A recent survey revealed that a widely used insecticide attacks much of the male drone honey bee sperm quality. And this could be a reason behind the bees declining numbers.
This type of insecticides is known as neonicotinoids. This insecticide does not kill the drones, but when bees eat pollen treated this way, they produce 39 percent less good sperm than those that eat normal pollen.
These findings were published on Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Journal by Swiss experts. What they did was to conduct a controlled experiment, to tell whether neonicotinoids affect the bees or not.
One of the study authors believes that the sperm is damaged right after it’s produced, although there is no way of telling how it’s damaged, for sure.
Another piece of research published earlier this year, found that the high rate of American bee colonies dying happens because of queen failures. And this was connected to the drones’ dead sperm.
Other problems that affect bee life and productivity are parasites, poor nutrition, disease and of course pesticides. Now , experts believe that sperm quality could account for a third of the situation.
The makers of neonicotinoid, the giant Bayer group, announced that the company is going to review the survey. But because it was done in controlled lab conditions, and used artificial exposure, it does not convey the real-life experience.
Outside researchers, from the Montana University, believe the study is “careful and significant”. However, they are uncertain as to what extent are the bees affected by the use of neonicotinoids.
In 2013, the EU partially banned neonicotinoids, as previous research suggested it caused dangerous side effects in bees.
Recently, beekeepers have done their best to keep healthy bee colonies alive, across the Northern hemisphere.
Neonicotinoids are used to get rid of pests, by scrambling their nervous system. They were first used in the 80’s, because they were believed to be safer than older insecticides, which have more toxicity. Neonicotinoids are different from classical pesticides because they are absorbed into the entire tissue of the plants. This in turn increases their effectiveness against many insects.
These insecticides are used to treat lawns and gardens as well. The FDA is currently testing the effect of several insecticides, in order to determine restriction or approve their use.
Image Source – Wikipedia