Bees 'entomb polluted hives'
PUBLISHED: 12:24 01 June 2011 | UPDATED: 08:37 28 March 2014
JUNE 1, 2011: New research has shown that honeybees are 'entombing' hives to protect them against pesticides. By sealing up cells full of contaminated pollen, bees appear to be attempting to protect the rest of the hive, say scientists.
"This is a novel finding, and very striking. The implication is that the bees are sensing [pesticides] and actually sealing it off. They are recognising that something is wrong with the pollen and encapsulating it," said Jeff Pettis, an entomologist with the US Department of Agriculture.
But the bees' last-ditch efforts to save themselves appear to be unsuccessful – the entombing behaviour is found in many hives that subsequently die off, according to Pettis.
“The presence of entombing is the biggest single predictor of colony loss. It's a defence mechanism that has failed.” These colonies were likely to already be in trouble, and their death could be attributed to a mix of factors in addition to pesticides, he added.