Mortality Rates of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) in Response to Corn Planting

Isabel Nazarian
Undergraduate (Entomology)
Dr. Reed Johnson
Environment and Natural Resources

In recent years, more and more research has shown that neonicotinoid insecticides commonly coating corn seeds can have negative impacts on colony survival, growth, and overall health. The planting of these seeds causes the dust-like particles of pesticides to spread in the air and come in contact with foraging resources within 100 meters of a colony. For this study the objective was to better understand how colony mortality was effected during peak corn planting periods. It was hypothesized that sites containing colonies in low corn density locations would have lower honey bee mortality than sites located in high density corn areas. To do this, sites representing high, intermediate, and low agricultural densities were chosen and three hives at each were given dead bee traps. Twice a week, dead bees were collected and counted. Consistent trends were seen supporting the hypothesis, that there was a spike in mortality around the time of peak corn planting and it was greater at high corn density sites. These findings are consistent with the majority of research claiming that neonicotinoids have harmful impacts on non-target species such as honey bees and can reduce their numbers. As honey bees and other important pollinators struggle to adapt to changing climate and industrialization, it is crucial to understand what actions need to be taken to support them as much as possible and mitigate negative human impact.