Science Weekly: Can light save bees?


Bees in the United States and across the world have been dying at high rates over the past decade for many suspected reasons, to the great fear of bee farmers and agricultural industries. One of the confirmed suspects is neonicotinoid pesticides, used widely in the United States. Banning this family of pesticides has been a somewhat sucessful endeavor in Europe recently, but cannot be the only solution.

But a new paper in PLOS ONE by Professor Glen Jeffery and his team at University College London Institute of Ophthalmology has found that light might, well, light the way. Light therapy has been found to counteract the harmful effects of neonicotinoid pesticides, which is detrimental to mitochondrial function, compromising the production of ATP that the bees need for energy – and that can lead them to starve from lacking the ability to fly out and find food.

Red light improves mitochondrial function by recharging the cell’s batteries, according to Professor Jeffery.

This solution actually works best as a preventative measure, as it is beneficial to bees even if they are not exposed to pesticides. Near-infrared light therapy is being researched also for anti-aging applications and to fight neurological diseases in humans.

See the results of light therapy on bees in this video, by the University College London.