Common Pesticide a Culprit in Declining Bee Colonies
The following article by Carl Zimmer appeared in the New York Times on 29 March 2012.
“Scientists have been alarmed and puzzled by declines in bee populations in the United States and other parts of the world. They have suspected that pesticides are playing a part, but to date their experiments have yielded conflicting, ambiguous results. In Thursday’s issue of the journal Science, two teams of researchers published studies suggesting that low levels of a common pesticide can have significant effects on bee colonies”. Read More
Answer the following 5 questions:
One hypothesis about the decline of bees is that “the pesticides make honeybees more vulnerable to infections from parasitic fungi.” Based on the information in the article, and all that we’ve learned about honey bee behavior, come up with two other good hypotheses regarding the decline in bee colonies. Your answer must have an ultimate hypothesis and a corresponding proximate hypothesis (in other words, your two hypotheses must be linked).
The article states: “The insecticides, introduced in the early 1990s, have exploded in popularity; virtually all corn grown in the United States is treated with them.” Given this, what is one key piece of information that you’d like to see regarding the decline in bees. (As a hint to what I’m looking for, this piece of evidence would allow you to make a comparison between two factors). Name one problem with that comparison, and one reason why it is scientifically appropriate (or rather how it could be part of an argument that is scientifically rigorous).
Can you find any sources of bias in the article, either from the author, or from the scientists who are quoted, or from the studies themselves.
We’ve talked about models and modeling during numerous lectures. Based on that, evaluate this statement: “James Cresswell, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Exeter in England, was less impressed, because the scientists had to rely on a computer model to determine changes in the hive.”
As you are now all becoming experts on science and animal behavior, your friends and family members might turn to you for your interpretation. So, pretend you are discussing this article with a family member or friend who doesn’t know much about science or animal behavior. What do you tell them about the pesticide hypothesis, should they find this a credible cause for bee decline? How do you weigh the arguments from the other academic and industrial scientists (i.e., some were in support of the study, others were less so).