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Pesticide Altering Genes in Honey Bees

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Jul 03, 2013 11:22 AM EDT
Bees
Bees underwent massive extinction 65 million years ago -- the same time a massive event triggered the end of the dinosaurs. (Photo : REUTERS/Lisi Niesner )

According to a new study, the neonicotinoid pesticide can alter gene activity in honey bees.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are a class of pesticides that are taken up by the plant and expressed via nectar. Previous research conducted on the chemical neonicotinoids had found that it causes population decline in bumble bee colonies. Bees in Europe recently won against the pesticide after the EU decided to impose a two-year ban on the pesticide in Europe from April, 2013. A ban, that some people say, is based on little evidence.

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recent study from UK had also shown that the pesticides  persist in the environment and harm soil organisms, birds and fishes.

The present study, conducted by researchers from The University of Nottingham, found that exposure to even small amounts of the pesticide - about two parts per billion- can lead to changes in the activity of certain genes in the honey bees.

Larvae exposed to the insecticide had genes that worked harder to break the toxins. Also, genes associated with managing energy use in the cells were affected by the insecticide exposure. All these changes have previously been associated with a decrease in lifespan of the common fruit fly. Researchers said that larvae exposed to the chemical might not even reach adulthood.

 "Although larvae can still grow and develop in the presence of imidacloprid, the stability of the developmental process appears to be compromised. Should the bees be exposed to additional stresses such as pests, disease and bad weather then it is likely to increase the rate of development failure." Dr Reinhard Stöger, Associate Professor in Epigenetics in the University's School of Biosciences and lead author of the study, said in a news release. 

The study," Transient Exposure to Low Levels of Insecticide Affects Metabolic Networks of Honeybee Larvae," is published in the journal PLOS One

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