Christian Krupke, an Extension entomologist at Purdue University, and several other researchers, including his counterpart form the University of Connecticut, recently published a scientific paper linking honeybee deaths to exposure to certain active ingredients found in some seed-coated insecticides. Despite a lot of 'buzz' once the results were released, the researchers are standing behind their work.
The report and a larger article about honeybee problems will appear in the March issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine. The theory that the researchers tested and proved was that the seed-coated seed is sticky. Therefore farmers add talc to help it flow through the planter. That talc pick up some of the insecticide on it. When planting, especially with vacuum planters, some of the talc carrying the insecticide is released into the atmosphere. Krupke and co-authors note that the typical insecticides used as seed treatments are very toxic to honeybees.
Their recommendation is that farmers be as careful as possible using talc to minimize the amount released to the atmosphere. The one place where farmers could help is that when they clean out boxes, they could be very careful about capturing the talc, and not just dumping it or allowing it to blow into the atmosphere.
While proving the connection, the researchers acknowledge that this is not the only problem facing honeybees. Honeybee populations have been in decline for several years, and many of the people who keep hives to make their living have lost hives over the past few years.
The other problem that is knocking back honeybee populations is a mite that affects h0oneybees, the researchers note. There are also other factors that may play into the decline in honeybee numbers. However, they insist that exposure to insecticides released into the air through this planter connection is part of the problem.