Researchers say that pesticides impair baby bee brain development

Researchers from Imperial College London have the results of a study that concluded that pesticides impair the development of the brain in baby bees. The team used micro-CT scanning to reveal how specific parts of the bumblebee brain grew abnormally when exposed to pesticides during their larval phase.

According to the researchers, exposure impacted the bee's ability to perform a simple learning task as adults. Scientists on the research team say that most previous studies have tested the effects of pesticide exposure on adult bees. The adult bees directly collected pesticide-contaminated nectar.

The new study shows that baby bees can also feel the effect of contaminated food brought back to the colony. Any toxins that enter the colony have the potential to impact the development of the baby bees inside. Baby bees that are fed pesticide-contaminated food led to parts of the brain growing less.

That led to adult bees that have smaller and functionally impaired brains. The effects of the pesticide in the bees is permanent and irreversible. As exposed baby bees grow into adults, they may be unable to forage properly. The team says that its work highlights the need for guidelines on pesticide usage to consider this method of exposure.

In the experiment, the colony of bees used was provided with a nectar substitute that was spiked with a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Some of those pesticides are restricted in the EU but are used globally. Results were compared to young bees from colonies not exposed to pesticides. The results showed significant impairments in bees exposed to pesticides compared to those that were not.