A bumblebee outfitted with a unique tracking tag forages outdoors.
James Crall /Science
November 9, 2018 12:04 PM ET
A team of researchers peered inside bumblebee colonies and spied on insects individually labelled with a tiny tag to figure out exactly how exposure to acommon insecticide changes their behavior in the nest.
They found that the insecticide — from a controversial group called neonicotinoids — made the bees more sluggish and antisocial, spending more time on the periphery of the nest. It also made them less-attentive parents, according to research published Thursday in the journal Science.
Neonicotinoids, commonly known as “neonics,” are near-ubiquitous in farming in many countries. They’re commonly applied to the seeds of crops such as corn or soy before planting. The plant then carries traces of the insecticide as it grows, even showing up in the pollen, which scientists believe is one way bees are exposed. As NPR’s Dan Charles has reported, “neonicotinoid residues also have been found in the pollen of wildflowers growing near fields and in nearby streams.”
A growing body of research points to their deleterious effects on bees, which serve an important role in pollinating crops. Scientists have previously found that the insecticides can impair a bee’s ability to forage and limit the growth of a colony.