Current Chernobyl-level radiation harmful to bees – study | Inquirer Technology
Close  

Current Chernobyl-level radiation harmful to bees – study

/ 07:09 PM October 21, 2020

Paris, France Bumblebees exposed to levels of radiation found within the Chernobyl exclusion zone suffered a “significant” drop in reproduction, according to new research published Wednesday that scientists say should prompt a rethink of international calculations of nuclear environmental risk.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, set out to discover how ionizing radiation affects insects, which are often thought to be more resilient than other species.

ADVERTISEMENT

Researchers in Scotland and Germany exposed bee colonies in a laboratory setting to a range of radiation levels found in areas of the exclusion zone around the ruined Chernobyl site, where a reactor exploded in 1986 in the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

They found that colony reproduction reduced by 30 to 45 percent at doses previously considered too low to impact insects.

FEATURED STORIES

“We found that at radiation levels detectable in Chernobyl, the number of new queen bees produced from the colony was significantly reduced and colony growth was delayed — meaning colonies reached their peak weight at a week later,” said the paper’s lead author Katherine Raines.

The lecturer in environmental pollution at the University of Stirling told AFP by email that researchers “anticipate that this may have an effect on pollination/ecosystem services in contaminated areas”.

The authors said they chose bumblebees both because of a lack of lab-based research into bees and because of their crucial role in pollination.

Ionizing radiation can occur either from nuclear sites or medical procedures, although the levels tested were higher than those that would likely be found in the environment from normal releases, Raines said.

But she added that the researchers were “very surprised that we could detect effects as low as we did”.

“Our research suggests insects living in the most contaminated areas at Chernobyl may suffer adverse effects, with subsequent consequences for ecosystem services such as pollination,” she added.

The authors said if their findings could be generalized “they suggest insects suffer significant negative consequences at dose rates previously thought safe” and called revisions to the international framework for radiological protection of the environment.

ADVERTISEMENT

People are not allowed to live near the Chernobyl power station and the abandoned settlements within the exclusion zone are surrounded by forests hosting birds, wolves, elks, and lynxes.

A giant protective dome was put in place over the destroyed fourth reactor in 2016.

TOPICS: bees, Chernobyl, Environment, Nuclear, Pollution, radiation, Research, Science
Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.