Nav: Home

Light therapy could save bees from deadly pesticides

November 15, 2016

Treating bees with light therapy can counteract the harmful effects of neonicotinoid pesticides and improve survival rates of poisoned bees, finds a new UCL study.

"Neonicotinoid pesticides are a persistent threat to global bee populations, which play a critical role in agriculture," says Professor Glen Jeffery (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology), the senior author of the PLOS ONE paper. "My team is working to develop a small device that can be fitted into a commercial hive, which could be an economic solution to a problem with very widespread implications."

The pesticides undermine mitochondrial function and compromise the production of ATP, the currency for energy that drives cellular function. This results in reduced mobility among bees exposed to neonicotinoids, leading them to die of starvation, unable to feed themselves.

The researchers used four groups of bees from commercial hives, with more than 400 bees in each colony. Two groups were exposed to a neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid, for ten days, with one group also being treated with light therapy over the same period - 15 minutes of near infrared light (670nm) was shone into the hive twice daily.

The mobility of the bees that were poisoned but not treated with light therapy dropped off rapidly, as did their ATP levels, and their survival rate declined accordingly. The bees that were poisoned but also treated with light therapy had significantly better mobility and survival rates, living just as long and functioning just as well as bees that had not been poisoned. One group was given light therapy without being poisoned, and their survival rate was even better than the control group. The researchers found the deep red light did not interfere with bee behaviour as they cannot see it.

"Long-wavelength light treatments have been shown in other studies to reduce mitochondrial degeneration which results from aging processes. It's beneficial even for bees that aren't affected by pesticides, so light therapy can be an effective means of preventing loss of life in case a colony becomes exposed to neonicotinoids. It's win-win," Professor Jeffery says.

While light therapy works best as a preventative measure, the researchers found it can also be helpful as treatment in response to an incident of pesticide exposure, as long as the treatment is started within a couple days of exposure.

"We found that by shining deep red light on the bee which had been affected by the toxic pesticides that they could recover, as it improved mitochondrial and visual function, and enabled them to move around and feed again," says Dr Michael Powner (City, University of London), who led the study while at UCL.

Researchers at UCL Ophthalmology have been studying near-infrared light therapy because of its benefits not only for bees, but also for other animals including humans, particularly to counteract effects of aging and a range of neurological diseases.

"When a nerve cell is using more energy than other cells, or is challenged because of a lack of energy, red light therapy can give it a boost by improving mitochondrial function. Essentially, it recharges the cell's batteries," Professor Jeffery explains.
-end-
The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

University College London

Related Pesticides Articles:

Nanozymes -- efficient antidote against pesticides
Members of the Faculty of Chemistry of the Lomonosov Moscow State University have developed novel nanosized agents -- nanozymes, which could be used as efficient protective and antidote modalities against the impact of neurotoxic organophosphorous compounds: pesticides and chemical warfare agents.
Study examines pesticides' impact on wood frogs
A new study looks at how neonicotinoid pesticides affect wood frogs, which use surface waters in agricultural environments to breed and reproduce.
USDA announces $1.8 million for research on next generation pesticides
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced $1.8 million in available funding to research new, environmentally friendly pesticides and innovative tools and strategies to replace an older treatment, methyl bromide.
Light therapy could save bees from deadly pesticides
Treating bees with light therapy can counteract the harmful effects of neonicotinoid pesticides and improve survival rates of poisoned bees, finds a new UCL study.
The effects of pesticides on soil organisms are complex
There are significant interactions between soil management factors, including pesticide application, with respect to effects on soil organisms.
Pesticides used to help bees may actually harm them
Honeybees from chlorothalanil-treated hives showed the greatest change in gut microbiome.
Research associates some pesticides with respiratory wheeze in farmers
New research from North Carolina State University connects several pesticides commonly used by farmers with both allergic and non-allergic wheeze, which can be a sensitive marker for early airway problems.
Electronic nose smells pesticides and nerve gas
Detecting pesticides and nerve gas in very low concentrations. An international team of researchers led by Ivo Stassen and Rob Ameloot from KU Leuven, Belgium, have made it possible.
Honeybees pick up 'astonishing' number of pesticides via non-crop plants
A Purdue University study shows that honeybees collect the vast majority of their pollen from plants other than crops, even in areas dominated by corn and soybeans, and that pollen is consistently contaminated with a host of agricultural and urban pesticides throughout the growing season.
Common pesticides kill amphibian parasites, study finds
A recent study by Jessica Hua, assistant professor of biological sciences at Binghamton University, and colleagues, explored the effects of six commonly used pesticides on two different populations of a widespread parasite of amphibians.

Related Pesticides Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Moving Forward
When the life you've built slips out of your grasp, you're often told it's best to move on. But is that true? Instead of forgetting the past, TED speakers describe how we can move forward with it. Guests include writers Nora McInerny and Suleika Jaouad, and human rights advocate Lindy Lou Isonhood.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...