New Study Finds That Bee-Killing Neonicotinoid Pesticides Are Harming Hummingbirds Too

By On March 6, 2018

“No one has ever measured pesticides in hummingbirds before. So we decided to try it.”

These are the words of Christine Bishop, a researcher from Environment and Climate Change Canada, who began to study whether or not pesticides are affecting the delicate, beautiful hummingbirds as much as bee colonies in recent times.

The study, which will officially published sometime in 2018, looked at urine samples of the birds to see whether or not they may be storing common agricultural pesticides in their bodies, which could be bad news for the highly sensitive creatures.

What they found does not bode well for the future of the species, if we continue going down the same path, of course.

Pesticides Found in Bodies of Hummingbirds

As discussed in this article from CBC in Canada, hummingbirds have been shown to be carrying around pesticide residues in their urine, according to the researchers.

Some species of the birds in North America are in a severe decline and a British Columbia research scientist theorized that the cause could potentially be similar to what’s been happening with the honeybee population.

“It turns out, to our surprise actually, that the birds are obviously picking up pesticides in their food, which can be nectar and also insects,” Bishop said according to the article. The amount of pesticide residues found in their urine was “relatively high” at three parts per billion, the article stated.

“Now what does it mean? Right now we’re just understanding what the level of exposure is, and then how is it affecting the population, well that’s part of the population dynamics,” she said.

Population Continues to Decrease Much Like Bees

The study was focused on farming regions in the Fraser Valley and southern British Columbia, the main area where the red-throated rufous hummingbirds are found.

The hummingbird population has declined about 2.67 percent per year from 1966 to 2013, the article added, along with two other local species.

Could neonicotinoid pesticides including imidacloprid, which is being reevaluated by Health Canada currently, be part of the issue? The organization said that they are evaluating Bishop’s work and will publish their own findings and interpretations sometime this year, but already the pesticide has been shown to have potential effects on bees in both the long and short term, including a change in behavior and mortality.

Bishop expects to complete her study in the next three years and says “we can’t rule it out” as to whether or not pesticides could be causing hummingbird declines.

Much published research has linked these chemicals to the deaths of bees and other beneficial insects in the field already, and organic farming has repeatedly been shown to be far better for biodiversity than GMOs, chemicals and monocultures. Monarch butterflies have also been decimated by pesticides according to recent studies.

Habitat loss, seasonal plants blooming at the wrong time of year, or even an increase in the deer population because of animals eating the same flowers that hummingbirds rely on could also be culprits in this case, the researchers said.

For more information on the first-of-its-kind hummingbird study, check out the fully story by clicking on this link.