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Shedding Some Light on Bees

Light Therapy Can Counteract Effects of Neonics


Short-term exposure to near infrared light can reverse the effects of neonicotinoid exposure, and even help bees survive better without pesticide exposure, without impacting bee behavior, according to University College London researchers.

Researchers at University College London, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, have been studying the effects of neonicotinoids on bees, and ways to possibly mitigate those effects.

The latest buzz is that exposure to near infrared light creates significantly better mobility and survival rates in bees, whether they have been exposed to pesticides or not. Light therapy has been shown in the past to reduce mitochondrial degeneration - which is one of the side effects of neonicotinoid exposure. Because the bees cannot see the light, it does not impact their behavior.

Researchers looked at four groups of bees. Two groups were exposed to neonicotinoids for ten days. One of these two was exposed to 15 minutes of near infrared light twice daily over the same time period. Observations showed that the bees that were poisoned but not treated lost their mobility, thereby decreasing their survival. Bees that were poisoned but treated with light therapy had the same mobility and survival as bees that had no pesticide exposure.

Of the remaining two groups of bees, one was not exposed to neonicotinoids or light (the control group) and the other was exposed to the same levels of near infrared light. This second group had an even better survival rate than the control group.

The team is now working to develop small devices that can be fitted into commercial hives to expose bees to the deep red light. They are hoping to use it as both a preventative measure and as a treatment.

In other pollinator news....

The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, recently opened a 10,000 square foot Bee and Pollinator Research Lab with the goal of promoting the health of bees and pollinators. Researchers are studying honeybees and the ecology and habitat needs of native bees.

Rutgers University offers a "Bee-ginner's Beekeeping" hands-on class that educates students on how to start, maintain and care for a honeybee colony. The next three-day course begins in March.

A student at Penn State is studying the pollen brought to hives by honeybees, and what impact it might have on seasonal allergies, by collecting small samples of pollen from bees and comparing them to pollen transmitted through the air by wind.

Researchers at Purdue University found that some populations of varroa mite in Papua New Guinea are switching hosts from the Asian honeybee to the European honeybee. They determined that the host jump likely started within the last 10 years. The last time a mite made a host leap about 60 years ago, it became a global health threat to European honeybees. By catching it early, the researchers hope they can prevent it from becoming overly destructive to the species.

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June 18, 2019, 6:31 pm PDT

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