Bees treated with light therapy bounce back from pesticide poisoning at surprising rates, a new study found. Pesticides threaten the world’s already unstable global bee population, but this new treatment, which involves installing infrared lights directly into hives, could significantly improve survival rates.
Researchers at the University College London saw a need to improve bee’s odds against neonicotinoid pesticides, which reduce their mobility and render them unable to feed themselves. “Neonicotinoid pesticides are a persistent threat to global bee populations, which play a critical role in agriculture,” said lead study author and Professor Glen Jeffery of UCL’s Institute of Opthamology. By interfering with mitochondrial function and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, this specific kind of pesticide can do a great deal of damage.
The researchers, who published their findings in PLoS One, exposed two samples of bees to the neonicotinoid Imidacloprid for 10 days. One group was given twice daily treatments of near infrared light therapy, which was found to greatly improve ATP production, mobility, and rate of survival in comparison to the control group. Even more impressive, bees that had not been poisoned also showed an increase in survival rate after receiving the groundbreaking therapy.
The treatment is especially promising because the near infrared light is not detectable by the bees, and therefore does not interfere with their daily activity. “It’s beneficial even for bees that aren’t affected by pesticides, so light therapy can be an effective means of preventing loss of life in case a colony becomes exposed to neonicotinoids,” said Professor Jeffery. “Essentially, it recharges the cell’s batteries.”