Scientists have recently unearthed an amazing fact about bees and their relation with pesticides. According to scientists, pesticides provide these insects with a smoking-like buzz; bees get stimulated by nicotine-like pesticides in the same manner as smokers get stimulated by tobacco.
During a study involving a series of experiments, researchers found that honeybees and bumblebees preferred sugar solutions containing neonicotinoid chemicals over solutions devoid of any such chemical. This finding stands true despite satisfactory evidence suggesting that the insects couldn’t taste the pesticides added to the solution.
The bees, instead of enjoying the taste of the solution, appeared to be experiencing a pleasurable high. Scientists are saying that this happened as the chemicals present in the sugar solution resulted in activation of reward centers in the tiny brains of these insects.
Like avid smokers, who always look for another cigarette after finishing one, these bees were also found to be returning to the food tubes filled with the spiked solution time and again. They clearly chose the spiked sugar solution over the solution devoid of any pesticide.
This research holds great importance for the scientists as it reveals that due to their affinity towards nicotine bees might end up getting exposed to harmful quantities of neonicotinoid chemicals.
The lead author of the study Prof. Geraldine Wright of University of Newcastle’s Institute of Neuroscience said that bees don’t possess the ability to taste neonicotinoids present in their food, as a result of which they end up consuming food containing these chemicals. This in turn, according to Prof. Wright, is putting them at high risk of poisoning.
Prof Wright feels that the worse thing is that the research team under him has managed to gather evidence supporting the fact that bees prefer eating food items contaminated by pesticides. This is because neonicotinoids have same effects on the brains of these insects as nicotine has on human brain.
In other words, like nicotine, the neonicotinoids might also act as drugs and make foods contaminated by them more rewarding. Prof Wright, when talking about the effects of pesticides on bees, said that if the foraging bees collect nectar contaminated by these harmful pesticides, the action might have a negative impact on the well being of the entire bee population.