The decline of bumblebee populations has been a growing concern in recent years, as these insects are important pollinators of crops and wildflowers. In addition to habitat loss and pesticide use, researchers have identified various other factors that may be contributing to the decline of bumblebees, including disease, climate change, and resource depletion.
The new study adds glyphosate to the potential stressors affecting bumblebee populations. While glyphosate has long been considered safe for bees, the study suggests that exposure to the herbicide can have subtle but significant effects on the ability of bumblebee colonies to regulate their temperature and incubate their larvae.
The use of glyphosate, a popular herbicide, has been found to harm buff-tailed bumblebees. Bumblebees are important pollinators that face food shortages due to habitat loss and monocultures of crops. They can regulate their body temperature and the colony’s heat by ‘shivering’ to maintain a collective ‘thermostat’. This is essential for developing larvae, which require a temperature range of 25-35°C to reach adulthood. When food is scarce, the colony cools down, and larval development is affected.
The findings have implications for both agriculture and conservation. Farmers and gardeners may want to reconsider using glyphosate, particularly in areas where bumblebees are known to be present. Conservationists may want to focus on restoring habitat and food sources for bumblebees and finding ways to mitigate the impact of glyphosate and other stressors on these important pollinators.
The study found that exposure to glyphosate caused a significant drop in temperature on the side of the colony fed with glyphosate-tainted sugar water, eventually dipping below the optimal range for growing young bumblebees. This could reduce breeding rates in periods of food scarcity and contribute to the decline of bumblebees worldwide. The exact reason for the harmful effects of glyphosate on bumblebees is still unclear, but scientists suspect it may be due to the impacts of glyphosate on the bees’ microbiome.
Overall, the study highlights the complex interactions between humans and the natural world and the need for careful consideration of the environmental impacts of our actions.
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