Thursday, 17 May 2012 16:11

Selenium link to bee problems

Written by 

ADD SELENIUM to the list of things bugging honey bees.

University of California Riverside entomologists say selenium, a nonmetal chemical element, can disrupt the foraging behavior and survival of honey bees.

Selenium in very low concentrations is necessary for the normal development of insects – and humans – but becomes toxic at only slightly higher concentrations when it replaces sulfur in amino acids.

John Trumble, a professor of entomology, and graduate student Kristen Hladun found bees foraged on flowering mustard and weedy radish plants regardless of selenium concentration, some of which were very high following fertigation with the mineral.

“Nature has not equipped bees to avoid selenium,” Trumble says. “Unless the rates of concentrations of selenium were extremely high in our experiments, the bees did not appear to respond to its presence.”

The researchers also found bees fed selenate in the lab were less responsive to sugar (as sucrose).

“The selenium interfered with their sucrose response,” Hladun says.

“Such bees would be less likely to recruit bees to forage because they wouldn’t be stimulated to communicate information about sucrose availability to the sister bees.”

Trumble and Hladun also found forager bees fed moderate selenium amounts over a few days died at younger ages.

Trumble says the consequences of bees’ inability to avoid selenium could be substantial, but stresses their research does not show that large losses of honey bees are currently occurring due to selenium, or that there is any relationship with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Field studies are needed to determine if honey bees collect enough selenium from contaminated plants to cause significant effects on learning, behavior and adult or larval survival.

With USDA funding the researchers are to investigate influence other elements, such as cadmium and lead, which have been found in urban honeybee hives. 

More like this

The selenium conundrum

OPINION: When Les Hailes was named third form dux at St Kevin's College in Oamaru in 1944 his parents were aghast.

Organic selenium deals to cow health

Dealing with the adverse effects of selenium deficiency is a reality for many dairy farmers, with some completely unaware of its effects, says Trina Parker, country manager for BEC Feed Solutions.

National

FMD scare puts NZ on watch

A recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) in Indonesia has the NZ agriculture sector and its officials on…

Public round up on glyphosate

The country's environmental regulator agency has released the public feedback it has received on the glyphosate weed killer - commonly…

New bee Guy!

Former Agriculture Minister Nathan Guy will take over as the independent chair of Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ).

Machinery & Products

A new approach to apprenticeships

By taking a new approach to its apprenticeship programme, agricultural equipment supplier Norwood says it is ensuring farmers’ machinery will…

Buck-Rake does the job

With many self-propelled forage harvester manufacturers offering machines hitting 1000hp, the bottleneck in any harvesting system is always likely to…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Yeah, right!

OPINION: Your old mate reckons recent ‘research’ carried out by consultants PWC – claiming that ‘actively managed carbon forestry’ creates…

All Claas!

OPINION: Your canine crusader - like many in the sector probably would have - raised an eyebrow when he heard…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter