A recent study published in the journal Nature suggests that bees are attracted to nectar which contains common pesticides. Consequently this increases their chances of exposure to pesticides. The study was conducted by researchers from Trinity College Dublin and Newcastle University. The research is part of the Insect Pollinators Initiative which deals with finding the cause and consequences of insect pollinator threats and also supporting the development of mitigation strategies.
It seems that buff-tailed bumblebees and honeybees are not able to taste the neonicotinoid chemicals which are the most commonly used pesticides and therefore they do not avoid them. Scientists were surprised to see that when the bees had to choose between sugar solution and sugar solutions which contained neonicotinoids they went for the second option.
Bumblebees ate more pesticides than the honeybees which indicates that they are exposed to higher portions of toxins. According to the scientists neonicotinoids affect the same brain mechanism both in bee and human brain. Scientists fear that these substances may act like a drug so as to make some foods more rewarding.
Pollinating insects such as bees play an important role in increasing crop yields. While they pollinate crops the pesticides contained in pollen and floral nectar may affect the bees. Previous studies have shown that neonicotinoids have a bad impact on bee fitness and foraging habits. The public concern regarding this matter has increased. The EU temporarily prohibited the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops in April 2013 until more technical and scientific data was collected.
The lead author of the study, Professor Geraldine Wright from the Institute of Neuroscience (Newcastle University) declared:
“If foraging bees prefer to collect nectar containing neonicotinoids, this could have a knock-on negative impact on whole colonies and on bee populations.”
According to professor Jane Stout, Principal Investigator at the School of Natural Sciences (Trinity College Dublin), the findings of the study suggest that even if bees are provided with alternative food sources in agricultural landscapes where such dangerous pesticides are not used the bees will still prefer neonicotinoid-contaminated crops. Another factor which makes things worse is the fact that neonicotinoids can also reach wild plants which grow in the neighborhood of the crops. This means that the pesticides can be much more frequent in the bees’ diets than it was previously imagined.
Image Source: Sussex