Nature: Pesticides used to protect crops from insects are keeping bees awake at night

Bees are being kept awake at night by pesticides used to protect crops from insects — and this is lowering their survival rates, a study has warned.

Researchers from Bristol warned that — just like us humans — the vital pollinators need a good night’s rest in order to function properly.

However, exposure to so-called neonicotinoids — the worlds’ most commonly used insecticide — has the potential to disrupt the bees’ circadian rhythms.

This causes the insects to lose their sense of time and, as a result, they get poor sleep and their ability to communicate and navigate both suffer.

Experts found that neonicotinoids reduced the quality rest of both bumblebees and fruit flies — shedding new light on why the former are vanishing from the wild.

Bees are being kept awake at night by pesticides used to protect crops from insects — and this is lowering their survival rates, a study has warned. Pictured, honey bees (stock image)

‘The neonicotinoids we tested had a big effect on the amount of sleep taken by both flies and bees,’ said paper author Kiah Tasman of the University of Bristol.

‘If an insect was exposed to a similar amount as it might experience on a farm where the pesticide had been applied, it slept less, and its daily behavioural rhythms were knocked out of synch with the normal 24-hour cycle of day and night.’

With a similar circadian rhythm to ours, honeybees sleep between five to eight hours a day. In the case of forager bees, this similarly occurs in day-night cycles.

This means that the bees get more rest at night, when darkness would impede their excursions to collect nectar and pollen.

‘Being able to tell time is important for knowing when to be awake and forage, and it looked like these drugged insects were unable to sleep,’ said paper author and neuroscientist James Hodge, also of the University of Bristol

‘We know quality sleep is important for insects, just as it is for humans, for their health and forming lasting memories.’

In their study, experiments on fruit flies revealed how pesticides — in those concentration typically employed for agriculture — upset the insect brain’s ability to remember and threw off its biological clock.

Researchers from Bristol warned that — just like us humans — the vital pollinators (pictured) need a good night's rest in order to function properly. However, exposure to so-called neonicotinoids — the worlds' most commonly used insecticide — has the potential to disrupt the bees' circadian rhythms

Researchers from Bristol warned that — just like us humans — the vital pollinators (pictured) need a good night’s rest in order to function properly. However, exposure to so-called neonicotinoids — the worlds’ most commonly used insecticide — has the potential to disrupt the bees’ circadian rhythms

‘Bees and flies have similar structures in their brains,’ explained paper author and ecologist Sean Rands, also from Bristol.

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