Navigation Links
Bee challenged -- toxin-laden nectar poses problems for honeybees
Date:12/21/2010

Honeybees can learn to avoid nectar containing natural plant toxins but will eat it when there is no alternative, scientists at Newcastle University have found.

This means that in areas dominated by these so called 'toxic plants' such as almond or apple orchards bees struggle to find an alternative food source and so are forced to eat toxic nectar.

With honeybee populations already under stress, the Newcastle University team believe these toxin-laden nectars could, in some cases, be a factor affecting colony health.

It has long been known that while most plants reward pollinators for visiting their flowers, some offer nectar that is poisonous.

Honeybees vital for crop pollination may be susceptible to some of these nectar toxins and beekeepers and scientists have long recognized they can be poisoned by the nectar.

Now researchers in the Honeybee Lab at Newcastle University have shown for the first time that the honeybee can learn to avoid nectar containing toxins. The study showed that when bees accidentally ate nectar that made them sick, they subsequently avoided the smell of the toxic flowers.

Publishing her research today in the academic journal Current Biology, Dr Jeri Wright, director of the Newcastle University Honeybee Lab, said that understanding how honeybees learn to detect these toxins could ultimately help us to breed plants that don't produce them and protect the honeybees.

"Avoiding toxins in food is as important as obtaining nutrition," explains Dr Wright. "What we have shown here is that like humans bees are not only able to taste toxins but are also capable of learning to avoid flowers with nectar that made them feel unwell after eating it.

"The problem is that despite this, bees could be feeding on 'toxic' nectar because there is little else around for example, in a large orchard where they have been brought in specially to pollinate it. At a time when populations are already vulnerable and under stress, this could be crucial to their survival."

The Newcastle University Honeybee lab is one of only a handful in the UK and is playing a key role in researching the demise of the UK's honeybee populations.

In this latest research, the team found two distinct pathways in which the bees were leaning to avoid the toxic nectar ; the first through taste and the second by learning after the toxic nectar had been eaten.

This second pathway was triggered by the chemical serotonin a neurochemical that could also play a role in this form of learning in humans.

Dr Wright said the next step was to try to understand how the consumption of toxic nectar influences colony health in agricultural settings. .

"It makes absolutely no sense for plants to poison the pollinators they rely on for their survival," she explains. "It may be the toxins are there to protect the plants against nectar robbery by ants we just don't know.

"What we do know is there are a number of plant species in the UK which produce toxin-laden nectar but if there is little else around it seems the honeybees are being forced to continue to feed from these plants.

"This could well be having a major impact on the UK's honeybees and we need to understand this if we are going to protect them."


'/>"/>

Contact: Louella Houldcroft
press.office@ncl.ac.uk
01-912-227-850
Newcastle University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Plant hormone regulates nectar production
2. Greater food insecurity from recession poses increased risk to low income individuals with diabetes
3. Biochemist proposes worldwide policy change to step up daily vitamin D intake
4. Solution to beading-saliva mystery has practical purposes
5. Propofol poses low risk in pediatric imaging studies, but risk increases with anesthesia duration
6. DNA barcoding exposes fake ferns in international plant trade
7. Linheng Li proposes novel theory for mammalian stem cell regulation
8. New, virulent strain of MRSA poses renewed antibiotic resistance concerns
9. Type 2 diabetes gene predisposes children to obesity
10. Treatment not testicular cancer poses greatest risk to survivors long-term health
11. Daily consumption of cannabis predisposes to the appearance of psychosis and schizophrenia
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/13/2017)... April 13, 2017 UBM,s Advanced Design and ... will feature emerging and evolving technology through its 3D ... will run alongside the expo portion of the event ... and demonstrations focused on trending topics within 3D printing ... and manufacturing event will take place June 13-15, 2017 at ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... , April 11, 2017 Crossmatch®, a ... authentication solutions, today announced that it has been ... Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to develop next-generation Presentation ... "Innovation has been a driving force ... program will allow us to innovate and develop ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... N.Y. , April 11, 2017 ... fingerprints, but researchers at the New York University ... College of Engineering have found that partial similarities ... security systems used in mobile phones and other ... thought. The vulnerability lies in the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/22/2017)... , ... June 21, 2017 , ... ... office in North Carolina, and engages Timothy Reinhardt to manage the new site. ... leadership at Pfizer Inc, with his most recent role as the Director of ...
(Date:6/22/2017)... ... 22, 2017 , ... For the months of May and ... Spotlight series on “Cell Therapy Regulation” for its regenerative medicine followship. ... unique regulatory challenges of stem cell medical research. , Stem cell clinical trials ...
(Date:6/22/2017)... ... June 22, 2017 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is pleased to ... was determined to be appropriate as a screening test at dairies and farms for ... EZ system, and the Charm EZ Lite system. These systems are a combination incubator ...
(Date:6/20/2017)... SQUARE, Pa. , June 20, 2017  Kibow ... is pleased to announce the issuance of a new ... gout or hyperuricemia by the U.S. Patent and Trademark ... Inc., a winner of the Buzz of Bio award ... , is akin to developing non-drug approaches to chronic ...
Breaking Biology Technology: