Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Low Doses of Pesticides Make It Harder for Bees to Find Flowers

Animals
Low doses of most pesticides impair bees' learning and memory. Richard / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

A review of a decade of research of the impact of pesticides on bees found that even low doses commonly used in agriculture hurt the bees' learning and memory, a Royal Holloway, University of London press release reported.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology, found the bees' ability to remember floral scents was harmed even by pesticides not covered by Europe's recent ban on neonicotinoids.


"Importantly, as the near-total European ban on neonicotinoid insecticides is set to be implemented in December this year, our results showed that non-neonicotinoid insecticides also have a robust significant negative impact on bee learning and memory," study author and Royal Holloway Ph.D. student Harry Siviter said in the press release.

This has major implications for those hoping to craft bee-friendly agricultural policy.

Ohio State University entomologist Reed Johnson, who was not involved in the study, told Popular Science that the question for bee advocates is, "Can pesticides ever be used safely around bees?"

This study "suggests that the answer is 'no,'" he wrote in an email.

To reach this conclusion, Siviter and three other researchers from Royal Holloway looked at data from more than 100 experiments conducted as part of 23 studies, according to Popular Science.

The studies used a strategy called the "proboscis extension assay" to test bee learning. When a bee approaches nectar, it starts to stick out its tongue. The studies exposed bees to pesticides and then looked to see how long it took bees to stick out their tongues when prompted to forage, if they stuck them out at all.

The conclusion that pesticides impact bee learning and memory has important consequences for bee survival, because worker bees need to remember foraging routes, which types of flowers to visit and which individual flowers they have already drained.

"Bees have a very difficult job," Siviter told Popular Science.

The findings also have important implications for less-studied wild bees who do not live in colonies.

"[I]f their learning or memory are affected, there are no other bees to help out or pick up the slack," University of Guelph scientist Elizabeth Bates, who was not involved with the research, told Popular Science.

Siviter hoped the paper would help politicians craft even more robust plans to protect bees as they build on the neonicotinoid ban.

"Our findings therefore highlight the need for policy makers and regulators to increasingly consider the sub-lethal impacts of insecticides on important pollinators such as bees," he said in the press release.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less
A man pushes his mother in a wheelchair down Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami on May 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.

Read More Show Less
To better understand how people influence the overall health of dolphins, Oklahoma State University's Unmanned Systems Research Institute is developing a drone to collect samples from the spray that comes from their blowholes. Ken Y. / CC by 2.0

By Jason Bruck

Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.

Read More Show Less

Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks. jacqueline / CC by 2.0

By Kelli McGrane

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.

Read More Show Less