Quirks and Quarks·Quirks & Quarks

Bees get a Buzz from Pesticides?

Bees seem to be unhealthily attracted to controversial neonicotinoid pesticides.
A foraging bumblebee visiting a canola flower (Jonathan Carruthers)
Bees prefer sugar solution that contains neonicotinoid pesticides, and may well prefer the plants that contain the toxins as well, to their detriment.

Neonicotinoids are widely used in agriculture, have been implicated in the ongoing declines of bees and other pollinators. Defenders of these useful chemicals have suggested that bees in the natural environment would detect the toxins and avoid feeding on pesticide treated crops. 

However new work by Dr. Geraldine Wright, of the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, suggests that bees may actually prefer pesticide contaminated plants.  In taste tests she found bees had a slight preference for sugar solutions containing the pesticides, which she suspects might be because of their nicotine-like affect on the bees' brains.

Related Links

- Paper in Nature
Nature news story
- Newcastle University release
- CBC/Reuters story