Bees get hooked on harmful pesticide - study

2018-08-30 06:15

Bumblebees acquire a taste for food laced with a pesticide known to harm them, according to a study suggesting the chemicals pose an even greater threat to pollinators than previously thought.

In experiments, researchers showed that bees initially put off by sugar water containing neonicotinoids – the most widely-used class of insecticide worldwide – soon started seeking them out to the exclusion of untainted food.

The findings were published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Neonicotinoids, earlier research has shown, disrupt the ability of bees to reproduce and lower their resistance to disease.

"At first, it appeared that the bees did avoid the food containing the pesticide," said lead author Andres Arce, a researcher at Imperial College London.

"However, as individual bees increasingly experience the treated food they develop a preference for it."

Even when the position of their feeders was switched, the pollinators made a beeline for the one laced with insecticide.

Declining health

Neonicotinoids target nerve receptors in insects much in the way nicotine – the addictive ingredient in tobacco – does in humans and other mammals.

"Our findings... tick certain symptoms of addictive behaviour, which is intriguing given the addictive properties of nicotine on humans," said lead researcher Richard Gill, also from Imperial.

Unlike contact pesticides, which remain on the plant surface, neonicotinoids are absorbed by seeds and transported to leaves, flowers, roots, and stems as the plant grows.

Several countries have banned forms of the insecticide, mainly due to its impact on Nature's little helpers.

In the European Union, three neonicotinoid-based products will be off-limits in open fields starting on December 19. France has banned five chemical variants starting Saturday.

Canada recently announced it would phase out two neonicotinoids used on canola, corn, and soybean crops.

Widely used over the last two decades, neonicotinoids were designed to control sap-feeding insects such as aphids and root-feeding grubs.

In recent years, fears have been growing over the declining health of bees globally, and the possible role of neonicotinoids.

Pesticides have been blamed as a cause of colony collapse disorder, along with mites, viruses, and fungi, or some combination.

The United Nations warned last year that 40% of invertebrate pollinators – particularly bees and butterflies – risk global extinction.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    insects

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.