Two new studies confirm that common pesticides are scrambling the circuits of bees’ brains. Researchers report that certain neonicotinoids and an organophosphate pesticide — particularly in combination — interfere with the insects' ability to learn, smell or remember, all critical capacities for foraging honey bees.
The new studies add to a growing body of evidence pointing to pesticides as a key driver to the dramatic losses in bee colonies reported by beekeepers.
The research, reported in the journals Nature Communications and the Journal of Experimental Biology, observed an immediate "epileptic-type activity" when bees were exposed to neonicotinoids, followed by neural inactivation "where the brain goes quiet and cannot communicate any more," as Dr. Christopher Connelly of the University of Dundee in Scotland described to BBC News.
The effects were more pronounced when the bees were exposed to both neonicotinoids and the organophosphate insecticide, coumaphos.
Momentum builds for pollinator protection
Earlier this month, PAN joined partners and beekeepers to take EPA to court demanding better protections for pollinators. And today, the New York Times featured beekeepers expressing concern about neonicotinoids and the "soup of pesticides" contributing to the dramatic decline in healthy hives.
EPA regulators have indicated that they may accelerate the review process for neonicotinoids, which are currently scheduled for evaluation in 2018. Given current rates of honeybee losses, it's becoming clear that taking action on this timeline could be much too late.