New research suggests pesticides risk bumblebee extinction

By agency reporter
August 15, 2017

There are renewed calls for the government  to permanently ban neonicotinoid pesticides, as new research suggests their use poses a risk of bumblebee extinction.

Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Guelph found that exposure to thiamethoxam, a common pesticide, reduced the chances of a bumblebee queen starting a new colony by 26 per cent. "Modelling the impacts of a 26 per cent reduction in colony founding on population dynamics dramatically increased the likelihood of population extinction." The research was published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution yesterday (14 August 2017).

Friends of the Earth is urging the UK government to back moves in the EU to permanently extend current neonicotinoid restrictions to all crops – and commit to keeping any ban post-Brexit. They cite previous research which has shown the threat posed to bees by these pesticides.

In June 2017 a pan-European field study was published providing evidence that neonicotinoids harm honeybees and wild bees. Covering a crop area equivalent to 3,000 football pitches, it was the biggest real-world study of these pesticides to date. Undertaken in the UK, Germany and Hungary, the experiment found : Increasing levels of neonicotinoid residues in the nests of wild bee species was linked with lower reproductive success across all three countries; Exposure to treated crops reduced overwintering success of honeybee colonies – a key measure of year-to-year viability – in the UK and Hungary.  

Another study this year, carried out on corn farms in Canada, found crops were not the main source of neonicotinoids to which bees were exposed. Instead, the contaminated pollen came from wildflowers, as has also been shown in the UK. Nadia Tsvetkov, at York University in Canada who led the research said that, “This indicates that neonicotinoids, which are water soluble, spill over from fields into the surrounding environment, where they are taken up by other plants that are very attractive to bees”.

Responding to the latest research, Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth nature campaigner, said, “It is clear that use of these chemicals on any crop poses a risk to bees and other wildlife. The Government has repeatedly said it will follow the science – how much more science does it need before it acts to protect our precious bees?

“Michael Gove must put his support behind a comprehensive ban on neonicotinoid pesticides across the EU and continue the ban in the UK post-Brexit”

Read the new research Pesticide reduces bumblebee colony initiation and increases probability of population extinction here  

* Friends of the Earth


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