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Insects 2013, 4(1), 153-167; doi:10.3390/insects4010153

Balancing Control and Complexity in Field Studies of Neonicotinoids and Honey Bee Health

Department of Community & Environmental Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53705, USA
Received: 29 January 2013 / Revised: 29 January 2013 / Accepted: 16 February 2013 / Published: 5 March 2013
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Amidst ongoing declines in honey bee health, the contributory role of the newer systemic insecticides continues to be intensely debated. Scores of toxicological field experiments, which bee scientists and regulators in the United States have looked to for definitive causal evidence, indicate a lack of support. This paper analyzes the methodological norms that shape the design and interpretation of field toxicological studies. I argue that contemporary field studies of honey bees and pesticides are underpinned by a “control-oriented” approach, which precludes a serious investigation of the indirect and multifactorial ways in which pesticides could drive declines in honey bee health. I trace the historical rise to prominence of this approach in honey bee toxicology to the development of entomology as a science of insecticide development in the United States. Drawing on “complexity-oriented” knowledge practices in ecology, epidemiology, beekeeping and sociology, I suggest an alternative socio-ecological systems approach, which would entail in situ studies that are less concerned with isolating individual factors and more attentive to the interactive and place-based mix of factors affecting honey bee health.
Keywords: bee; field study; insecticide; colony collapse disorder bee; field study; insecticide; colony collapse disorder
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Suryanarayanan, S. Balancing Control and Complexity in Field Studies of Neonicotinoids and Honey Bee Health. Insects 2013, 4, 153-167.

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