Researchers have demonstrated that pesticides cause large changes in the expression of genes involved in detoxification, immunity and nutrition-sensing in bees.
Bees were fed either miticidal, coumaphos or fluvalinate pesticides for a period of seven days and significant changes in 1,118 strands of RNA were detected in the experimental group. The impacted genes are involved in detoxification, behavioral maturation, immunity, and nutrition. Those bees who consumed a diet of natural, high quality pollen exhibited greater resistance to pesticides’ deleterious effects than bees on an artificial diet.
The study demonstrated a dose dependent response to pesticides and a specific pollen diet at the genetic level. When bees were fed a pollen based diet while simultaneously exposing them to a lethal dose of the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, those fed a pollen-based diet exhibit reduced sensitivity to chlorpyrifos.
“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 at Penn State and lead author of the study.