HANOVER, N.H. – Nicotine isn’t healthy for people, but such naturally occurring chemicals found in flowers of tobacco and other plants could be just the right prescription for ailing bees, according to a Dartmouth College-led study.
The researchers found that chemicals in floral nectar, including the alkaloids anabasine and nicotine, the iridoid glycoside catalpol and the terpenoid thymol, significantly reduce parasite infection in bees. The results suggest that growing plants high in these compounds around farm fields could create a natural “medicine cabinet” that improves survival of diseased bees and pollination of crops. The researchers studied parasite infections in bumble bees, which like honey bees are important pollinators that are in decline around the world, a trend that threatens fruits, vegetables and other crops that make up much of the food supply for people.
The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. A PDF of the study and photos of bees are available on request. The study included researchers from Dartmouth and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Plants produce chemicals called …