Projects/science - world/may 26, 2020

How do glyphosates impact bumblebee productivity and parasitology?

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About This Project

The recent ban of neonicotinoids across Europe due to their impacts on the bee population has raised concern that other common garden products have similar impacts. We set out to investigate how glyphosates – herbicides, give rise to complications in bee health and their overall population numbers.

We hypothesise that bees exposed to glyphosates will experience increased vulnerability to parasitic infections, along with negative changes in foraging behaviour and foraging ability.



What is the context of this research?


Pollinators play an important role in human life in regards to food security and other ecosystem services they provide. To do this they require flowering plants for food and shelter resources. Bees are experiencing declines in their population which is influenced by human influence, be it land-use change or agricultural intensity. Neonicotinoids have recently been found to have detrimental effects on bees, however, the effects of glyphosates on bumblebee productivity and parasitology has yet to be investigated. With the suggested impacts on human health upon consumption, the impact on our bees can only be imagined.



What is the significance of this project?


They have found that garden products containing neonicotinoids have major impacts on bee health and function, it may be hypothesised that similar garden products, like Roundup, could possess similar effects on our bees. With this research we hope to investigate the effects of glyphosates (herbicides) on bumblebees, specifically, how they affect bumblebee health and productivity. This research could potentially become a small piece of a larger very important puzzle.


What are the goals of the project?


We hypothesise that bees exposed to glyphosates will experience increased vulnerability to parasitic infections. We will test this by treating the colonies with sugar solution, half of which contain glyphosates. We will then run a series of dissections before and after wild release and compare parasite infection rate between glyphosate treated and sugar solution treated colonies.

We also hypothesize that bees will experience negative changes in foraging behaviour and foraging ability. We will test this by running a range of choice experiments to determine whether bees choose flowers sprayed with glyphosates regardless of toxicity.

If the hypothesis is supported, results could be used in management plans to facilitate bee conservation.

Distribution of money

This funding will be used to facilitate a masters project carried out in Queen’s University and working alongside Lagan Valley Regional Park. It is expected to run from mid April to late July 2019 and consists of; field experiments, dissections and choice experiments.

A larger proportion of the funding will be used to purchase 8 boxes of commercial bumblebee colonies.

Field experiments ($400); pure glyphosate and equipment used for the protection of the colonies when in the field, i.e wire fencing and waterproof material.

Dissection experiment ($250); storage tubes, ethanol for bumblebee storage, insect pins and a dissection kit.

Choice experiment ($350); material to build a Y-maze for in lab choice experiment, potted flowers and glyphosates for field choice experiments.