A recent study published in the journal Nature finds that honeybees are attracted to nectar containing basic pesticides, a trend that could further push the insects to the brink of extinction.
The study, published by Trinity College Dublin and Newcastle University, in conjunction with the Insect Pollinators Initiative, found bees are most attracted to nectar containing pesticides.
It appears honeybees and bumblebees enjoy neonicotinoid chemicals, the most regularly utilized pesticides and consequently they fail to evade them. Researchers were astounded to see that when honeybees where given the choice between regular sugar arrangement and sugar arrangements containing neonicotinoids, the bees chose the latter.
In an attempt to determine whether bees were addicted to pesticides, researchers created two different feeding stations, one of which was laced with pesticides. Researchers were surprised to discover the bees were not only more attracted to the substance containing the pesticide, but they regularly sought out the sugary substance containing pesticides more often than not.
The researchers noted that the pesticides seemed to influence the same cerebrum systems both in honeybees and in humans, indicating that the bee brains may be impacted in a similar manner. Researchers theorize these substances may have a similar effect on the human mind as drugs.
The research comes as bumblebees, for example, remain a vital part of the agricultural industry. While fertilizing crops, the bees often come in contact with pesticides contained in dust and botanical nectar. Past studies have demonstrated that pesticides have a negative effect on honeybees wellness. The EU incidentally outlaws the utilization of neonicotinoid pesticides on harvests in April 2013, saying additional research was needed in order to determine the safety of the practices.
“In the event that scrounging honey bees like to gather nectar containing neonicotinoids, this could have a thump on negative effect on entire settlements and on honey bee populaces,” said lead author of the study, Professor Geraldine Wright from the Institute of Neuroscience (Newcastle University).
It remains unclear exactly how pesticides impact bees in general. A number of studies have sought to discover a correlation between colony collapse disorder and pesticide lacing. However, the jury is still out on whether pesticides are contributing to the demise of the common honeybee and bumblebee. Bees cannot taste the pesticides in their food, and therefore do not avoid pesticides. According to researchers, this puts the bees at risk of poisoning when they eat contaminated nectar, and may contribute to over consumption of the pesticides themselves.