Environment

Infrared light therapy may be the bee's knees

Infrared light therapy may be ...
A bee exposed to a neonicotinoid pesticide, with bent front legs, withdrawn antenna, and matted fur causing loss of yellow coloration
A bee exposed to a neonicotinoid pesticide, with bent front legs, withdrawn antenna, and matted fur causing loss of yellow coloration
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A bee exposed to a neonicotinoid pesticide, with bent front legs, withdrawn antenna, and matted fur causing loss of yellow coloration
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A bee exposed to a neonicotinoid pesticide, with bent front legs, withdrawn antenna, and matted fur causing loss of yellow coloration

Neonicotinoid-type crop pesticides are not good for bees. They compromise the insects' production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule that transports chemical energy within cells. As a result, bees lose mobility and ultimately starve, as they're unable to get out and forage for food. Fortunately for domesticated bees at least, there may be a solution – light therapy.

In a research project led by Prof. Glen Jeffery, a team from University College London studied four bee colonies each located in separate commercial hives. Two of those colonies were exposed to a neonicotinoid pesticide for 10 days, with one of those two also receiving a couple of 15-minute doses of near-infrared light every day during that same period. A third colony was left alone, to serve as a control.

After the 10 days were up, the poisoned/non-lit bees experienced decreased ATP levels, less mobility and correspondingly lower survival rates. By contrast, the poisoned bees that were exposed to the light showed no decrease in mobility or survival, faring just as well as bees from the control group.

While timer-controlled lights installed in hives could be a good ongoing preventative measure, it was also found that bees harmed by neonicotinoids could be brought back to health if light therapy were administered within two days of exposure.

"When a nerve cell is using more energy than other cells, or is challenged because of a lack of energy, red light therapy can give it a boost by improving mitochondrial function," says Jeffery. "Essentially, it recharges the cell's batteries."

But what about the fourth hive? The bees in it received the light therapy without the pesticide, and experienced a survival rate even higher than that of the control group. There appeared to be no change in their behaviour.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: University College London

7 comments
Timelord
Assuming there's no downside, it would seem a no-brainer to install these lights in all hives, since this says it benefits all bees, both sickened and healthy. Panels of near-infrared LEDs should be placed between each honeycomb. The power consumption would be negligible for 15 minutes a day of use and the panels could be very thin, displacing maybe one honeycomb per hive.
Joe Blough
Humans must be the stupidest live meat on the planet. Rather than ban the evil and unnecessary Neonicotinoids, lets try and fix the damage they do to the bees. What gross stupidity. Neonicotinoids damage more than just bees so how will the non-hive insects be "treated".
rutnerh
Why stop at bees and not include humans or pets? Near IR heat lamps are readily available and even red laser LEDs may work locally for brief periods to improve mobility of arthritic joints . Also taking supplements boosting ATP production which declines on aging seen in loss of muscle including heart function.
Litewave
I agree with Joe, we need to get rid of Neonicotinoids. It is insane to continue to use these products!
Madlyb
The benefits of introducing additional warmth to hives has been known for centuries, so I wonder if we are seeing a benefit directly from the infrared or from the additional thermal output it creates?
Expanded Viewpoint
It could be both, Madlyb. And my first thought was why not just ban the damn chemical poison that's causing the problem in the first place? We did it with DDT, didn't we? It was weakening the egg shells of birds to the point of where a hen couldn't it on one without breaking it. And what kind of harm are pesticides causing us? Leaded gasoline for cars was banned because of all the lead coming out the exhaust pipes. Yes, the lure of "money" and what it can buy us is sweeter than honey!
Randy
Daniel Gregory
Or Or....Or. Here me out on this one. We could just stop using Neonicotinoid pesticides. You know, stop poisoning ourselves and stop killing bees at the same time. Two birds with one stone.