Common pesticides stop bees and flies from getting a good night's sleep

bee
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Just like us, many insects need a decent night's sleep to function properly, but this might not be possible if they have been exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides, the most common form of insecticide used worldwide, suggests research by academics at the University of Bristol.

Two studies by scientists at Bristol's Schools of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience and Biological Sciences have shown these insecticides affect the amount of sleep taken by both bumblebees and , which may help us understand why are vanishing from the wild.

Dr. Kiah Tasman, Teaching Associate in the School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience and lead author of the studies, said: "The neonicotinoids we tested had a big effect on the taken by both flies and bees. If an insect was exposed to a similar amount as it might experience on a farm where the pesticide had been applied, it slept less, and its daily behavioural rhythms were knocked out of synch with the normal 24-hour cycle of day and night."

The fruit fly study published today in Scientific Reports, allowed the researchers to study the impact of the pesticides on the .

As well as finding that typical agricultural concentrations of neonicotinoids ruined the flies' ability to remember, the researchers also saw changes in the clock in the fly brain which controls its 24-hour cycle of day and night.

Dr. James Hodge, Associate Professor in Neuroscience in the School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience and senior author for the study, added: "Being able to tell time is important for knowing when to be awake and forage, and it looked like these drugged insects were unable to sleep. We know quality sleep is important for insects, just as it is for humans, for their health and forming lasting memories."

Dr. Sean Rands, Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences and co-author, explained: "Bees and flies have similar structures in their brains, and this suggests one reason why these drugs are so bad for bees is they stop the bees from sleeping properly and then being able to learn where food is in their environment.

"Neonicotinoids are currently banned in the EU, and we hope that this continues in the UK as we leave EU legislation."


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More information: "Neonicotinoids disrupt memory, circadian behaviour and sleep" Scientific Reports (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-81548-2

Kiah Tasman et al. The Neonicotinoid Insecticide Imidacloprid Disrupts Bumblebee Foraging Rhythms and Sleep, iScience (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2020.101827

Journal information: Scientific Reports , iScience

Citation: Common pesticides stop bees and flies from getting a good night's sleep (2021, January 21) retrieved 18 June 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-01-common-pesticides-bees-flies-good.html
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