Ever been overworked, tired and felt muddle-headed? Research now shows honey bees suffer from the same thing—and we understand why.
A honey bee’s life is hardly relaxing. Every day forager bees make many trips, travelling long distances, to gather vital resources of pollen and nectar from flowers. They have to deal with predators, challenging weather conditions and the very real risk of getting lost.
Just as chronic stress affects mental abilities in humans, recent study suggests these stressful foraging activities reduce bees’ ability to solve problems, by changing the connectivity between specific neurons in the brain.
Intense foraging affects bees’ mental health
"Our study found bees that had been foraging for a long time or at high intensities were less able to learn new smells. We believe this might be due to stress." Stress in mammals causes similar learning difficulties, and another recent study described stressed bees as poor foragers.
Foraging was particularly stressful for young bees, which seemed to be less resilient to environmental conditions. Study also identified stress-induced changes in brain structure that affected learning ability.
Honey bees, as humans, need to be working at their mental best, otherwise they cannot collect enough food for the colony.
Why should we care about bees?
Honey bee decline—known as colony collapse disorder—is a global problem. We don’t know exactly what’s happening to Macedonia's bee population, but losses in Europe and the United States are well above sustainable levels. Thanks to the European Union, which has recently banned neonicotinoid pesticides that directly affect bees’ brains, situation with bee-decline can significantly change in future.