Two new and separate studies published Wednesday in the Nature journal are similar in nature, though ultimately different from each other at the end of the day. But they do combine to provide some disturbing findings about wild bees and neonicotinoid insecticides.
The first of the studies provides more information on the harmful effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees, further proving that these pesticides play a big role in colony collapse disorder, while also harming human food supply. The second study is seemingly more disturbing, as it shows that wild bumblebees don’t avoid these nicotine-based pesticides. Instead, they actually prefer eating food treated with neonicotinoids, and effectively get hooked to the pesticides as their health ultimately suffers.
The main cause of the recent decline in bee populations has yet to be determined with finality. But some scientists believe neonicotinoid pesticides are the culprit; these insecticides have been banned in the United Kingdom for two years, but remain very popular in the United States. Neonicotinoids are thought to be benign for humans, as their main target is nerve receptors in invertebrate animals like bees. But the two studies both point to the pesticides being a big contributor in the rapid decline in bee populations.
A study conducted by Sweden’s Lund University included 16 fields planted with canola seeds – half of them were treated with neonicotinoids, while the other half were left as is. The study showed that bees – domestic honeybees and wild bumblebees alike – were both affected by the pesticides, with the effect on wild bees more significant.
As for the second study, which was conducted by scientists from Newcastle University and Trinity College Dublin, bees were shown to be hooked on neonicotinoids. It was shown that bees didn’t detect the change in taste from sweet to bitter when they were made to try sugar treated with the pesticide. Worse, bumblebees seemed to be more likely to get addicted to neonicotinoids than honeybees. According to study head Geraldine Wright, bees don’t avoid these pesticides as they can’t taste them in their food, which “(puts) them at risk of poisoning when they eat contaminated nectar.”