World’s most popular herbicide kills bumblebee colonies

(ORDO NEWS) — Glyphosate, widely used for weed control, has had an unexpected effect on bumblebees that pollinate flowers. Under the influence of this chemical, insects become more lethargic and less concerned about the well-being of their larvae, which can lead to the death of the entire colony.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and is used by both large agribusinesses and private households to control weeds. Its action is based on the inhibition of enzymes that are found only in plants, fungi and some bacteria, so the drug has long been considered harmless to animals and humans.

However, the situation has changed: the International Agency for Research on Cancer has already recognized glyphosate as a potential carcinogen, and now it turned out that this drug is also harmful to bumblebees pollinating flowers. Although it does not cause immediate death of insects, its effect on them can lead to the destruction of entire colonies

Bumblebees are important plant pollinators in cool climates due to their collective thermoregulation ability. It consists in the fact that insects gather together and often begin to contract the pectoral muscles, while not working with wings: the heat generated by their bodies raises the temperature of the nest to an acceptable mark of about 30 ° C.

When scientists decided to test the effect of glyphosate on bumblebees and, having divided one colony into two parts, began to feed half of the insects with sugar water with the addition of a “harmless” herbicide, they found that the thermoregulatory behavior of the bumblebees was disturbed.

As a result, the part of the colony fed on ordinary food successfully raised offspring, and their relatives, whose food was added glyphosate, lost all their larvae when their nest became too cold.

worlds most popular herbicide kills bumblebee colonies
Before the helpless larva turns into an adult bumblebee, a lot of time must pass

So far, the researchers cannot say exactly what exactly affected the behavioral disorder of bumblebees: they only assume that the herbicide struck symbiotic bacteria in the intestines of bumblebees, and this, in turn, caused severe dysbacteriosis.

Probably, the bumblebees felt too unwell to properly perform their duties in the nest, which led to the cooling of the larvae to a critical temperature.

Thus, one more piece of evidence has been obtained that even “safe” chemicals can affect other species in unexpected ways. It is hoped that as the use of glyphosate is reduced, bumblebees will be able to pollinate flowers safely again, flying out to fish on the coolest morning, before all other insects.

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