Biologists Reveal Negative Impact of Pesticides on Honey Bees
New research shows pesticides can significantly impair the ability of honey bees to fly. This new discovery stirred fear among biologists that with the impact of pesticides to bee’s flying ability, it may hamper the insects’ essential ecosystem functions as well.
According to the biologists at the University of California San Diego, neonicotinoid pesticides, a kind of crop insecticides that are commonly used in agriculture, can impair the ability of bees to fly, particularly affecting flight distance, duration and velocity.
This new discovery was confirmed by Simone Tosi, UC San Diego postdoctoral researcher and Professor James Nieh, along with Associate Professor Giovanni Burgio of the University of Bologna, Italy.
Tosi said, “Our results provide the first demonstration that field-realistic exposure to this pesticide alone, in otherwise healthy colonies, can alter the ability of bees to fly.”
This research was published in Scientific Reports.
The Study and Result
To test the hypothesis that the pesticide impairs flight ability, the researchers designed and constructed a flight mill (a bee flight-testing instrument) from scratch which allowed them to fly bees under consistent and controlled conditions.
The tests lasted for months. Later, based on the data collected, the researchers found long-term exposure to the pesticide over one to two days reduced the ability of bees to fly. However, short-term exposure yielded interesting results. The researchers observed that there was an increase of activity levels. This time, the bees flew farther but more erratically.
The researchers concluded that short term exposure to pesticides does not normally kill bees immediately. However, it has a more subtle effect. But the researchers warned that a sub-lethal dose may lead to a lethal effect on the entire colony in the long run.
The researchers believed that survival of bees depends so much on their ability to fly. It’s the only way they can collect food.
Aside from that, their flight ability is also crucial to guarantee crop and wild plant pollination.
Most importantly, honey bees play a vital role in the ecosystem,carrying out functions for global pollination of crops. That is why the research brought a spotlight on the need to preserve honey bee populations. Failure to do so, it is feared, will impact food security and human welfare.
Biologist James Nieh said, “People are concerned about honey bees and their health being impaired because they are so closely tied to human diet and nutrition. Some of the most nutritious foods that we need to consume as humans are bee-pollinated.”