Bee-friendly pesticides are one step closer to reality after breakthrough research

Bee-friendly pesticides are one step closer to reality after breakthrough research

A new study has found that insecticides could soon be developed that can target pests without harming beneficial insects such as bees and bumble bees.

Pesticide use is a topic of hot debate at the moment, partly due to the mystery surrounding what caused CCD and the belief these chemicals (such as neonicotinoids) have a negative impact on the environment. Particularly on bee populations which we rely on to pollinate crops and produce honey and propolis etc. Nevertheless, pesticides are accepted as a necessary aspect of modern agriculture.

New research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, explores the natural immunity of bumble bees and honey bees to specific insecticides, with the intention of utilising this in the creation of selective pesticides with low insect toxicity.

Bees are susceptible to most pyrethroid pesticides when taken orally, there are some varieties however that don’t possess this toxic affect. The scientists found that the molecules targeted by general pyrethroids in bee cells, are able to resist the effects of the small number of nontoxic compounds. Understanding this mechanism could lead to advances in insecticide development and design.

Professor Ke Dong, an insect toxicologist at Michigan State University and one of the study’s authors, said, for the first time we are showing that unique structural features in bee sodium channels interfere with the binding of these pyrethroids to bumble bee sodium channels. This opens the possibility of designing new chemicals that target sodium channels of pests but spare bees.

Dong and her collaborators hope to give rise to a new generation of pesticides that are bee-friendly. In the coming years selective pesticides will begin to play a larger role in agriculture as continue to understand the benefits provided by wild insects.