June 22, 2010
A cocktail of chemicals from pesticides could be damaging the brains of British bees, according to scientists about to embark on a study into why the populations of the insects have dropped so rapidly in recent decades. By affecting the way bees’ brains work, the pesticides might be affecting the ability of bees to find food or communicate with others in their colonies.
Neuroscientists at Dundee University, Royal Holloway and University College London will investigate the hypothesis as part of a £10m research programme launched today aimed at finding ways to stop the decline in the numbers of bees and other insect pollinators in the UK.
Insects such as bees, moths and hoverflies pollinate around a third of the agricultural crops grown around the world. If all of the UK’s insect pollinators were wiped out, the drop in crop production would cost the UK economy up to £440m a year, equivalent to around 13% of the UK’s income from farming.
Pollinators are also crucial for the quality of fruits and vegetables. Perfectly shaped strawberries, for example, are created only if every single ovary has been pollinated by an insect. And the number of seeds in a pumpkin depends on the number of species of insects that have pollinated the plants. “If you’ve got 10 pollinators, you’ll get more seeds in the pumpkin than you would have got if you’ve just got one pollinator,” said Giles Budge of the Food and Environment Research Agency. “It is important to have that diversity in a pollinating population.”
This article was posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 3:55 am