Honeybees Seem to Prefer Poisonous Pesticide, Study Finds

New research reveals more about the health of honeybees and their relationship with a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

Over the last decade, honeybee populations have been declining as a result of colony collapse disorder, a mysterious condition that causes bees to become disoriented and abandon their hives.

Neonicotinoids, or neonics as they’re referred to, have been banned in the EU for their alleged connection to the condition, and now, researchers may have pinpointed another issue related to the pesticides. The bees may actually prefer plants that have been treated with neonics, which are derived from nicotine, the same addictive substance in cigarettes.

A number of conventionally grown seeds including corn, soy and canola, are pre-treated with neonics, which are coated onto the seeds before they’re planted. It’s estimated that 95 percent of corn grown in the U.S. has been treated with neonics.

In the new research, it turns out that the bees are drawn to the neonic-treated plants. When given a choice between a plain sugary solution and one that contained neonics, the bees chose the poison, which is toxic to the pollinators’ nervous systems. “It's possible that they're getting a little buzz from the neonics, similar to the way a human may get a buzz from nicotine,” reports NPR.

What’s perhaps most disturbing about the research is that the bees couldn’t taste the pesticide in the study, but preferred it anyway because of its effect, even though it meant an eventual death.

And according to NPR, another study published in the journal Nature, found that bumblebees that fed on canola plants treated with neonics were more likely to experience negative health issues including slowed growth and reproductive issues.

Scientists for Bayer CropScience, a leading producer of neonics, wrote in an email to NPR that the research "demonstrates yet again there is no effect of neonicotinoids on honeybee colonies in realistic field conditions, consistent with previous published field studies."

But it hasn’t quelled the growing concern over neonics. Lowe’s, the popular home improvement retailer, recently announced plans to stop selling neonic products.

Image: Eran Finkle



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