Feeding honeybees a natural diet of pollen makes them significantly more resistant to pesticides than feeding them an artificial diet, according to a team of researchers, who also found that pesticide exposure causes changes in expression of genes that are sensitive to diet and nutrition.
“Honeybees are exposed to hundreds of pesticides, while they are foraging on flowers and also when beekeepers apply chemicals to control bee pests,” said Christina Grozinger, professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State. “Our study demonstrates that exposure to non-lethal doses of at least two of these pesticides causes large changes in the expression of genes involved in detoxification, immunity and nutrition-sensing. This is consistent with results from previous studies that have found that pesticide exposure compromises bees’ immune systems. Furthermore, our study reveals a strong link, at the molecular level, between nutrition, diet and pesticide exposure.”
Exploring this link further, the researchers found that diet significantly impacts how long bees can survive when given lethal doses of a pesticide.
This interaction between pesticide exposure and nutrition is likely what’s at play in our finding that feeding bees a complex diet of pollen — their natural diet — makes them significantly more resistant to lethal doses of a pesticide than feeding them a more simple, artificial diet,” said Daniel Schmehl, postdoctoral researcher, University of Florida.
This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.