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Colony Collapse Disorder, which is causing a significant decline in bee populations, has been associated with everything from pesticides to cell phones. And while it’s almost certainly due to a combination of factors (primarily pesticides), a team at the University of Illinois believes that they’ve found an additional culprit in the plight of bees: high fructose corn syrup.

bees, colony collapse disorder, pesticides, high fructose corn syrupPhoto via Shutterstock

High fructose corn syrup has some serious opponents, and that’s before we even consider the bees. The sticky stuff has been found to contribute to obesity and rising rates of diabetes, not to mention it has a fearsome and oft unethical lobby behind it. But it’s not just humans who are gulping down corn syrup. Since the 1970s, when research found that it is “safe” to do so, some farmers have been feeding corn syrup to bees.

The corn syrup is given to the bees for nourishment once their honey has been taken away for human consumption, and while this might be surprising, the U.Illinois team does not believe that it is the corn syrup itself that is harming the bees, per se. Rather, the fact that the bees are consuming corn syrup in place of honey, is leaving the bees vulnerable to toxicity.

As Physorg explains “when bees are exposed to the enzyme p-coumaric, their immune system appears stronger—it turns on detoxification genes. P-coumaric is found in pollen walls, not nectar, and makes its way into honey inadvertently via sticking to the legs of bees as they visit flowers. Similarly, the team discovered other compounds found in poplar sap that appear to do much the same thing.” Meaning that the bees are, in effect, create their own detoxifying diet.

And that’s a detox diet that is really quite helpful when exposed to pesticides.

+ Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences

+ University of Illinois

Via Physorg