Technology Pesticides are making bees dumber

20:56  12 july  2018
20:56  12 july  2018 Source:   popsci.com

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Current pesticide regulations are geared toward making sure they aren’t used at levels that kill bees . But these currently legal amounts apparently make the worker bees dumber , which could have effects for species survival.

That pesticide is a controversial chemical called chlorpyrifos. The Environmental Protection Agency and the state of California proposed banning or at least imposing heavy restrictions on its use in the past due to reports that it makes farm workers sick.

a close up of a beach: a bee on the sidewalk © Pexels a bee on the sidewalk

You might associate honeybees and bumblebees with their cute, fuzzy shape and seemingly aimless interest in flowers. But beneath the yellow-and-black (mostly) stripes lies an incredible mind. A new study pooled evidence from 23 studies of honeybees and bumblebees: its conclusions, which build on years of bee research, point to the fact that levels of pesticides currently considered safe to use may still have a big effect on bee colony survival.

Although they might look simple, “bees have a very difficult job,” says study author Harry Siviter, a graduate student at Royal Holloway University of London. To efficiently find and collect food to bring back to the hive, worker bees have to quickly learn to recognize (and then memorize) the most effective foraging routes, he says. To top it off, the routes change with the seasons and with other factors. Honey bees even remember which flowers they’ve visited recently, so they don’t waste time going there again.

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"Well, bees are insects, and pesticides are designed to take out pest insects, but they're pretty indiscriminate." soluble – adj. capable of being dissolved in a liquid. nectar – n. a sweet liquid produced by plants and used by bees in making honey.

Stop Trying to Make Jeremy Renner Happen. Disabled Representation in Video Games and the Cyberpunk 2077 Problem. Besides showing the obvious disadvantage of a bunch of dumb bees flying around, the studies are also the first to show the direct affect of pesticides on pollinators like

All of this takes a good memory and an ability to learn—things that many lab studies have observed in honey bees using the “proboscis extension assay.” When a bee comes near the scent of sugary, delicious nectar, it starts to stick its tongue out. In experiments, researchers exposed bees to pesticides and then watched what they did when prompted to forage, looking to see when—and whether—they stuck their tongues out. Siviter and his colleagues took the data of 23 of these studies and performed a large-scale analysis of the results.

They found that doses of pesticides that are the equivalent of what a bee might encounter in a field “had significant negative effects on learning and memory.” That was true both when bees were suddenly exposed to a lot of pesticide, and when they got a little bit over a long time. It was also true regardless of whether the bees were exposed to neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides that has been around since the 1990s and is being increasingly regulated today, or other pesticides.

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Bumblebees exposed to pesticide produced workers with lower body mass, scientists find.

Are pesticides making bees dumber ? Apparently that's the case, according to new research. Recent findings suggest that the chemicals block a part of the brain that bees use for learning, rendering them unable to associate scents with food.

Current pesticide regulations are geared toward making sure they aren’t used at levels that kill bees. But these currently legal amounts apparently make the worker bees dumber, which could have effects for species survival. “Regulation and policy should move toward addressing the sub-lethal effects of pesticides,” Siviter says.

The other question these findings implicitly raise is how these pesticides affect less-studied types of bee. Bees don’t all live collectively, University of Guelph scientist Elizabeth Bates told Popular Science in an interview. “Many wild bees do not live in colonies,” she says, “and if their learning or memory are affected, there are no other bees to help out or pick up the slack.”

At the end of the day, Ohio State University entomologist Reed Johnson told Popular Science in an email interview, the question is: “Can pesticides ever be used safely around bees?” This study, which in one sense has the strength of 23 studies’ worth of evidence, “suggests that the answer is ‘no,’” he wrote.

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That pesticide is a controversial chemical called chlorpyrifos. They’ve determined that despite ingesting what’s considered a “safe” and extremely small dosage, the lab bees couldn’t learn or remember odors as well as specimens that weren’t exposed to the chemical could.

I’ve always been suspicious of pesticides , and I try to buy organic as much as possible, but a recent story in the New York Times surprised even me. Stuffing vegetables is a great way of using them to make a healthy one-dish meal. This tasty stuffing, of spiced lean lamb and bulgur, has a distinct

a insect on the ground: a bee eye © Pexels a bee eye

The follow-up question goes deep into one of our most fundamental needs—food. Pesticides are an essential part of large-scale industrial agriculture, and some amount of honeybee exposure is inevitable. The question, then—which hasn’t been answered by regulation to date, Johnson says—is how much harm to bees is acceptable.

As ever, more research is needed. But this study is worth paying attention to, University of Ottawa bee conservationist Jeremy Kerr told Popular Science. Its conclusions are based on evidence from over 100 individual experiments included in the 23 studies, he says, lending their findings weight. “The lesson that emerges is that honeybees begin to lose their ability to learn and to remember when they are exposed to neonicotinoids,” he writes.

The power of this paper is that it shows “a consensus of knowledge” on this question, he wrote. That result is something pesticide policy-makers could pay attention to. “With restrictions on neonicotinoids increasing globally, many will be looking to alternative chemicals for crop protection,” Bates says. It’s important to think about what those chemicals might be doing to the bees.

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