A study performed at Pennsylvania State University and funded by the USDA, finds that bees which feed on a natural diet of pollen develop a stronger resistance to pesticides than those honey bees being fed artificial replacements. Honey bees are exposed to numerous pesticides when foraging for pollen whether in their natural habitat or when kept by beekeepers who use pesticides to control pests to bees. This study was mainly focused on changes to gene expression involved in detoxification, nutritional sensing and immunity but incidentally discovered a link between long-term survival following pesticide exposure and diet.
The natural diet for honey bees consists of various types of pollen from multitudes of flowers, while the artificial diet replacement is much less complex. In order to study the differences in vigor between the two diets, the research team fed their research colonies of bees an artificial diet of either a soy protein or a no protein diet and others remained naturally feeding on pollen. Both groups were simultaneously exposed to a pesticide commonly used to control pests on agricultural crops. Bee mortality was then monitored for each group for the subsequent 16 days.
The results illustrated that bees fed the pollen diet had reduced sensitivity to the pesticide treatment. This is groundbreaking research into the link between diet and pesticide resistance at a molecular level and the first time artificial versus natural diets have been examined as a possible cause. Diet and nutrition likely contribute to bees’ abilities to thrive in the presence of other stressors as well. Agriculture and urbanization have significant reduced the diversity and availability of flowering plants for honey bee foraging, but if it can be discovered which plants and pollen are the most beneficial to populations, we can help them survive and rebuild colonies. Findings from this study were published in the Journal of Insect Physiology, October 2014.
This research highlights the importance of proper pesticide use and application, treatments need to occur at the times when they will be most effective and the safest. Your arborist and plant healthcare technician will be able to best evaluate the needs of your property and develop a plan for treating your landscape’s disease and insect issues while concurrently preserving beneficial insect populations. Contact your arborist for more information and visit www.savatree.comto find out about our services.