Think a nicotine addiction is bad for you? Well, it’s nothing compared to the bees who are getting addicted to it from neonicotinoid pesticides. Made by companies like Bayer and Syngenta, proponents of the pesticides say they benefit crops by boosting yields and destroying pests, but they also affect the reproduction rates and colony growth of several bee species.
But logic would indicate that the same aspects of the pesticide that destroys “pests” such as aphids and grubs would also destroy other insects—like bees. To find out if neonicotinoids were causing a drop in the bee population, Geraldine Wright of Newcastle University and her colleagues decided to test bees and their reaction to it. They offered the insects a choice of sugar water or water containing a low dose of neonicotinoid pesticide.
Shockingly, the team found that the bees drank more of the pesticide-containing solution, indicating that bees in the wild also would. Even though the drug affects motor function and the ability of the bees to collect food and forage, they still like it just enough to keep going back. Sounds a lot like the affect nicotine has on humans, too.
In a separate study, Swedish researchers found that oilseed rape sown from seeds that were covered in neonicotinoids decreased the density of wild bees, and reduced solitary bee nesting and bumblebee colony growth. “At this point in time it is no longer credible to argue that agricultural use of neonicotinoids does not harm wild bees,” said David Goulson, a biologist at the University of Sussex, who was not involved in either of the research efforts.