Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pesticide combination affects bees' ability to learn

Date:
March 27, 2013
Source:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Summary:
Two new studies have highlighted a negative impact on bees' ability to learn following exposure to a combination of pesticides commonly used in agriculture. The researchers found that the pesticides, used in the research at levels shown to occur in the wild, could interfere with the learning circuits in the bee's brain.

Bee extends its proboscis in response to floral scent. Part of the bee’s memory test.
Credit: Geraldine Wright

Two new studies have highlighted a negative impact on bees' ability to learn following exposure to a combination of pesticides commonly used in agriculture. The researchers found that the pesticides, used in the research at levels shown to occur in the wild, could interfere with the learning circuits in the bee's brain. They also found that bees exposed to combined pesticides were slower to learn or completely forgot important associations between floral scent and food rewards.

In the study published today (27 March 2013) in Nature Communications, the University of Dundee's Dr Christopher Connolly and his team investigated the impact on bees' brains of two common pesticides: pesticides used on crops called neonicotinoid pesticides, and another type of pesticide, coumaphos, that is used in honeybee hives to kill the Varroa mite, a parasitic mite that attacks the honey bee.

The intact bees' brains were exposed to pesticides in the lab at levels predicted to occur following exposure in the wild and brain activity was recorded. They found that both types of pesticide target the same area of the bee brain involved in learning, causing a loss of function. If both pesticides were used in combination, the effect was greater.

The study is the first to show that these pesticides have a direct impact on pollinator brain physiology. It was prompted by the work of collaborators Dr Geraldine Wright and Dr Sally Williamson at Newcastle University who found that combinations of these same pesticides affected learning and memory in bees. Their studies established that when bees had been exposed to combinations of these pesticides for 4 days, as many as 30% of honeybees failed to learn or performed poorly in memory tests. Again, the experiments mimicked levels that could be seen in the wild, this time by feeding a sugar solution mixed with appropriate levels of pesticides.

Dr Geraldine Wright said: "Pollinators perform sophisticated behaviours while foraging that require them to learn and remember floral traits associated with food. Disruption in this important function has profound implications for honeybee colony survival, because bees that cannot learn will not be able to find food."

Together the researchers expressed concerns about the use of pesticides that target the same area of the brain of insects and the potential risk of toxicity to non-target insects. Moreover, they said that exposure to different combinations of pesticides that act at this site may increase this risk.

Dr Christopher Connolly said: "Much discussion of the risks posed by the neonicotinoid insecticides has raised important questions of their suitability for use in our environment. However, little consideration has been given to the miticidal pesticides introduced directly into honeybee hives to protect the bees from the Varroa mite. We find that both have negative impact on honeybee brain function.

"Together, these studies highlight potential dangers to pollinators of continued exposure to pesticides that target the insect nervous system and the importance of identifying combinations of pesticides that could profoundly impact pollinator survival."

This research is part of the Insect Pollinators Initiative, joint-funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Defra, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Scottish Government and the Wellcome Trust under the auspices of the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Mary J. Palmer, Christopher Moffat, Nastja Saranzewa, Jenni Harvey, Geraldine A. Wright, Christopher N. Connolly. Cholinergic pesticides cause mushroom body neuronal inactivation in honeybees. Nature Communications, 2013; 4: 1634 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2648
  2. S. M. Williamson, G. A. Wright. Exposure to multiple cholinergic pesticides impairs olfactory learning and memory in honeybees. Journal of Experimental Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1242/jeb.083931

Cite This Page:

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Pesticide combination affects bees' ability to learn." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327133347.htm>.
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. (2013, March 27). Pesticide combination affects bees' ability to learn. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327133347.htm
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Pesticide combination affects bees' ability to learn." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327133347.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins