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article imageDiet changes help bees resist pesticides

By Tim Sandle     Nov 5, 2014 in Environment
Pesticides pose a risk to bees and the loss of bees impacts of framing through a reduction in pollination. Researchers have found that the diet of the bee affects resistance, and this could help protect bee populations.
Bee populations at declining globally. One of the causes is the over-use of pesticides. Pesticides, or insecticides, aimed at reducing insect pests target the nervous system. The problem is that most pesticides, when sprayed, affect other creatures beyond the intended targets. Honey bees are exposed to pesticides as they forage on flowers and also when beekeepers apply chemicals. The impact is serious because bees are crucial pollinators in the human food chain: without bees to spread pollen from the male parts of plants to the female parts, fruit may not form.
Scientists have found that feeding honey bees a diet of pollen makes them more resistant to pesticides than feeding them an alternative diet. This is important because pesticide exposure causes changes in expression of genes that are sensitive to diet and nutrition.
Researchers have shown that exposure to non-lethal doses of pesticides causes large changes in the expression of genes involved in detoxification, immunity and nutrition-sensing. This means that pesticide exposure adversely affects a bee’s immune system.
Examining this further, scientists showed that diet significantly impacts how long bees can survive when given lethal doses of a pesticide. Here the bees’ natural diet makes them more resistant to lethal doses of a pesticide compared to when bees are fed on a simpler, artificial diet. This was shown after exposing bees to low doses of two common pesticides: coumaphos or fluvalinate.
After seven days, genetic material was extracted from the bees and the differences in gene expression patterns examined. The scientists discovered that the bees that were fed a pollen-based diet exhibited reduced sensitivity to chlorpyrifos compared to the bees that were fed an artificial diet.
Thus diet and nutrition can greatly impact the ability of bees to resist pesticides. If scientists can determine which diets and which flowering plants are nutritionally best for honey bees, this could help greater numbers of bees to survive.
The results have been published in the Journal of Insect Physiology. The paper is titled “Genomic analysis of the interaction between pesticide exposure and nutrition in honey bees (Apis mellifera).”
More about Bees, Pesticides, Diet, Pollen
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