Bee’s Favoritism of Fungicide-Laced Foods Could Turn Deadly

Researchers prove bees gravitate toward sugar laced with the fungicide chlorothalonil over plain sugar. While the fungicide itself is not deadly to bees, it could have a deadly outcome.

New research indicated that exposure to fungicides interferes with honey bee ability to metabolize the treatments beekeepers use to kill varroa mites—meaning their preference for the chemicals could lead to more complications and even death.

“The dose determines the poison,” says May Berenbaum, Illinois Entomology professor and department head who lead the research project. “If your ability to metabolize poisons is compromised, then a therapeutic dose can become a toxic dose. And that seems to be what happens when honey bees encounter multiple pesticides.”

University experts decided to test the theory that bees prefer fungicide-soaked food and set up two feeding stations. Bees could fly from one to the other and collect syrup with chemicals or without. Postdoctoral researcher Ling-Hsiu Liao tested honey bee responses to nine naturally occurring chemicals, three fungicides and two herbicides.

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