It's no secret that honeybees play a crucial part in creating our food supply, and that these pollinators have been dying at an increasing rate. From April 2014 to April 2015, commercial beekeepers reported a 42.1 percent loss of bee colonies, the second highest loss ever reported. Chemical pesticides -- particularly the class known as neonicotinoids or "neonics" -- are thought to be a major cause of these losses, known as bee colony collapse.
But there is some good news. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule that would create temporary pesticide-free zones to protect honeybees. The rule would prohibit the use of 76 active ingredients in pesticides, including neonics, on blooming crops where commercial bees are pollinating, according to Reuters.
Advocates on both sides of the issue have criticized the proposed rule. Environmentalists point out that the rule does not go far enough because it does not restrict the use of seeds treated with neonics. Pesticide manufacturers such as Bayer and Sygenta claim that mite infestations -- not pesticide use -- are the cause of colony collapse.
There is much evidence, however, to support the argument that neonics are a major factor in the loss of bees. National Geographic notes that neonics can make bees more susceptible to certain parasitic infections, and can alter bee behavior and prevent them from supplying their hives with food. According to a study published in Nature, bees even appear to become addicted to the neonic pesticides imidacloprid and thiamexotham.
The new EPA rule could be in place by spring 2016. Yes, there is still more that we must do to protect bees. This proposed new rule by the EPA, however, is a positive first step in keeping these important pollinators alive.