Stress a key factor in causing bee colonies to fail

Stress a key factor in causing bee colonies to fail
Extended periods of stress can cause bee colony failures, according to new research from Royal Holloway University. Credit: Nigel E. Raine

Scientists from Royal Holloway University have found that when bees are exposed to low levels of neonicotinoid pesticides - which do not directly kill bees - their behaviour changes and they stop working properly for their colonies.

The results showed that exposure to at levels encounter in the field, has subtle impacts on individual bees, and can eventually make colonies fail.

This discovery provides an important breakthrough in identifying the reasons for the recent global decline of bees, a trend that has baffled many experts worldwide.

"One in three mouthfuls of our food depend on bee pollination," said lead author, Dr John Bryden from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway. "By understanding the complex way in which colonies fail and die, we've made a crucial step in being able to link bee declines to pesticides and other factors, such as habitat loss and disease which can all contribute to colony failure."

"Exposing bees to pesticides is a bit like adding more and more weight on someone's shoulders. A person can keep walking normally under a bit of weight, but when it gets too much – they collapse. Similarly, bee can keep growing when bees aren't too stressed, but if stress levels get too high the colony will eventually fail," added Dr Bryden.

"Our research provides important insights to the biology of pollinators," said co-author Professor Vincent Jansen. "It is intriguing that the way in which bees work together is the key to their success, but could also contribute to their decline and colony failure."

The research was funded as part of the £10 million 'Insect Pollinators Initiative,' set-up to understand the causes of pollinator declines and safeguard future pollination services.

"Pesticides can have a detrimental effect on bees at levels used in the field," said co-author Dr Nigel Raine. "Our research will provide important evidence for policymakers. The way we test pesticides, the way we assess their impact on bees, and the way we manage pesticides can all be improved."


Explore further

Pesticide combination affects bees' ability to learn

Citation: Stress a key factor in causing bee colonies to fail (2013, October 7) retrieved 19 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-10-stress-key-factor-bee-colonies.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 08, 2013
Has there been a drop in the amount of pollination? Also is the hive collapse happening in both wild and industrialised bees?

Oct 11, 2013
Why doesn't the use of these pesticides correlate with collapse rates in the real world?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more