Bumblebees & Pesticides: Bees Affected By Exposure Face Problems

March 17, 2016 | By Garrett Montgomery More

Bumblebees exposed to pesticides have lost the ability to learn the skills they need to collect nectar and pollen. According to a new study by Canadian scientists, pesticides cause diseases and the decline of bumblebee populations around the world.

Bumblebees pesticides

Bumblebees and pesticides simply do not go well together. A group of scientists from Canada and England have published a study that explains why bumblebee populations worldwide have been decreasing in the past years.

The study on the effects of pesticides on bumblebees and other pollinating insects was published in Functional Ecology on Monday. The researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada and Royal Holloway University of London discovered that bumblebees “exposed to a realistic level of a neonicotinoid insecticide called thiamethoxam, collected more pollen but took longer to do so than control bees.”

The researchers concluded that the chemicals affected the bumblebees’ learning abilities, which is why they struggled to collect food. The study goes on to say if the bees are unable to extract nutritious nectar and pollen that they need, it will make their chances of surviving less likely. University of Guelph professor and senior author Nigel Raine said:

“Bees rely on learning to locate flowers, track their profitability and work-out how best to efficiently extract nectar and pollen. If exposure to low levels of pesticide affects their ability to learn, bees may struggle to collect food and impair the essential pollination services they provide to both crops and wild plants.”

According to co-author Dara Stanley at Royal Holloway University of London, pesticides could impair the ability of other insects to pollinate both crops and wild plants, which can ultimately harm the food supply. Stanley stated:

“Bumblebees exposed to pesticide initially foraged faster and collected more pollen. However unexposed (control) bees may be investing more time and energy in learning.”

She added:

“Our findings have important implications for society and the economy as pollinating insects are vital to support agriculture and wild plant biodiversity.Our results suggest that current levels of pesticide-exposure could be significantly affecting how bees are interacting with wild-plants, and impairing the crucial pollination services they provide that support healthy ecosystem function.”

In 2015, a study published in the journal Plos One revealed that bees may be declining because they are suffering dementia caused by eating large amounts of aluminium.


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