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These Scientists Are Using Bees to Spread Pesticides

Since they're already going to the flowers anyway, why not give them some pesticides to carry?

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Commercial bees are the workhorses of modern agriculture, as they pollinate vast fields of crops on their quest for tasty nectar. And since they’re already making the journey from hive to stamensays Les Shipp, a scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, why not piggyback on their efforts even more? Shipp and his colleagues have worked out a way to get bees to carry pesticides right to where they need to be.

In an interview, Shipp explained to the CBC how his pest control-bees work:

What we have is a little tray, we have an inoculum tray that we attach to the hive. And, as the bees exit the hive they walk through this tray, picking up the inoculum on their hairs and on their feet. And then they leave this inoculum tray, go out to the plants and fly around, and when they’re buzz pollinating—they’re grabbing that flower and they’re vigorously shaking that flower—they’re releasing this inoculum on the flowers, and also it gets on the leaves too.

The pesticides and anti-fungal agents and other things that Shipp has coaxed the bees into carrying aren’t dangerous to the bees themselves. And, he says, this type of targeted delivery could actually help cut down on the amount of pesticides that end up blowing in the wind.

More from Smithsonian.com:

This New Sperm Bank for Honey Bees Could Help Fight Colony Collapse Disorder
High Fructose Corn Syrup May Be Partly Responsible for Bees’ Collapsing Colonies
These Little Robot Bees Could Pollinate the Fields of the Future

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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