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Drugs & Health Blog

Not So Sweet: Bees May Be ‘Addicted’ to Harmful Pesticides

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
The NIDA Blog Team

News reports are gaining attention on how bees have been dying in large numbers—much higher numbers than before 2006. Beekeepers and scientists have been mystified about why this is happening. Dying honeybees are a big problem for farmers, too, because the bees pollinate agricultural crops—okra, apples, cabbage, broccoli, and dozens more—and help them grow. So fewer bees means fewer crops, which is bad for food supplies and the economy.

No, you haven’t accidentally clicked over to a blog for bee lovers. Believe it or not, the bee crisis—and possible solutions to it—may be closely connected to the subject of drugs.

Getting their buzz on

Some scientists think one cause of the bee crisis is a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. These pesticides are chemically related to nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco (and most e-cigarettes), and are used on many crops—crops that are then pollinated by bees.  This means that when bees pollinate the crops with this type of pesticide, they pick up some of it up.

Some researchers speculate that bees are actually getting addicted to the pesticide—much like people get addicted to nicotine. Just like those addicted to cigarettes, bees may keep going back to neonicotinoids for another “hit.” Bye-bye, bee.

In one recent study, bees preferred nectar laced with neonicotinoids to nectar without the pesticides. The researchers found that the bees couldn’t taste a difference between the two types of nectars (by using an electron microscope to see if the taste receptors in the bees’ mouths were stimulated).  This is why the researchers think the neonicotinoids might have hooked the bees’ brains.

(For now, the Environmental Protection Agency has stopped approving new outdoor uses for neonicotinoids, while it waits to see results from additional studies on bees’ health.)

Are we bee-brained?

Does it matter if the human brain and the bee brain act in similar ways? Over at the NIDA website, Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA’s director, says that the bee research suggests that studying the science behind addiction in people might also give us a better understanding of animal behavior. If it does, we may learn how to end the bee crisis.

More research will reveal if, like people addicted to tobacco and other dangerous substances, bees are getting hooked on the same chemicals that could be killing them.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Who cares
This is important because the bees pollinate our crops. Without bees, plants would die off, eliminating that from our food chain. The plants die, then the animals also die, and so meat is gone too. If you want to learn to survive without food, have fun.
thats nasty bee
do you want food?
this is crazy
Everyone! we wouldn't have any flowers, fruits,Vegetables,dairy products,and more.
you should unless your a smoker
this is pretty bad because we need these kinds of foods and if we don't have them, people wont have enoff food, it would be worce than it already is.
It is crazy that bees are able to get addicted to pesticides and that us humans can get addicted to other things that we are already aware about.
This is a very interesting article. This is very important to inform people about the crisis with bees.
That is crazzzzzzzzzzzzzy!
This was a very short and interesting article. It is so amazing that the chemical companies don't even care about what they are putting in their pesticides. They only care about making a big profit, and getting farmers to buy, but most of the farmers don't even know what the companies are making the pesticides with. This is very harmful to the environment, and bees in this case.
im scared of bees im a wimp lol
That is horrible!
this artical was a fun intresting arctical to learn about
this acticle is a good aticle
even tho i'm scared of bees i don't want them to dye there a important part of are world we all life on.