It might seem somewhat obvious, but scientists looking for reasons why bumblebees have been dying in waves in recent years are pointing to pesticides as a possible cause, as the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Los Angeles Times:

But two reports published online Thursday by the journal Science indicate that the pesticides are not altogether benign. One study found that bumblebee colonies exposed to amounts of the insecticide similar to what they’d encounter in the wild gained less total weight than colonies that weren’t exposed. Another study used miniature radio frequency chips to track honeybees and found that the pesticide impaired their ability to navigate back to the hive after a feeding expedition.

“If it’s blundering around and can’t return to the hive … the bee might as well be dead,” said Christian Krupke, an entomologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., who was not involved in either study.

Beekeepers became alarmed that honeybees were vanishing from their nests across the U.S. in the fall of 2006 — victims of a perplexing and pervasive malady now known as colony collapse disorder that wiped out as many as 90% of bees, in some cases. Scientists don’t know exactly why the ailment strikes, but they believe it results from a combination of habitat degradation, infection by pathogens and parasites and pesticide use. Researchers have also documented sharp declines in bumblebees, which are important crop pollinators but are not domesticated.

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