Pesticide exposure can dramatically impact bees' social behaviors, study shows

Additional tests showed that exposure impaired bees ability to warm the nest, and to build insulating wax caps around the colony.

In addition to Crall, de Bivort and Pierce, the study was co-authored by Callin Switzer, Ph.D. '18, Stacey Combes from UC Davis, former Organismic and Evolutionary Biology research assistants Robert L. Oppenheimer and Mackay Eyster and Harvard undergraduate Andrea Brown, '19.

To do it, Crall and colleagues developed a unique, benchtop system that allowed them to track the activity of bees in as many as a dozen colonies at a time.

Using the system, Crall and colleagues were able to dose specific, individual bees with the pesticide and observe the changes in their behavior -- less interaction with nest-mates and spending more time on the periphery of the colony -- but those experiments are limited in several important ways.

Each of the system's 12 units, Crall said, houses a single colony where bees have access to two chambers -- one to mimic the nest and the other to act as a foraging space.

We don't know yet whether (the pesticides) are disrupting circadian gene regulation or if this is just some, maybe physiological feedback...but it suggests that, just from a practical perspective, if we want to understand or study these compounds, looking at effects overnight matters a lot."

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