What's next for research?
Entomologists working on field studies have their own plans for taking their research forward. Bumblebee researcher Raine is working on further studies for the U.K., including surveys to better determine how much pesticide bees pick up on their bodies or eat in pollen and honey when they live outdoors, for example. Derek Artz, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researcher who worked on the mesh-caged field study, plans a study in the open field. That will let him see whether the two solitary bee species he studies simply abandon nesting sites near crops treated with fungicides, a suspected coping strategy.
Ultimately, however, it may be impossible to perfectly answer all of scientists' and regulators' questions about the effects of pesticides on bees. "There's thousands of chemicals out there," Ohio State's Johnson says. "If you're going to require field studies for all of them, is there enough land area on the Earth to do all these studies?" To address this problem, the EPA and the USDA are developing mathematical models to test every possible combination of pesticides, bee species and crops.