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Team shows how the honey bee tolerates some synthetic pesticides
Date:7/20/2011

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. A new study reveals how enzymes in the honey bee gut detoxify pesticides commonly used to kill mites in the honey bee hive. This is the first study to tease out the precise molecular mechanisms that allow a pollinating insect to tolerate exposure to these potentially deadly compounds.

The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Previous studies have shown that honey bee hives are contaminated with an array of agricultural chemicals, many of which the bees themselves bring back to the hive in the form of contaminated pollen and nectar, said University of Illinois entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum, who led the new research.

"There are agricultural pesticides everywhere," she said. "They accumulate in the wax of bee hives, so bees in particular are exposed. And their habit of foraging very broadly across a staggering diversity of plant species also tends to expose them to many different types of habitats, which may also have different types of chemical residues."

Other chemicals are applied directly to the hives, she said. For the past 20 years, beekeepers have used acaricides chemicals designed to kill mites but not bees in the hive.

While evidence so far does not support the idea that exposure to synthetic pesticides is a cause or significant contributor to colony collapse disorder, the massive die-off of honey bees first reported in late 2006, "it's abundantly clear that pesticides aren't really very good for any insect," Berenbaum said. "So we figured it was about time somebody knew something about how pollinators process toxins."

The researchers focused on cytochrome P450s, enzymes that are well-known agents of detoxification "in most air-breathing organisms," Berenbaum said. Other
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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