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RFID tags help scientists to track food pollination

Date: August 11, 2014

Category: Industry news

A study conducted by Imperial College London (ICL) has found that certain pesticides may be impairing bumblebees, which could have an effect on food supply.

In fact, Dr. Richard Gill, who was the study’s lead scientist, claimed that one in three mouthfuls of the food that we eat actually relies upon bee pollination. This included most fruits, nuts, vegetables, and coffee.

The results, which were published in the Functional Ecology journal from the British Ecological Society, stated that being exposed to neonicotinoid-based pesticides long-term was having an effect on which plants the bumblebees chose to visit.
The RFID chips were used to follow 259 bees in their everyday activities, spread across 40 colonies, with the effect of two different pesticides being measured. During the four-week period during which the monitoring took place, it was found that the colonies that had been exposed to neonicotinoids were gathering significantly less pollen than untreated hives.
Not only this, but the researchers found that the returning bees were visiting different flowers to those they usually would, which could have an impact upon harvests. If fewer crops are pollinated, this will lead to a much lower yield at harvest time, which would have a knock-on effect upon the food produce supply chain.
Chronic exposure to neonicotinoids also meant that the bumblebees did not improve their foraging abilities with age, which is usually the case in established colonies. This means that the creatures would be pollinating fewer plants over their lifespan.
The ICL study therefore called for increased research into the effects of low-level pesticides over time, as the survival of many colonies could be being put at risk, as well as for policy makers to take a look at the risk assessment guidelines once more.