The Bee’s Vapid Poison

Stripy sailors weave
through scattered skies,
as clouds of poison
linger overhead.
In our gardens
of deceit,
their hairy knees
vibrant petals
laced with harm.
Every bloom
a shrouding mask
of certain,
Venom’s tasteless
in every honeyed

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that bees cannot taste even lethal levels of pesticides.

Bees play a crucial role in pollinating many of the crops we rely on for food, but their survival is threatened by the use of pesticides in agriculture. One significant danger they face is the contamination of the nectar and pollen of flowers with insecticides, which can poison them. There has been ongoing debate and inconsistent findings about whether bees can actually taste these harmful chemicals in the nectar, and if they can, whether they’re able to avoid it. This issue is vital because if bees cannot detect pesticides, they may unknowingly consume them, leading to detrimental effects on their populations.

In this study, researchers focused on understanding how bees, specifically the buff-tailed bumblebee, respond to pesticides in nectar-like solutions. They used advanced techniques combining food aversion assays and electrophysiology (the study of electrical properties of biological cells and tissues) to investigate if bees can detect pesticides through their mouthparts. The study revealed that bees did not avoid eating solutions with various concentrations of common pesticides, even when these concentrations were lethal. Surprisingly, only extremely high concentrations of pesticides caused any change in the activity of the bees’ taste neurons. These findings strongly suggest that bumblebees cannot detect or avoid pesticides at concentrations typically found in fields using their sense of taste. This puts them at a high risk of consuming these harmful substances when they collect nectar from treated crops, highlighting a significant concern for bee conservation efforts.

2 thoughts on “The Bee’s Vapid Poison”

  1. Sam,

    Something decidedly Shakespearean about the ending…
    The sinister idea of ‘Death masked in a, ‘honeyed kiss’.
    It mirrors too, our own demise
    for if the bees go,
    then ultimately, we go
    So no more honeyed-kisses for us!

    There’s some comfort in thinking that perhaps
    The bees will survive us and live to
    ‘Graze vibrant petals free of venom.’

    Thank you Sam


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