Pesticides make bees… picky.

PhysOrg finds something weird about the nicotine-based pesticides that seem to be making trouble for bees. Neonicotinoids make them picky eaters:

The UC San Diego biologists focused their study on a specific neonicotinoid known as “imidacloprid,” which has been banned for use in certain crops in some European countries and is being increasingly scrutinized in the United States.

“In 2006, it was the sixth most commonly used pesticide in California and is sold for agricultural and home garden use,” said James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the research project with graduate student Daren Eiri, the first author of the study. “It is known to affect bee learning and memory.”

The two biologists found in their experiments that honey bees treated with a small, single dose of imidacloprid, comparable to what they would receive in nectar, became “picky eaters.”
“In other words, the bees preferred to only feed on sweeter nectar and refused nectars of lower sweetness that they would normally feed on and that would have provided important sustenance for the colony,” said Eiri. “In addition, bees typically recruit their nestmates to good food with waggle dances, and we discovered that the treated bees also danced less.”

The two researchers point out that honey bees that prefer only very sweet foods can dramatically reduce the amount of resources brought back to the colony.