Environment

Common pesticide found to interfere with the sleep cycles of bees

Common pesticide found to inte...
Scientists have found that a common insecticide can impact the sleep cycles of bees
Scientists have found that a common insecticide can impact the sleep cycles of bees
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Scientists have found that a common insecticide can impact the sleep cycles of bees
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Scientists have found that a common insecticide can impact the sleep cycles of bees

Bee populations are declining at alarming rates around the world, and that could have profound consequences for human civilization. Along with things like drought and habitat loss, the widespread use of pesticides is a huge driving force behind these dwindling numbers, and a new study has shone further light on the most common one of all, finding that it interferes with the insect’s natural sleep cycles and their daily behavior as a result.

Because bees play an important role in pollinating the many crop species that we eat, healthy bee populations are critical to food security around the globe. In 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service placed seven species of bee on the endangered list for the first time, in an effort to protect the fragile and shrinking populations.

Pesticides are one of the most significant drivers of this trend, and at the very center of the issue are a type called neonicotinoids, which the EU banned in 2016 but are still in use around the world. These pesticides are applied to crops to protect the growing plants from other critters, but the scattergun approach means bees get caught in the crossfire. The chemicals interfere with the bees’ energy-producing molecules and can leave them immobile and starving.

This new work carried out by scientists at the University of Bristol dives a little deeper into the effects neonicotinoids can have on bees. The researchers subjected bumblebees to concentrations of the pesticide equal to what they would endure on a farm, and found that it brought about significant disruptions to their natural sleep cycles.

The affected bees were found to be more active at night and sleep more during the day. This had the effect of shaking up the insect’s daily behaviors, impacting their memories and lowering their foraging activity and locomotion. The researchers suggest that this could reduce pollination opportunities and, in turn, the ability of the colony to grow and reproduce.

"Being able to tell time is important for knowing when to be awake and forage, and it looked like these drugged insects were unable to sleep,” says co-author Dr James Hodge. “We know quality sleep is important for insects, just as it is for humans, for their health and forming lasting memories."

The researchers also carried out experiments on fruit flies, and found that exposure to neonicotinoids had much the same effect.

"Bees and flies have similar structures in their brains, and this suggests one reason why these drugs are so bad for bees is they stop the bees from sleeping properly and then being able to learn where food is in their environment,” says co-author Dr Sean Rands.

The bee study was published in the journal iScience, while the fruit fly study was published in Scientific Reports.

Source: University of Bristol

5 comments
5 comments
Robin
Blaming common pesticides is like saying that pesticides used for organic food do not affect the environment. But the copper used in organic farming is disastrous.
About NNI, it all depends on how it is used. For example, on beets, it has no effect on bees. Nothing is all light or all dark
Richard Caley
The Bristol research team have provided valuable insights into the decline in bee populations. I hope their work will influence global policy and save our most productive pollinators from extinction.
gerald23
I have a modest sized sloop in Marina del Rey, CA. Every time I go sailing, I find dead or dying bees laying in the cockpit of my boat, which is a ways down a dock in one of the basins. It's some distance from any foliage, so I have no idea why a bee would end up there. Until the last half dozen years, I'd never seen this before. Talk about bees getting lost! And sick! And dead! In addition, I have a hard time falling asleep, and then waking up in the middle of the night, and falling back asleep. Then, thru the day, feeling sleepy and tired. So, could these pesticides be affecting OUR sleep cycles too?. And the birds. Used to be you would see birds, and hear them singing. Now there is silence. And in the evening, you'd hear crickets chirping. Just silence. Reminds me of the warnings of Rachel Carson, who wrote "Silent Spring" half a century ago. I think that is what we are experiencing now. And woe be unto us unless we stop the madness now. Have you noticed that there used to be lots of bugs smashed on your windshield? I don't see any anymore. We're already in crises, but don't expect our current politicians to save us, because they seem to be in the pocket of big Ag corporations who only think about their bottom line, not the extinction of life on our blue planet.
wolf0579
ALL insect life is in serious, major decline. I live in the country. When I was a child, it was one of my jobs to wash my parent's car. I used to have to scrub dead insects from the windshield... tons of them. Now, the number of insect-windshield collisions had dropped by two thirds at the very least least... and that is taking into account the lack of miles driven due to covid. We have let the "wrong-wing" be successful in defending the corporations that committed this ecological crime for too long. We and our children are in for a world of hurt.
wolf0579
And it was preventable.