By Ellesse Jun Huan Low, Second year, chemistry
Neonicotinoids (abbreviated to Neonics) are a common type of pesticide that is widely used in crop protection. Two new studies by scientists from the University of Bristol recently discovered the harmful effects of neonics on the sleep disorder of bumblebees and fruit flies.
Insects, like humans, need a good night’s sleep. You need to do important activities like hunting and foraging. However, modern agricultural practices could disrupt this important process more than previously thought. Researchers at Bristol University have found that certain types of pesticides (known as neonics) severely disrupted the sleep cycle of insects like bumblebees and fruit flies.
One of the main pollinators, bumblebees are known to pollinate plants and flowers in the dark. They actively search for food all night and sleep during the day. However, it has been found that honey and flowers contaminated with neonicotinoid can disrupt insects’ sleep. This problem appears to be of concern as a large percentage of plants, including fruits and vegetables, rely on pollinators to reproduce. Bumblebees play an essential role in this area.
The use of neonics has been found to affect the sleep cycle of many insects Unsplash / Amy Lynn Grover
Research showed a significant reduction in their foraging when the toxins enter the bee’s body while they are collecting pollen. This leads to a dramatic decrease in pollination opportunities as well as the bee population.
The study showed that neonics have a significant impact on how flies and bees sleep. Dr. Kiah Tasman (lead author) stated, “When an insect was exposed to an amount similar to that found on a farm using the pesticide, it slept less and its daily behavioral rhythms were no longer normal for a 24-hour cycle Day and night. ‘
The fruit fly study published in Scientific Reports mentioned how pesticides also affect the functioning of the insect’s brain. It was found that the fly’s central nervous system is particularly sensitive to neonics. They found a threshold above which the fly’s brain cells would be severely damaged. Most modern farms use this amount of the pesticide.
Other effects include memory loss for bees, causing significant changes in their biological clock, confusing their sleep-wake cycle. He added that it interferes with their navigation and learning. For example, they may not be able to forage for food in their natural habitat.
Dr. James Hodge, lead author on the study, stated that knowing what time of the day it is important to know when to be awake and foraging for food is important, but it seems that the insects cannot sleep – which is later memory has affected their health and health. Dr. Sean Rands, co-author of the study, admitted that bees and flies have similar structures in their brains. Neonics therefore have similar effects on bees.
The widespread use of neonics may have benefited farmers and helped them achieve plentiful harvests. However, it is clear that insects have suffered from the consequences. When these pesticides affect bees’ sleep cycle and pollination ability, it can lead to food shortages.
The dangerous insecticide has been banned by the European Union and the UK government promised to keep it going after Brexit. Even so, the UK signed emergency permits for its use last month. The studies have called for the use of neonics to be banned worldwide to avoid potentially depleting food insect populations and risking food shortages.
Featured image: Unsplash / Filipe
Do you think more should be done to stop the use of this harmful pesticide?