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Environment: New research shows exactly how systemic neonicotinoid pesticides harm honey bees

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off.

Systemic neonicotinoid pesticides affect basic cell function in honey bees. bberwyn photo.

Toxic chemicals inhibit basic cellular functions

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —The latest in a series of studies linking declines in bee populations with systemic pesticides shows that fipornil and imidacloprid affect basic cell functions. The findings help explain why the pesticides are toxic to bees.

Essentially, the toxic chemicals inhibit mitochondrial bioenergetics, resulting in depleted cell energy. Honeybee flight muscles are strongly dependent on high levels of oxygen consumption and energy metabolism.

“Similar to a plane, honeybees require clean fuel in order to fly,” said Daniel Nicodemo, professor of ecology and beekeeping at the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Dracena, Brazil. While the effects of sublethal levels of pesticides may not be immediately evident, Nicodemo said it’s clear that even low-level exposure contributes to the inability of a honeybee to forage and return to the hive, which could result in declining bee populations.

“These insecticides affect the nervous system of pest and beneficial insects, often killing them. Sublethal effects related to insect behavior have been described in other studies; even a few nanograms of active ingredient disturbed the sense of taste, olfactory learning and motor activity of the bees,” he said.

A key characteristic of colony collapse disorder is the incapacity of the honeybees to return to their hives, and these disruptions have a direct impact on that ability.

Scientists are urgently trying to determine the causes of colony collapse disorder and the alarming population declines of honeybees. The cross-pollination services they provide are required by approximately 80 percent of all flowering plants, and one-third of all agricultural food production directly depends on bee pollination.

 

 

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