Pesticides and bumblebees

Bumblebees are in trouble.

The odds of spotting the hardworking pollinators in Europe and America down by more than 30% since the last century. Pesticides, along with the climate crises and declining habitat, have been blamed for their declining numbers. And in a new study published Tuesday, scientists examined exactly how bumblebees are affected by pesticides by scanning bumble bee brains and testing their learning abilities.

They found that baby bees can feel the effects of the food contaminated by pesticides brought back by worker bees into the colony, making them poorer at performing tasks later in life.

Dr. Richard Gill, a senior lecturer in the Imperial College London's the Department of Life Sciences and an author of the study, compared it to how a fetus might be damaged by a harmful substance in the womb.

"Bee colonies act as superorganisms, so when any toxins enter the colony, these have the potential to cause problems with the development of the baby bees within it," he said

"Worryingly in this case, when young bees are fed on pesticide-contaminated food, this caused parts of the brain to grow less, leading to older adult bees possessing smaller and functionally impaired brains; an effect that appeared to be permanent and irreversible."

The loss of bumblebees can contribute to decreasing biodiversity and potentially impact our food supply, with the bees pollinating plants such as cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, blueberries and melons.

(c) CNN 03/01/2020

Close this Window