The weedkiller glyphosate, according to recent research, has affected wild bumblebees’ ability to keep their hives at the right temperature.
Glyphosate is the most widely used insecticide on the planet, and it’s just meant to kill plants. Bumblebees, which are vital pollinators, were left out of regulatory risk assessments, which focus solely on whether a pesticide kills healthy, individual bees quickly. According to the scientists, failure to maintain colony temperature could have a substantial impact on the colony’s ability to reproduce the next generation.
The study documented the damage that occurred when the colonies ran out of food. This is common in farming settings, where glyphosate can directly kill wildflowers. Though glyphosate has previously been demonstrated to harm honeybees by affecting larvae and adult senses, this is the first investigation on wild bees, which number in the thousands.
Standard risk assessments are carried out on well-fed, parasite-free bees that have not been exposed to the wide range of obstacles they confront in the real world. The catastrophic loss of various insects reported in recent years has been described by scientists as “frightening” and “tearing apart the tapestry of life.”
“The tests will miss sublethal effects, which in the case of bumblebees has a direct impact on whether a colony will reproduce or not,” said study leader Dr. Anja Weidenmüller of the University of Konstanz in Germany. “In our agricultural settings, [food scarcity] is a relatively prevalent stressor, more common than rare.”
Lead Image: A bumblebee covered in pollen. The damage seen in the study occurred when colonies were running short of food. Photograph: Susan Walker/Getty Images.
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