According to a recent study, a commonly used pesticide called neonicotinoid, or thiamethoxam, may have a long-lasting negative effect on bumblebees’ foraging behavior.
Researchers found that the tiny insects exposed to the insecticide needed more time to forage and found it harder to learn new skills needed to fulfill their jobs as pollinators.
The study revealed that bumblebees tend to favor other wild flowers when they are exposed the pesticide. Scientists noticed a the exposed bugs tended to stay away from wild flowers with complicated designs such as bird’s foot trefoil.
Bees and other pollinators have been under a lot of stress in recent years, due to global temperature rise, pollution, and habitat loss. The insects are the most significant pollinators of world’s crops, so several agencies have warned that their dwindling numbers could put food security at a severe risk.
The recent research revealed that, although bumblebees exposed to the pesticide collected more pollen than the control group, they needed more time to fulfill the task. Pesticide-exposed insects were also pickier with their flowers than non-pesticide-exposed bees.
Nigel Raine, a Canadian bee expert at University of Guelph, explained that in order to survive bees need to acquire specific skill such as learning to find flowers, estimating the profitability of a specific flower, and boosting efficiency when foraging nectar and pollen.
Raine noted that since pesticide exposure may impair their ability to acquire these skills, it could also prevent the insects from becoming efficient pollinators of both wild flowers and crops.
The recent research confirms previous studies that had found a series of negative effects of neonicotinoids on pollinators. A recent study linked the pesticides with unprecedented changes in honeybees’ brains, affecting their ability to learn and remember basic stuff.
The latest study found that while pesticide-exposed bumblebees harvested larger quantities of pollen, the pesticide-free bees learned faster how to handle wild flowers with complex shapes.
Prof. Dara Stanley of the Royal Holloway University of London and senior researcher involved in the study explained that insects not exposed to pesticide tend to spend more time and energy in acquiring more skills than pesticide-exposed bumblebees.
Raine also noted that the current levels of neonicotinoid exposure could “significantly” impact bees’ foraging behavior, impairing their crucial role in keeping ecosystems healthy.
The findings were published Monday in the journal Functional Biology.
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