Bees are getting addicted to pesticides, and it might be killing them

A new study shows that bees are becoming addicted to pesticides, and it's not good news for their decreasing population.

In a study conducted by Newcastle University, it was shown that bees have a preference for sugar solutions that contain the pesticides imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – this indicates that there is a possibility they can be hooked on certain chemicals. Another study published in the journal Nature has provided conclusive evidence that the group of pesticides can harm wild bee populations such as bumblebees and solitary bees.

Lund University in Sweden carried out the first successful experiment on the effect these particular pesticides have on bees, and found that wild bee populations have halved around the fields that were treated with them. To be specific: bumblebee hives stopped growing and produced less queens when the chemical was present.

“At this point in time it is no longer credible to argue that agricultural use of neonicotinoids does not harm wild bees.”
- Dave Goulson, bee expert of Sussex University.

Nick von Westenholz, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, argues with the evidence, stating that the results were questionable as the pesticide used in the experiment was higher than in previous studies. He also claims that industry standard pesticides were not used in the experiment. Moreover, he stated that the field trial was not sensitive enough to detect anything less than a 20% drop in bee colony strength.

“Much longer periods would be required to detect deficits in honeybee colonies.”
- Dr Christopher Connolly, Medical Research Institute, Dundee

Scientists suggest that the chemicals, which have similar molecular structures to that of nicotine, may be affecting the bee's brains in the same way humans are affected by cigarettes. Like nicotine, they are essentially amplifying the rewarding properties of the sucrose solution. The bees think it's more rewarding so they go back to drink from it. Previous studies have shown rats react in the same way to these chemicals.

Pesticide industry officials have commented, saying that even if there were a preference, there was no effect on the bees' health. Goulson responded by pointing out that even before the study was published, "there was already a large body of evidence which very strongly suggested that exposure of bees to neonicotinoids at field-realistic doses did them substantial harm."

While it seems to be the subject of debate right now, scientific evidence usually trumps all else in these particular cases.

We have reported before on what our fresh produce choices without bees would look like, and it's a pretty serious the situation.

Of course, we hope that these pesticides aren't doing anything more than making bees happy, but there now seems to be conclusive evidence they have a harmful impact on bee populations.

One this you can do immediately to help save the bees is stop using chemical pesticides. See how you can make your own natural pesticide here.

What you can do

Sustainable farming to reduce negative impact on the environment

This activity recognises small-scale farm-based activities that reduce carbon footprint and other adverse environmental impacts e.g. grass-fed stock, organic or chemical free farming, managing soil biomass, revegetation of riparian zones etc

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savings pledged
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