Univ. of Nebraska entomologist studies the effect pesticides have on honey bee behavior

Once exposed to pesticides, the social interactions between bees decline, according Erin Ingram, an entomologist with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, who’s closely studied whether there is a link between pesticides in orchards and the behavior of honey bees.

Ingram studied bees in Petri dishes, observing the way they behave following pesticide exposure; she observed that the bees spend less time moving, in general.

She shared her research findings with KVNO News:

When they’re not moving, they might be just grooming themselves in place.

They sometimes are also just paralyzed. So they’re just in the petri dish, standing there. When they’re not moving towards one another obviously they can’t meet to have any kind of social interaction.

Until they recover from that, in the field, they’re easy prey. They also maybe can’t make it back home since they’re knocked down in the field. So that potentially has a lot of impact on whether they’re able to function normally in a field or not.

When asked how honey bees may be exposed to pesticides, Ingram answered:

The pesticides that we were specifically looking at are used for orchard pests. Now honey bees generally don’t stay in orchards for prolonged periods. They get trucked in, they get set out, they pollinate during a bloom period, then they get put back on trucks and taken to the next place to pollinate. Researchers at other institutions have found evidence of low levels of these particular pesticides in things like apple pollen. So we know that bees are running into them. What we were aiming to do in this is get a better sense of what behavioral effects might occur because of exposure to even low levels of these pesticides.

Ingram also touched on the importance of honey bees and why they’re essential to nutrition and food production:

We’re very dependent on honey bees specifically because they’re a managed pollinator. They get trucked into these orchards. They do the job. Without their pollination, there would be no fruit. There would be no seeds. There wouldn’t be nuts. A lot of the food that we treasure and enjoy. They’re also really high in certain nutritional value like vitamins A, C, and E we can’t get from anything other than insect-pollinated foods. Without them, what’s on your dinner plate is kind of bland and boring and quite frankly not very nutritious. The average person should be very concerned about pollinators, specifically the honey bee because of their value to agriculture.

Read the full article at KVNONews.com.

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