Bees aren’t getting enough sleep due to a commonly used pesticide, a new study has shown.
Neonicotinoids are reportedly responsible from keeping the world’s bees from getting a good night’s rest, as well as other insects. However, the consequences are far worse than a bit of crankiness in the morning.
Researchers from the University of Bristol gave a group of bees nectar sugar laced with the pesticide in order to see the difference in their behaviour in a foraging area.
Kiah Tasman, lead author and teaching associate at the university’s School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience told CNN: ‘It seems to disrupt the body clock in foraging bumblebees — they forage much less, more of that foraging is happening at nighttime, and they are sleeping a lot more in the daytime. It’s causing a mistiming of their normal behaviors.’
She added: ‘It’s quite worrying because other studies and our studies show that the foraging motivation has decreased.’
It’s estimated that pollinators, the majority of which are honey bees, are responsible for one in every three bites of food taken by Americans every year, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The creatures help increase the value of crops by more than $15 billion every year.
However, according to The Wildlife Trusts, the world has lost at least 50% of insects since 1970, and 41% of all insect species are now ‘threatened with extinction’.
This is because they’re under threat from widespread pesticide use, coupled with climate change, losses of habitat and other parasites. This is particularly alarming when when 90% of wild plants and 75% of leading global crops depend on pollination via animals, as per the World Wildlife Fund.
Nowadays, bees are ‘quite sluggish and they’re going out less often anyway’, according to Tasman, who said: ‘If the time where they are managing to go out and forage is at nighttime when flowers aren’t available, that’s going to hugely reduce how successful they are at collecting the food that the colony needs to grow and reproduce.’
The same pesticides have already been found to affect the brains of baby bees. The UK government recently granted emergency authorisation for the use of a particular kind of neonicotinoid pesticide, which the The Wildlife Trusts described as ‘highly damaging’.
Tasman said: ‘It also gives us hints on what we could investigate if we were to make more pest specific pesticides — if we understand exactly how they are working in the insects, maybe we can make some that only work on pests.’
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