Researchers have found that honeybees pick up a vast majority of pollens from non-crop plants and these plants are exposing them to high levels of pesticides.
Honeybees play a vital role in pollination. They transfer pollen from plant to another and help plants in reproduction. But the process is not as straightforward as we thought. A new research reveals a new, surprising twist in it.
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Researchers from Purdue University have found that honeybees collect majority of their pollen plants other than crops such as flowering weeds and trees even in areas dominated by crops like corn and soybeans. These non crop plants are exposing them to an alarming number of pesticides that are harmful for bees.
Researchers draw this conclusion after examining pollen samples from 30 plant families and by tracking the levels of pesticides in them for over four month period. Researchers found that bee pollen was contaminated with astonishing number of pesticides while the highest concentrations were of pyrethroids, a substance mostly used as mosquito repellent.
“Although crop pollen was only a minor part of what they collected, bees in our study were exposed to a far wider range of chemicals than we expected," said lead researcher Christian Krupke . "The sheer numbers of pesticides we found in pollen samples were astonishing. Agricultural chemicals are only part of the problem. Homeowners and urban landscapes are big contributors, even when hives are directly adjacent to crop fields.”
The research highlights two important aspects. Firstly, honeybees pick up a vast majority of their pollens from non-crop plants particularly plant family of clover and alfalfa. Secondly, these non-crops plants are a convenient gateway to reach harmful pesticides. Precisely, 29 pesticides were found in the pollen from meadow site while 29 pesticides in pollen from the treated cornfield and 31 pesticides in pollen from the untreated cornfield.
“These findings really illustrate how honeybees are chronically exposed to numerous pesticides throughout the season, making pesticides an important long-term stress factor for bees.” Co researcher Elizabeth Long said.
Some of those pesticides were not totally unexpected such as neonicotinoids which are commonly used for protecting corn and soybean seeds but they are toxic to bees. Many previous researchers have emphasized the harmful effects of neonicotinoids. But very few researches had examined how the pesticides in non-crop plants can prove dangerous for honeybees.
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Research suggests that flowering plants are exposing bees to higher levels of chemicals and on a more frequent basis and to avoid this interaction, homeowners need to use insecticides when it is absolutely necessary or when mosquitoes and other nuisance pests are getting out of control.