Study finds lethal combination of chemicals accidentally kills bees

Almond buds in bloom on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (KBAK/KBFX)

MCFARLAND, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Millions of bees buzzing in Kern County signals the beginning of almond pollination season. This year there's a warning for farmers who have been harming their bees without even knowing it.

A study from The Ohio State University, in partnership with the Almond Board of California, found that insecticides thought to be harmless to bees, when combined with a fungicide also thought to be safe to spray around bees, created a toxic cocktail that resulted in bee deaths.

Donald Davis set out 700 bee boxes on Saturday to pollinate his 420 acres of almonds in northern Kern County.

"If you're bringing in 700 hives, you're talking about $140,000 for something I'm just renting for one month, but you've got to have them."

During that month, he traditionally stops spraying insecticide on the almond trees, in case it harms the bees.

"We try to limit it to just fungicide, and we try to just spray one fungicide at a time," Davis said.

He's doing the right thing, according to Reed Johnson, associate professor of etymology at The Ohio State University.

Johnson began studying the effects of pesticides on bees back in 2012, and noticed in 2014 bees were dying from pesticides at an alarming rate.

"That really, I guess, was a watershed year, indicating that there really was a, a bigger problem here that needed to be addressed," Johnson said.

The Almond Board of California has since released an updated handbook of best practices, highlighting this finding.

"There were a significant amount of acreages that were, were doing this, and now that has substantially dropped, and we really don't have the problems that we had before," Bob Curtis, consultant with the Almond Board, said.

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