homesteader's blog: Pesticides Are Starving Our Bees of Pollen

Posted on Apr 15, 2019 12:26 AM

Without bees to pollinate our crops, we would be faced with serious food issues. But we're not the only ones at risk for starvation: Pesticides are impairing bees' ability to forage for pollen, according to research from the Royal Holloway University of London. (

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"Foraging is a fundamental task because colony growth relies on a continuous food supply," report the study authors. "Therefore, any factors that impair foraging behavior may have serious consequences for colony survival."

The pesticides in question, neonicotinoids, face a mounting list of evidence tying them to the crime of colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious disappearance of bee colonies seen across the globe. While farmers don't use high enough doses to kill bees outright, the sublethal levels of pesticides are proving to be just as damaging.

Both acute and chronic exposure to neonicotinoids affect bees' foraging in several ways. The researchers found that in the first week of exposure, pesticide-treated bees made up to 2.5 unsuccessful foraging trips, compared to unexposed bees. Four weeks later, this number jumped to five times more unsuccessful trips. On the "successful" foraging expeditions, pesticide-exposed bees brought back almost five times less pollen than unexposed bees.

The researchers attributed this difference to an impaired learning ability caused by the pesticides. Unexposed bees gathered more pollen at the end of four weeks because they benefitted from increased foraging experience, while the opposite happened for the pesticide-treated bees: These bees collected less pollen at the end of the experiment.

"Bees have to learn many things about their environment, including how to collect pollen from flowers," Nigel Raine, PhD, from the Royal Holloway University of London, said in a press release. "Exposure to this neonicotinoid pesticide seems to prevent bees from being able to learn these essential skills."
Add this finding to the laundry list of why you shouldn't use pesticides on your lawn or plants. And when planting new flowers, be sure to ask your nursery what pesticides they used in starting them, because half of "bee-friendly" plants in big-box stores in fact contain pesticides. As always, choosing or growing organic food helps protect not just your family, but bees and other wildlife, too.

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- All The Amazing Ways Bees, Butterflies, And Other Animals Ensure Our Gardens and Crops and Why We Need Them:
- The Amazing World of the Honeybee and Why Bees Are Important:
- Pollinators Need Your Garden, And Here is How To Attract Them:

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