16 Feb Honey Bees Are Attracted to Agricultural Fungicides
There are a lot of things out in nature that honey bees are attracted to, such as flowers, honey, sugar, etc. However, in a recent study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, researchers discovered that, when given a choice, honey bees prefer “sugar syrup laced with fungicide chlorothalonil over sugar syrup alone” (University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, 2018).
The study is perplexing for researchers because the study has come recently after other studies, which link fungicides to the decline of honey bee populations. For instance, one study found links between the presence of a fungal parasite in bumble bees, called Nosema bombi, and the use of chlorothalonil. Moreover, studies have confirmed that greater chlorothalonil use is responsible for the decline in four bumble bee species.
Previous research has demonstrated that European honey bees “have a very limited repertoire of detoxifying enzymes and that exposure to one potentially toxic compound — including fungicides — can interfere with their ability to metabolize others” (University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, 2018).
Fungicides are the most common beehive contaminants. What’s more, this study proves that honey bees are bringing these fungicides back to the hive after they forage for food. Through the study, researchers have concluded that the preference for honey bees toward fungicides may be caused because of evolution.
According to May Berenbaum, an entomology professor at the University of Illinois, “Honey bee foragers are gleaners… They’re active from early spring until late fall, and no single floral source exists for them for that whole season. If they don’t have a drive to search out something new, that’s going to seriously compromise their ability to find the succession of flowers they need. Unnatural chemicals might be a signal for a new food” (University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, 2018).
The study is a cause for worry. The research shows that honey bees’ ability to metabolize acaricides used by beekeepers, which is used to kill the varroa mite, is seriously limited when exposed to fungicides.