Bees exposed to common pesticide can’t find flowers

Bees sniff out the aroma of flowers to identify ones they know have nectar. It’s a crucial part of the pollination processes. But new research suggests that a controversial pesticide used widely in agriculture could interfere with it.

In the United States in the past year, beekeepers have lost 40 percent of their colonies. A study published in Nature Thursday offers the latest evidence suggesting that neonicotinoid pesticides may be behind the demise.

“Honeybees need to learn to associate nectar reward with floral odor. One of the main reasons why flowers produce odor is so that this odor can be learned by pollinators and used to repeatedly visit the same flower species,” Chinese Academy of Science’s Ken Tan, who led the study, told CBS News in an email interview.

“Without this repeat visitation, pollination does not occur. We showed that a neonicotinoid pesticide, at sublethal doses, harms this odor memory formation.