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Bees give up searching for food when we degrade their land

Bees give up searching for food when we degrade their land

Image: Bee.

A new study into honey bees has revealed the significant effect human impact has on a bee’s metabolism, and ultimately, its survival. In an ARC-funded Linkage Project, researchers from The University of Western Australia, in collaboration with Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Curtin University and CSIRO, have completed a world-first study on insect metabolism in free flying insects—focusing on the honey bee. The study has revealed the significant effect human impact on the environment had on bees, which are crucial for the planet, pollinating one third of everything we eat. Landscapes that have been degraded mean a reduction in the availability of resources, which affects the metabolic rate of the honey bee and puts more strain on its body’s ability to function.

Emeritus Professor Don Bradshaw from UWA's School of Biological Sciences said they wanted to find out how honey bees’ metabolism was impacted by human made changes to the environment, such as clearing of land. To do this, they used a unique method to measure the energy expenditure of bees, originally developed by Professor Bradshaw and used in his research on honey possums. Through this method, they were able to measure the metabolic rate of bees when they are in their natural environment, and compare pristine environments rich in resources to degraded environments.

“Before conducting the experiment, we thought the bees would have a much higher metabolism in degraded areas because they would need to travel further in search of food," Professor Bradshaw said. "Surprisingly, we found the opposite. The metabolic rate of bees in natural woodland was actually significantly higher than in a degraded environment."

Media issued by the University of Western Australia.

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