Save bees, save humanity
A Cornell-developed technology offers beekeepers, customers, and farmers an antidote to harmful pesticides, which kill wild bees and cause beekeepers to lose almost one-third of their hives on average each year. The antidote delivery method has now been adapted to effectively protect bees from all insecticides and has inspired a new company, Beemmunity wesite, based in New York state.
Common pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, which were prohibited by the EU in 2016, are intended to protect crops against hungry insects, but bees are frequently caught in the crossfire. These toxins interfere with the chemicals that help bees produce energy, disrupting their sleep cycles and leaving them immobile and starved.
The new technique is defined as an antidote for toxic poisons, with the researchers initially focusing on organophosphate-based insecticides, which account for around one-third of the market. Cornell University researchers created a microparticle the size of pollen that may be loaded with enzymes that break down and totally detoxify these pesticides before they enter the body
How does it work?
The pollen-sized particle’s protective shell permits the enzymes to pass through the bee’s crop (stomach), which is acidic and breaks down enzymes. When microparticles are combined with pollen patties or sugar water, they pass past the acidic crop to the midgut, where digestion occurs and toxins and nutrients are absorbed. The enzymes can then work to break down and detoxify the organophosphates.
The technique was tested on real bees in the lab after a series of in vitro studies. They fed a swarm of bees malathion, an organophosphate insecticide, in contaminated pollen, as well as enzyme-treated microparticles. A control group was administered harmful pollen without the enzyme-filled microparticles at the same time.
Bees that were fed the microparticles with a high dose of the enzyme had a 100% survival rate after exposure to malathion. Meanwhile, unprotected control bees died in a matter of days.
Beemmunity is working on expanding its technique to combat a larger spectrum of pesticides.
Many of them, such as neonicotinoids, function by interacting with insect proteins. To tackle this, Beemmunity is creating particles that, instead of enzymes, include a unique absorptive oil and an insect protein coating. Instead of breaking down the pesticide, the particle absorbs and entraps it within the shell, which may then be safely passed by the bee.