Chemical Fungicide Attracts Honey Bees

Reader Contribution by Illinois News Bureau
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Recent studies have discovered a shift in the pollination preference of a honey bee. In the journal Scientific Reports, researchers state that they are now finding that honey bee foragers prefer to collect syrup laced with the fungicide chlorothalonil to regular sugar syrup found in nature.

Chlorothalonil and other fungicide chemicals can interfere with a honey bee’s ability to metabolize other compounds or chemicals, putting them in danger.

The trouble with these fungicides is that many people use them believing that they will only affect fungi. In reality, fungi are more closely related to animals than they are to plants, which means that fungicides are more harmful to the animals that interact or ingest them than they are to surrounding plants, which includes honey bees.

The largest contaminants found in honey bee hives are chemicals found in fungicides, which researches suspect that the honey bees are bringing it in themselves. Many are puzzled by this, believing that the honey bees would know to avoid the unnatural chemicals, but for some species, the preference and willingness to forage for these chemicals could be explained by their evolutionary history.

“Honey bee foragers are gleaners,” said University of Illinois entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum. “They’re active from early spring until late fall, and no single floral source exists for them for that whole season. If they don’t have a drive to search out something new, that’s going to seriously compromise their ability to find the succession of flowers they need. Unnatural chemicals might be a signal for a new food.”

Most concerning, however, is the research that shows that exposure to fungicides can interfere with a honey bee’s ability to metabolize acaricides used by many bee keepers to kill off varroa mites that can infest bee hives and kill off the bees quickly. This leaves the honey bees incredibly vulnerable to a harmful pest that target bees.

While the bees seem to prefer fields sprayed with fungicides, these chemicals are incredibility harmful and are polluting their beehives without their knowing. Since honey bees cannot see the effects of these chemicals, it is up to people to find a new way to protect their plants from fungi while also protecting honey bees from the fungicides.

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