Are bees getting hooked on pesticides?
PARIS, France — Like nicotine for humans, certain pesticides seem to hold an addictive attraction for bees, which seek out tainted food even if it may be bad for them, research showed Wednesday.
Not only did bees show no signs of avoiding neonicotinoid-laced food in lab tests, they seemed to prefer it, a study published in the science journal Nature found.
“We now have evidence that bees prefer to eat pesticide-contaminated foods,” study author Geraldine Wright of Newcastle University said.
This suggests “that like nicotine, neonicotinoids may act like a drug to make foods containing these substances more rewarding,” she said.
Neonicotinoids are lab-synthesised pesticides based on the chemical structure of nicotine. They are widely used to treat crop seeds — designed to be absorbed by the growing plant and attack the nervous system of insect pests.
Previous research, however, has linked them to scrambling memory and navigation function in bees, affecting the little pollinators’ ability to forage.
Bees have been hit in Europe, North America and elsewhere by a phenomenon called “colony collapse disorder,” which has alternatively been blamed on mites, a virus or fungus, pesticides, or a combination of factors.
Bees account for 80 percent of plant pollination by insects — a function estimated to be worth at least $153 billion a year globally.
Pending clarity on the safety of neonicotinoids, a topic that is fiercely debated among scientists, environmentalists and agrochemical producers, the European Commission put a two-year restriction on their use in bee-attracting plants starting December 1, 2013.
A second study carried out by Nature on Wednesday found further evidence of risk for some bee species from neonicotinoids, which come in three types: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. Scientists in Sweden sowed eight fields with clothianidin-treated canola seeds, while another eight were untreated.
“The most dramatic result that we found was that bumble bee colonies almost didn’t grow at all at the…treated sites compared to the control sites,” project coordinator Maj Rundloef of Lund University said.
There were also fewer wild bees in the contaminated sites, but honeybee colonies did not appear to be affected.
‘Like a drug’
In the other study, Wright and her team used hundreds of bumble bees and thousands of honeybees in lab experiments. They allowing the bees to feed freely from either a sucrose solution with a neonicotinoid added to floral nectar, or one without.
“Foraging-age bees of both species did not avoid any of the concentrations of any of the three neonicotinoids,” Wright told AFP by email. “Instead, they chose to feed on tubes containing either imidacloprid or thiamethoxam,” she said.
Bees did not exhibit a preference for the third type, clothianidin.
“I believe that the experiments show that these compounds have a pharmacological effect on the bee’s brain,” she said.
This means that even if alternative food is provided for bees in areas where pesticides are used, a solution suggested by some, the insects may prefer to forage on the contaminated crops anyway.
You may be interested
Alert declared once more for Pacific slope due to heavy rainsKatherine Stanley - October 23, 2017
The National Meteorological Institute (IMN) has announced that rains are expected to increase significantly on Costa Rica's Pacific Slope beginning…
Women’s Hackathon takes place in San JoséThe Tico Times - October 23, 2017
More than 200 women from Central America, Mexico and the Dominican Republic gathered in San José over the weekend for…
Road safety in Costa Rica: the law of the jungle must rule no moreRoberto Guzmán - October 23, 2017
In the wake of the killing of another athlete in Costa Rica by a drunk driver, we feel impelled to…