Lab and field tests find controversial pesticides impair some pollinators
Bees don’t have the mouthpart sensitivity to taste — and thus can’t avoid — nectar tainted with neonicotinoid pesticides, new lab tests indicate. And the charm of nicotine may even seduce bees into favoring pesticide-spiked nectar.
Outdoor tests also show that neonicotinoid exposure for some wild bees can be worrisome, a second paper reports. Together, the studies renew questions about the widespread use of these pesticides on crops.
In the mouthpart tests, taste nerves in honeybees and buff-tailed bumblebees failed to show any jolt of reaction to three widely used neonicotinoid pesticides, says Geraldine Wright of Newcastle University in England. “I don’t think they can taste it all,” she says. Bees buzzing among the floral riches outside laboratories would therefore not be able to avoid neonicotinoid-tainted nectar, she and her colleagues argue online April 22 in Nature.