Tayside and Central Scotland

Pesticides may cause bees to lose their buzz

Bumblebee
Image caption The study found bees exposed to pesticides collected up to 50% less pollen than those not exposed

Pesticides could cause bumblebees to lose their buzz, according to a study by Stirling University researchers.

They found pesticide doses at similar levels to those used in agriculture interfered with the type of vibrations bees produce while collecting pollen.

Researchers said the reduced buzz affected the number of pollen grains a bumblebee was able to collect.

The study found bees exposed to pesticides collected up to 50% less pollen than those not exposed.

Buzz pollinating insects such as bumblebees use vibrations to shake the pollen free from flowers.

Researchers studied captive colonies of bumblebees visiting buzz-pollinated flowers, monitoring their behaviour and recording bee buzzes using microphones.

The scientists then analysed the acoustic signal produced during buzz pollination to detect changes in buzzing behaviour.

'Complex behaviours'

Dr Penelope Whitehorn, who led the research, said: "Our result is the first to demonstrate quantitative changes in the type of buzzes produced by bees exposed to field-realistic levels of neonicotinoid.

"We also show that buzz pollinating bees exposed to the pesticide also collect fewer pollen grains."

Associate professor Dr Vallejo-Marin said: "Our findings have implications for the effects of pesticides on bee populations as well as the pollination services they provide.

"The next step in this research would be to establish the mechanism by which the pesticide is affecting the bees.

"We think that pesticides may be affecting the memory and cognitive ability of bumblebees, which may be very important when conducting complex behaviours."