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Common Pesticide Makes Honey Bees Picky Eaters

Common Pesticide Makes Honey Bees Picky Eaters

A new study offers further evidence about the dangerous effects of pesticides on honey bees. Biologists at the University of California at San Diego have found that a commonly used crop pesticide makes honey bees picky eaters and also makes them reduce the number of waggle dances they perform. Waggle dances are how the bees communicate the location of a food source; bees exposed to the pesticide performed four to ten times fewer dances.

Indeed, as Daren Eiri, a graduate student and the first author of the study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, says, some bees simply stopped performing waggle dances altogether after exposure to pesticides.

The chemical in question is imidacloprid, which is a type of neonicotinoid — which has been linked to bees’ deaths. Imidacloprid has come under increasing scrutiny in the US and is banned for use in some crops in some parts of Europe. James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who also authored the study, notes in Science Daily that, in 2006, imidacloprid was the sixth most commonly used pesticide in California. Besides being used in agriculture, it is also used in home gradens.

The scientists used different concentrations of sugar water to determine at what concentration bees would feed on it. They indeed found that bees exposed to imidacloprid were “less likely” to feed on law concentrations of sugar waters than those who had been exposed to such. Just a “small, single dose of imidacloprid” was enough to turn bees into “picky eaters,” who would only feed on “sweeter nectar and refused nectars of lower sweetness that they would normally feed on and that would have provided important sustenance for the colony,” notes Eri.

Beekeepers in the US and in Europe have lost about one-third of their managed bee colony every year due to colony collapse disorder, since 2006. Eri and the other researchers say they hope their research will have “implications for how pesticides are applied and used in bee-pollinated crops.”

How many more studies do we need to get the message out that imidacloprid is detrimental to bees?

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Photo by Ano Lobb. @healthyrx

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57 comments

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5:38AM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

Go organic people!!! Organic crops = NO PESTICIDES!

7:31AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

The human race really does seem intent on destroying itself; I am sure the earth would say good riddance.

6:51AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

I'm a beekeeper and haven't had any problems, yet. I allow my hives to swarm each spring and let them go. Swarming occurs when the queen ramps up egg production for the spring nectar flow and the hive gets crowded. The crowding triggers her swarming instinct and she leaves the hive with about 40% of the workers to establish a new colony. The remaining workers raise a new queen for the exisiting hive.
Most beekeepers, through careful hive management, prevent their hives from swarming because it causes a tremendous decrease in honey production but I let mine swarm because I feel we need to supplement the wild bee population with new wild colonies.

6:50PM PDT on May 30, 2012

The evil twins, the Muslims.

8:56AM PDT on May 30, 2012

hehe funny when you put it that way Jane B.

Why all this hate for the Catholic Church? If they disappeared who will play evil on earth?

5:39AM PDT on May 30, 2012

They are not picky eaters, this is for their survival !! More clever than stupid humans !!

11:50AM PDT on May 29, 2012

When we kill bee's we are killing ourselves. Once all the bees are gone all the plants they pollinated will also be gone. And we as well as many animals will die off.

10:27AM PDT on May 29, 2012

"Our main duty is to serve and protect, not dominate!"

Haha Tell that to the Catholic church, the government and the police.


7:07AM PDT on May 29, 2012

ban pesticides!

3:41AM PDT on May 29, 2012

Their is a provision, built right into our constitution for the government to buy. at a constitutionally established price, any patent the federal government decides is important to national defense. There are some fellow critters susceptible enough to various pesticides AND important enough to humans' lifestyle that it would be in enlightened self-interest to buy the patent on any pesticide that is shown to do more harm to human interests by harming fellow critters important to our lifestyles than good by harming fellow critters harmful to our lifestyle. Then we could suspend use of that pesticide until and unless we figured out how to use it without doing ourselves more harm than good.

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