If the bees die, we die too. That makes learning what is happening to the global population of bees and other pollinators, of utmost importance. A lot of evidence suggests that widespread pesticide use is to blame. Absurdly, there are few plans to curtail the liberal use of pesticides. Therefore, alternatives need to be found to help pollinating insects.
New research conducted by Hichem Menail, a PhD student at the Université de Moncton in Canada, suggests that the use of ahiflower oil, an omega-3 rich oil, can help protect honey bee mitochondria from damage caused by neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonicotinoids are widely used insecticides and pose a significant threat to insect populations, including crucial pollinators like honey bees. The decline in pollinator populations has raised concerns for global food crops.
Imidacloprid, one of the most commonly used neonicotinoids, was banned for outdoor use by the EU in 2018 due to its harmful effects. However, the continued use of neonicotinoids around the world, including in the United States, means honey bees are still exposed to these pesticides. Menail's ongoing project focuses on finding solutions to mitigate the impact of pesticides on honey bees, aiming to enhance their immune system and metabolism to counter chemical intoxication.
In the study, three groups of bees were fed sucrose syrup containing either the pesticide alone, ahiflower oil alone, or a combination of both for 25 days. The researchers measured the bees' mitochondrial respiration, and the results confirmed that imidacloprid hampers mitochondrial respiration. However, the exciting finding was that bees fed with both imidacloprid and ahiflower oil exhibited immediate improvements in their respiration rates, recovering to levels similar to the control group.
These findings have important implications for potential food supplements that could help reduce honey bee mortalities resulting from pesticide exposure. Menail believes that by supplementing bees' diets with ahiflower oil to improve their respiration, the mitochondria can enhance ATP production, leading to improved overall performance and a stronger immune system in honey bees. This research offers a promising strategy to address the damaging effects of neonicotinoids on honey bees and protect their crucial role as pollinators in ecosystems.