Damage to the beeline

Neonicotinoid pesticides affect honey-bees’ navigation

The tracking of honey bees fitted with tiny radar antennae indicates that exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides is harmful to their navigational skills, new research shows.

Biologists at England’s Rothamsted Research worked with German scientists to glue lightweight radar transponders to the backs of honey bees to track their flight paths, according to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper. Bees that ate syrup containing the pesticides became disoriented and had trouble finding their way back to their hives, instead “flying in random circles rather than straight lines.”

“The treated bees … are more confused,” making them less able to find food and bring it back to the hive, said Randolf Menzel, an insect neurobiologist at Freie Universität Berlin, and leader of the pioneering work.

The findings come as the honey-bee population is declining worldwide.