A recent study reveals that wildflowers, not just crops on farms, can pose a serious pesticide risk to pollinators.
Bee populations across the globe have been declining rapidly in recent decades, and researchers believe that a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids is largely responsible for the decline. According to a press release from the American Chemical Society, bees don’t face a risk from just crops sprayed with these pesticides for commercial purposes – they can receive a dose from wildflowers on farms too.
The study’s results suggest that some researchers may have been underestimating the risk of neonicotinoid pesticide exposure for bee populations. Other factors that are contributing to the loss of bees around the world include habitat loss, parasites, and exposure to harmful pesticides used on farms.
Previous research on neonicotinoid has focused heavily on the amount of exposure that bees were getting from commercial crops. Recent studies have come to the realization that other flowering plants are found on many farms, and the bees will just as happily pollinate these flowers as they would the crops. Farmers also often deliberately raise flowering plants on their farms in an effort to attract bees and other pollinators. They may be treating these plants with the same pesticides they treat their crops with, which would mean serious danger for bees.
The study analyzed samples of pollen from plants that were growing near five farms in the U.K. and compared them to nearby beehives. The pollen from the wildflowers growing around the farms was found to have several traces of neonicotinoid pesticides, which was brought back to hives by honeybees.
We know pesticides are bad for bees, but knowing where the two meet can help protect critical bee populations worldwide.