University of Stirling researchers found that doses of a neonicotinoid pesticide at similar levels to those found in agricultural fields interfered with the type of vibrations the bees produce as they collect pollen, significantly reducing the number of pollen grains collected.
Dr Penelope Whitehorn, who led the study, said: “Our result is the first to demonstrate quantitative changes in the type of buzzes produced by bees exposed to field-realistic levels of neonicotinoid.
“We also show that buzz pollinating bees exposed to the pesticide also collect fewer pollen grains.”
Researchers looked at buzz pollination, a complex type of pollination in which bees use vibrations to remove pollen from flowers.
Dr Whitehorn said: “We found control bees, who were not exposed to the pesticide, improved their pollen collection as they gained experience, which we interpreted as an ability to learn to buzz pollinate better.
“However, bees that came into contact with pesticide did not collect more pollen as they gained more experience, and by the end of the experiment collected between 47 per cent and 56 per cent less pollen compared to the control bees.”