New Study Reveals Pesticides Have Long-Term Implications On Bee Learning

A new report reveals that the pesticides that farmers use on their plants might have long-term negative effects on bumblebee learning.

Do Pesticides Affect Bee Learning?

Movies have always depicted ideal farmlands where mornings are met with the buzzing of bees, in addition to other animals. That same buzzing among flowers is also nature’s collective signal of the coming of warmer weather all around the world.

Unfortunately, that buzzing is slowly fading since bees of all types are now struggling to even their footing in today’s modern world. There are numerous factors to this, such as habitat loss and the ongoing climate crisis. However, a new study reveals a more specific reason: the threat of pesticides. This is because research reveals that bumblebees exposed to the chemicals present in pesticides have a harder time when it comes to learning. In fact, it’s even true when bees ate pesticide-laced food as larvae.

Per experts, this is a real growing concern because affected bees that have a harder time learning may find it more difficult to forage for food, or even spread pollen among flowers.

Usually, pesticides are used by people to help control insects that are damaging to crops and plants. Unfortunately, pesticides are also made up of chemicals, which mean that they can also affect animals that aren’t their intended targets, such as honeybees, which hold a special place in natural ecosystems since they help pollinate flowers and plants.

And so a study was made by Richard Gill, an insect ecologist in England at Imperial College London. To do this, Gill and his team studied 22 bumblebee colonies, six of which received pesticide for three weeks. Through the study, Gill and his team found that bees who were not exposed to the pesticide learned quickly, while those that are pesticide-exposed found it harder to use scent to find flowers.

Additionally, pesticide-exposed bees also had smaller mushroom bodies inside their brain, which they use to store information and memories.

“Pesticide exposure during early life may have affected the development of the neurons inside the mushroom body,” Gill said. The team’s findings were published online March 4 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Bumblebee A bumblebee draws nectar from the flowers of a Sorbaria sorbifolia bush in a garden outside Moscow on June 22, 2019. YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images

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