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WSU Researchers Develop Pesticide Protection for Bees

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Monday, January 22, 2018   

PULLMAN, Wash. – Two Washington State University researchers have been recognized for their development of a food supplement that helps bee colonies survive the toxic effects of pesticides.

Brandon Hopkins and Waled Suliman developed a carbon micro-particle beekeepers can add to meals that removes pesticide residue from the bees' digestive system.

Hopkins, who is also an assistant entomology professor at WSU, says farmers may think they need pesticides for crops, but some are suspected of being major contributors to the collapse of bee colonies worldwide.

"It's really just the agricultural system that we live in and so, this is a way of helping the bees adapt or live within the agricultural community that we are in," he explains.

Hopkins and Suliman are the winners of the Honey Bee Health Coalition's nutrition challenge, with a $10,000 prize for their research.

Beekeepers have lost about 40 percent of their colonies over the last decade, according to research by the Bee Informed Partnership and Apiary Inspectors of America.

Hopkins says pesticide levels that aren't lethal can still hurt bees.

The residual is often found on the wax in which bees raise their young, and the honey they collect. It's been shown to compromise their immune systems and lead to other effects.

The WSU researchers say their product should be available for beekeepers in one-and-a-half to two years. And Hopkins adds its usefulness will stretch beyond simply adding it to bee feed.

"There are other potential uses for this really innovative idea, in that it could be used to remove pesticides from the bee products themselves, such as the wax or the honey that are produced,” he states. “So, it has a lot of potential as a product in the bee industry, and probably beyond the bee industry as well."

About one-third of the food Americans eat relies on pollination by honeybees.





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