Poor bees. Not only do they have problems with Colony Collapse Disorder and pollutants affecting the quality and color of their honey, they also have to worry about coming into contact with a barrage of pesticides on their flights for food. A new paper published in the scientific journal Nature has shown that foraging bumblebees exposed to the chemicals are twice as likely to die than those not exposed, and are only half as efficient in collecting food.

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A study published this month in Nature has found that pesticide exposure severely affects the health of individual and colony-level traits in bees. Widespread use of chemicals in agriculture means that bees come into regular contact with toxins, killing or weakening the insects. Most of the current tests designed to measure the health of bee populations have been shown to be problematic in a couple of ways.  First, they primarily focus on honeybee populations and not bumblebees, who are much larger in size and live in colonies of dozens instead of hundreds. Important crops, such as tomatoes, rely solely on bumblebees for pollination.

Additionally, many tests only require 96 hours of exposure. The study lead by a research team from the University of London collected data over a period of three weeks, and found far more damaging evidence of pesticide exposure. “If we had done our study for just 96 hours, our conclusions would have been very different,” says Nigel Raine, one of the paper’s contributors. Pesticides are also only scrutinized individually, not in combination where they can accumulate and do the most harm.

The UK study of the insects also finds that previous reports have neglected important differences between honeybees and bumblebees, that there has been lack of adequate time spent investigating the problems, and that the government has a woeful lack of regulation to help preserve the health of such an important pollinator.

Currently, the UK is reviewing the issue with a formal parliamentary investigation and call for evidence that is open until on November 2. In a country that has a history of weak pesticide regulation, we can only hope that this new information helps to sway the government into lending a helping hand to to an insect that is so closely tied to our collective food security.

+ Nature

Via The Daily Mail

Images via Wikimedia Commons