Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that a small dose of a commonly used crop pesticide turns honey bees into “picky eaters” and affects their ability to recruit their nestmates to otherwise good sources of food. The results of their experiments, detailed in this week's issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, have implications for what pesticides should be applied to bee-pollinated crops and shed light on one of the main culprits suspected to be behind the recent declines in honey bee colonies.
Since 2006, beekeepers in North America and Europe have lost about one-third of their managed bee colonies each year due to "colony collapse disorder." While the exact cause is unknown, researchers believe pesticides have contributed to this decline. One group of crop pesticides, called "neonicotinoids," has received particular attention from beekeepers and researchers.