Hive-bound young honey bees (Apis mellifera) are being poisoned by insecticide and weed killer gathered by their foraging hive mates, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The chemicals cause brain damage in young worker bees, affecting both their ability to taste and to learn, placing the future of the colony at risk.
Recent research in Europe and the USA has demonstrated that insecticides known as neonicotinoids have a substantial impact on honey bee health. Glyphosate, a commonly used herbicide, has also been shown to have effects on non-target species such as bees. In agricultural landscapes it is expected that honey bees would be exposed to both of these agrochemicals.
Both chemicals had a negative effect on the young bees’ olfactory learning, and reduced sucrose responsiveness or sense of taste. Glyphosate also reduced food uptake during rearing.
The paper demonstrates that neonicotinoids and glyphosate adversely affect memory, taste and smell in young bees – the very senses and skills required by worker bees for nectar foraging. The authors are concerned that compromised foraging behaviour may threaten the survival of the colony, especially at the end of the summer season.
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