Chronic exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides significantly reduces the number of pollen grains a bumblebee is able to carry. That’s the conclusion of a research project led by Dr Penelope Whitehorn and Associate Professor Mario Vallejo-Marin from the University of Stirling.
The research, which was conducted by the Faculty of Natural Science, examined a complex type of pollination in insects called ‘buzz pollination’, which is used to dislodge pollen from flowers. The study focussed on captive colonies of bumblebees visiting buzz-pollinated flowers, which were monitored using sensitive microphones to detect and measure foraging buzzes.
The findings of the study, which were published in the journal ‘Nature.Com’, have found that field-realistic doses of neonicotinoid pesticides directly affects the behaviour of foraging bees, by interfering with the type of vibrations they produce while collecting pollen, thereby reducing the number of pollen grains carried by bees. Interestingly, by the end of the experiment, bees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides were noted to be collecting up to 56% less pollen compared to un-exposed (control) bees, which gathered more pollen as they gained experience throughout the experiment.
Given the concerns the global scientific community has regarding the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollination services, further research into this issue will be crucial to better understanding the mechanism by which the pesticides effects bees.
This blog was informed by research undertaken by the University of Stirling, which was published in the journal Nature.Com.
Image Credit: Tim Hill (Pixabay)