State Officials Looking Into Beekeeper Concerns Over Pesticides That Could Kill Bees

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UPDATED: Monday May 12, 2014 6:05 PM

Bees are for more than making honey. They play a key role in the food supply and the economy.

And that's why state officials are studying what's happening on a local farm.

Beekeeper Isaac Barnes is worried that pesticides from a neighboring farm are killing his bees.

The state's top bee expert says he's right to be concerned.

Bees are Isaac Barnes' bread and butter.

He left behind his career as a teacher to launch Honeyrun Farm, a family-operated apiary.

"Our main thing is summer and fall honey. That's what we sell to the grocery stores," said Barnes.

Today, his concern is spring planting by his neighbor who happens to be a cousin.

"The corn was planted, and that's when this whole thing started," he said.

It was last week that he noticed concerning behavior from his bees.

"They were on their backs. I threw this cardboard down just to run a little experiment, and sure enough, within a day, several hundred foragers out there squirming on their backs, kind of writhing around, and then dying."

Though the die-off was small compared to others he's heard of, it was enough to get the attention of Barbara Bloetscher with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

She tracks the health of the honeybee population across the state.

"Honeybees are very important to agriculture. We need every single honeybee we can have,” she said.

Ironic then, that Barnes believes agriculture could be what's killing his bees.

"I'm pointing my finger at the seed treatment that's on the corn," he said.

The treatment he's referring to is a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, which have been banned in Europe.

"It's very controversial,” said Bloetscher. “And they still don't know. They don't know what's going on."

She says there's conflicting evidence about neonicotinoids impacting bee populations.

On Monday, she collected both live and dead bees from Barnes' farm for study.

"I don't blame him for being concerned,” she said.

"When something's out there on the market, and you're seeing this kind of thing happen, it's just scary," said Barnes.

Barnes' neighbor and cousin didn't want to talk to 10TV on camera, but said he's also concerned about the bees.

He says he's following the advice of his seed dealer to make the best crop possible.

10TV called the company that makes the seed in question. They did not return our calls.

The state says a chemical analysis of the dead bees could take months.

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