Published September 13, 2012
Nature does not always suffer passively human’s assaults on the environment. An eminent scientist specialized in the study of bees just showed that some bees try to protect their hives against the harmful effects of pesticides, reports The Guardian.
The phenomenon was reported for the first time in a specializing scientific journal in 2009. Since then, many scientists and experts have repeatedly observed it: bees « bury » cells full of contaminated pollen to make them out of service and to protect the rest of the hive. Scientists have found that the pollen content in these « buried » cells contained much higher pesticide levels and other potentially dangerous chemical compounds than found in the pollen of other cells.
Jeff Pettis, an entomologist from the US Department of Agriculture recently explained to British parliamentarians the importance of the discovery:
« This is an unprecedented discovery and it is very striking. It implies that bees recognize and isolate pesticides. They understand that something is wrong with the pollen and isolate it. In normal times, bees do not lock any pollen. »
But the good news stops there for the moment: The last-ditch efforts of the bees do not seem to bear fruit. Pettis remarks indeed the burial behavior of pollen is found in many hives that eventually die:
« The presence of burial is the biggest factor in the loss of a colony. It is a defense mechanism that has failed. »
Bees also bury the cells that contain substances used by beekeepers to fight against insects such as the varroa mite, which is another factor in reducing the bee population, as Pettis explains:
« We beekeepers we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we are doing. […] It’s a question of balance. If we do not control pests, bees are dying. If we control them, the bees live but there are side effects. »
Since several years, the decline in global bee population worries scientists and beekeepers worldwide. A phenomenon called « colony collapse disorder » (CCD), which remains largely unexplained, especially intrigue the scientific community.
For more information:
“Entombed Pollen”: A new condition in honey bee colonies associated with increased risk of colony mortality – Dennis van Engelsdorpa, Jay D. Evansb, Leo Donovalla, Chris Mullinc, Maryann Frazierc, James Frazierc, David R. Tarpyd, Jerry Hayes Jr., Jeffery S. Pettis http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002220110900055X