving that Beautiful Buzz

Work at USDA’s National Science Laboratories helps researchers and beekeepers better understand the effects of pesticide residue exposure on honey bees.

Work at USDA’s National Science Laboratories helps researchers and beekeepers better understand the effects of pesticide residue exposure on honey bees.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

In agriculture, buzzing can be music to our ears—especially if that buzz means pollinators are busy helping produce our fruits, nuts, vegetables and field crops.  Unfortunately, the sound of my favorite pollinator, the honey bee, has grown fainter in recent years due to higher rates of over-winter colony loss. These losses were initially attributed to a condition described as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Many factors involved with CCD are not yet fully understood.  Honey bee research is focused on gathering data from multiple angles to increase the understanding of overall honey bee health. Many USDA agencies and industry partners are conducting research to better understand the complexities of honey bee health and working to develop best practices to improve the honey bee population.

Since 2007 the National Science Laboratories (NSL), a part of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has provided pesticide residue testing services to honey bee stakeholders, supporting research into the causes of CCD and other related honey bee health issues. As part of the long-term efforts focusing on the causes of honey bee decline, we test a broad range of pesticide residues in honey bee products—including pollen, beeswax, honey, nectar, royal jelly and the bees themselves.

In exploring possible factors, researchers studying honey bee issues have discovered many sub-lethal effects of pesticide residues, but no single pesticide has been identified as a direct cause of CCD.  It is possible that pesticide residue exposure may play an indirect role in honey bee health, which is why it continues to be an important aspect being studied.

Our work is helping researchers and beekeepers better understand the effects of pesticide residue exposure on honey bees.  Our scientists also work closely with Federal and State government agencies, academic institutions, industry corporations, beekeepers and honey bee advocates. With a reputation for quality pesticide residue analysis, we have provided apiculture—or beekeeping—sample testing for more than 60 stakeholders.

Located in Gastonia, NC, our lab is a user-fee supported facility. We offer chemical, microbiological, and bio-molecular testing services for on a wide variety of agricultural products including bee keepers wanting hive products tested for pesticide residues.

By providing high-quality pesticide residue results, the NSL is helping to keep that beautiful buzz going in the pollinator field.

5 Responses to “Preserving that Beautiful Buzz”

  1. Stephen Labay says:

    It is really sickening to me what this country has become. We constantly shoot ourselves in the foot and try to fix it by throwing money at the problem. Why should help those pay for a problem that they caused. We continue as a society to destroy long term survival for short term gain. Nobody wants to sacrifice. I find it very humorous that we as humans think we can do things better than God. God created the balance we need and we continue to try and game the system. Pesticides, GMOs, and anything that man creates is bound to alter what is natural. What we need less of in this country is handouts and more responsibility for our actions. The USDA’s $3 million honeybee program is another bailout for the irresponsible, selfish individual who only thought about the almighty dollar. We only have about 1% of our native pastures left in this country. The bees were bound to be affected at some point along the way as well as many other natural inhabitants. Maybe the US tax dollar would be better spent on the education of the consequences of our agricultural decisions. Proactive sounds like a better plan of action to me than reactive for the future of our children. Responsibility as caretakers of God’s Land should be top priority. After all, this country is broke because we have forgotten that responsibility means it starts with me.

  2. Louise Nelson says:

    This is IT …Our last chance to get it done . After this point we are lost,food production lost , .ONCE THE POLLINATORS VANISH THEY WILL NEVER COME BACK , NEVER … WILL EACH OF US CARE ENOUGH TO GET IT DONE this ONE LAST TIME ???? WHAT ARE YOU PREPARED TO DO TO SAVE OUR POLLINATORS ?
    CAN WE SAY ,COLLECTIVELY, “NO ,TO BAD SCIENCE , NO, to poison foods. , NO TO MONSANTO , dupont and like chemical and go producers ?
    All test have failed . No life can exist in this toxic soup.NOT YOU , YOUR FAMILY OR MINE . WHEN WILL YOU BEGIN ?(tomorrow will be to late .)

  3. Lori Gearheart says:

    Amen, Stephen Labay.

  4. Susan says:

    Tell me what I can do about this? Granted we face many problems in this country/ world that we read about daily, but I personally would like to know what I can do to help. Besides 3 million in research that has been granted, There has got to be something that all citizens can do to put this problem on the front burner.

  5. Deborah L. says:

    Pesticides have been a suspect since the discovery of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and researchers around the world continue to study their affect on the pollinators. A certain class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which is comprised of separate pesticides and are neurotoxins to insects, have been severely restricted in Europe by the European Commission. The United States Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently reviewing scientific literature and reports on neonicotinoids before taking any action.

    CCD researchers now conclude that there are multiple factors that contribute to CCD, but pesticides may be at the root cause. They believe that nutritional stress due lack of pesticide free food found in pasture land plays a role, since much of our pasture land is being turned into crops- which are covered with pesticides. They think that these pesticides weaken the bees’ immune system which makes them susceptible to pathogens and parasites.

    In June 2014, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum which assigned many federal agencies to establish a task force to develop strategies to promote the health of bees and other pollinators. This will hopefully help to find the cause and solution to CCD and restore bees to a healthy population. Citizens should educate themselves and others on CCD, and what they can do to improve bee health and population. Planting bee friendly flowers and plants, do not use pesticides on lawns and gardens, and maybe invest in a community bee hive. These are basic ideas people can do that will help bees.
    The Mystery of the Missing Bees. Pro. Joshua Fisher. RetroReport, 2014. Documentary.

Leave a Reply