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‘Like Nicotine’: Bees Develop Preference for Pesticides, Study Shows

If you’ve ever listened to a smoker lament that they know their habit is killing them, but they “just can’t stop,” then you’ll understand the predicament that bumblebees have apparently stumbled into with neonicotinoid pesticides. According to The Guardian, researchers have found that, like nicotine, some chemicals in pesticides attract the bees in such a way that they become addicted to the killer pesticides, just like humans become addicted to cigarettes.

This is a stunning revelation in the ongoing neonicotinoid saga, wherein beekeepers have been accusing pesticide makers for years of killing bees by the millions with neonicotinoids sprayed on food crops. In reality, for bees living in the 21st century, the world is a dangerous place. With grasslands being increasingly converted into corn and soybean fields, finding wild flowering trees, weeds and other plants can be a challenge.

In the U.S., for instance, bees often live near genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean fields. These seeds are often coated in neonicotinoid pesticides, and the chemicals are found in corn and soybean pollen. When they first encounter these fields, it’s reported that bees try to avoid the poisoned fields by looking for flowering plants nearby — but as the new research shows, apparently, they’ve learned to “like” the pesticide-laden blooms, which only adds to the problems with these environmentally destructive poisons.

What’s more, neonicotinoids are only one type of agricultural chemical that’s being used in excess while the environmental consequences begin to unfold all around us. The point is bees aren’t the only living things being adversely affected by chemicals sprayed on our food sources. For example, glyphosate and dicamba are herbicides that leave devastation in their paths, too — killing off everything that isn’t part of their genetically-engineered seed plan.

What all this means is that, while scientists are trying to figure out how to end bees’ fatal neonicotinoid addiction, there’s little doubt that the ever-increasing rate of pesticide and herbicide usage is still a ticking time bomb for environmental and human health. There are other ways to manage pests, by the way, and this bee addiction tale should surely be a trigger for environmental managers to look at these very viable alternatives, which have proven profitable when farmers decide to try them.

Integrated pest management, for example, has been found highly successful, particularly when farmers include techniques such as crop rotation and pheromone traps to capture insect pests. But in order for this to work on a large scale, seed companies must cooperate and admit to their mistakes — something we’re all waiting for, and the sooner, the better.

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