New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

Why are the honey bees dying? Neonicotinoids are back!

Team: 61

School: Las Cruces YWiC

Area of Science: Botany


Interim: Problem Definition :
How can this happen, all of our precious bees are dying?!? In the past 2 years there has been a wide spread of honey bee populations dropping! Why you may ask, neonicotinoids (neonics) that’s why. Neonicotinoids have been a real problem to the insects, farmers, and especially the bees.

Neonicotinoids are chemically close to nicotine and used as an insecticide. They were not used until 1980. They used them because they were less toxic than organophosphate, and carbamate. They also showed this insecticide is less toxic to mammals as well. Neonicotinoids have been banned from countries for being connected to honey-bee collapse disorder (CCD). The European Food Safety Authority showed neonicotinoids are a high risk to bees. The American Bird Conservancy and US Freedom of Information Act also banned Neonicotinoids on seeds for death of bees, birds, and aquatic invertebrates.Neonicotinoids are more than 24% of the market for insecticides. The goal of this project is to create a advanced, accurate, and sophisticated model including: bee populations,why they are dying, and how they are dying. In our program we plan to show the bees, crops, and where they are at. Color coating will be used, to show what has been infected. Based on how much insecticide is used, a certain number of bees will die off or be infected. 0.0037 micrograms of insecticides is all it took to kill 50% of bees in a test that was done.

Problem Solution:
Our environment will be set in the United States, and possibly have a focus on the Southwest region. The bees will be put into hives of approximately 600,000-800,000 bees. One bee in the program will resemble 6,000 bees, each hive will have 10-13 bees.

Progress to Date:
Without bees we wouldn't have good pollination. Our food supply is closely linked to pollination. Pollination is needed so plants fertilize and continue producing seeds. Without this, our fruit, vegetables, nuts, etc., wouldn't continue to develop good nutrients or they wouldn't be tasty and healthy.
One example of good pollination are bees using the Southwest plant in the desert called Creosote. This plant can be found throughout the region, including the Sierra Middle School desert patch. This plant is important because bees get the nectar from the Creosote in this region, and spread it to other plants for cross-pollination. Bees get the nectar from the little flowers that are on the Creosote.
Creosote can be, but is not often the target of insecticides. However, most crops receive some level of insecticide, to protect the growing food from beetles, disease, other insects, and more. Farmers, researchers, and other scientists are just now realizing how harmful the insecticides are to the bees who are critical in the process of helping food and crops develop and grow.
Insecticides contain neonicotinoids, which were adopted over 20 years ago. But of course back then, there were less toxic pesticides. Now, not only do these pesticides kill and effect the bees and wildlife, they also affect the workers. Actually the neonicotinoids are extremely effective but highly toxic, and some believe that they are having much more harmful effects than expected. When applied to the soil, sprayed on the crop, or used as a seed treatment, the neonicotinoids in the pesticides eventually reach the pollen and nectar, which is ingested by insects and bees. “There is no direct link demonstrated between neonicotinoids and the honey bee syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). However, recent research suggests that neonicotinoids may make honey bees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens, including the intestinal parasite Nosema, which has been implicated as one causative factor in CCD” (Hopwood, 2012).
On our programming results we used Star Logo. We have the bees on a normal day getting nectar from the flowers. Then, the neonicotinoids comes and infects the bees. The bees get infected then pass it on. So first what happens is there are bees with flowers everywhere on a normal day (setup) so when one or two bees come to the flower and touch it they become infected and they pass it on. Also there is a (run) bar which makes them run everywhere.
An “infections bar” is incorporated so you can see the percentage of bees getting infected. Also there’s a “line graph,” which collects the data. When the line goes up it means that the percentage of the bees dying is up. And one more thing is a “recovery bar.” When you slide the bubble on the right they turn back to their original color. And so does the line graph change. When the recovery of the bees are high then the line goes down. When 2 bees touch they will infect each other.

Expected Results: (November 19-26)
After we finish our project, our program should consist of several different components. Our hives that contain about 600,000 bees, which will be represented by only ten characters. On the field we will have three different types of crops. Every crop will have Neonicotinoids. One will give a little amount of energy. Another crop will give a lot of energy. The third crop will be corn but it will only affect the bees, because of the neonicotinoids. No energy will not be taken or given. However, if the bees go a certain distance from the hive and they go back energy will be taken away. Once the bees energy has gone down to 0% they will die. This will be shown through the color of the bees. We are expecting that bees with a lot of energy won’t be very affected by the neonicotinoids. Sick bees with low energy will die quickly.


Team Members:

  Abigail Alberson
  Mustafa Muhyi

Sponsoring Teacher: Susana Bali

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