At the beginning of Bee Movie, Jerry Seinfeld explains in a voiceover, “According to all known laws of aviation,” bees should not be able to fly. But the bee flies anyway “because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.”
Well, maybe the bees should start caring, because humans surely have something to do with the fact they are dying globally at an alarming rate. A new study from the Institute of Bee Health, published by Proceedings of the Royal Society B, finds that a common insecticide—presumably created by humans—suppresses the male honey bee’s ability to produce sperm.
Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticide commonly used in the US, although they have been temporarily banned in the EU since 2013. The most recent study found that male honeybees, also known as drones, who ate pollen treated with neonicotinoids produced 39% less sperm than drones who ate unaffected pollen.
Basically, these pesticides serve as a quasi-effective form of male birth control for bees.
Geoffrey Williams, co-author of the study and senior bee researcher at the University of Bern, told the AP that they aren’t sure “how the insecticides might be damaging the sperm, but it seems to be happening after they are produced.”
“There’s a reduction in sperm viability and the amount of living sperm, but that doesn’t mean there’s no living sperm at hand,” said the lead author of the study Lars Straub.
There is no singular reason the bees are dying and neonicotinoids are surely not the sole cause. Nevertheless, we can add this to a very long list of ways humans are destroying our precious, precious planet.