Growing evidence shows that, in low doses, neonicotinoids can affect bees’ disease-fighting immune systems, as well as their ability to communicate, fly, reproduce, and navigate. At high doses, the chemicals can kill the insects.
Concern over the pesticides has led regulators to take action. The European Union banned certain neonicotinoids on some crops and is considering a complete ban. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a safety review of the chemicals, including their effects on pollinators.
Protecting these insects is important, says Dave Goulson, a bee biologist at the University of Sussex in England. “If we didn’t have pollinators, we wouldn’t have tomatoes, chili peppers, blueberries, coffee, or chocolate,” he says. In short, life would be a lot less sweet without bees.