According to researchers at Newcastle University and Trinity College in Dublin, bees feel a stronger attraction towards nectar from plants that have been treated with pesticide. The exposure to high levels of pesticides might turn very harmful for the little insects, as it exposes them to high levels of toxins.
The study was published in Nature and was supported by the Insect Pollinators Initiative, in collaboration with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Defra, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Scottish Government and the Wellcome Trust, being also funded by the Irish Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland, and National Science Foundation. It established that both honeybees and buff-tailed bumblebees were unable to taste the neonicotinoid -based pesticides from nectar. As they could not perceive the difference, it was proved that shortly after that, not only did they not avoid food containing this substance but they showed an inclination towards it. The study also revealed that bumblebees showed more preference for sugar solution containing pesticides than honeybees. The lead scientist of the study, Professor Geraldine Wright said that the pesticide the bees are ingesting is tasteless for them but it basically has a poisoning effect. This can lead to important losses from many points of view. The bees have a crucial role in increasing crop production, as they help pollinating plants. They have been estimated at € 153 billion worldwide. A couple of years ago, in 2013, a ban was introduced on the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides on crops, to allow experts to carry out studies and establish how harmful the substance is.
The study led by Professor Geraldine Wright also revealed why the bees prefer plants that have been treated with these types of pesticides. The answer might be that neonicotinoids have about the same effects on them as nicotine has on humans. Thus, they could affect the bee brain and create an addiction. This would have an incredibly negative impact because it might affect the vast majority of bee population, as long as they choose nectar that has been poisoned with these pesticides. However, there is no scientific proof yet regarding bees’ addiction to neonicotinoid, so it only remains a hypothesis. Further studies are to be carried out to determine if it is true.
Experts say the bee population is already in decline. Research shows that bees from U.S.A. and Europe die faster for a wide variety of causes. Among these, pesticide use is an important factor.
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