Common pesticide harms wild bees

A common type of pesticide is dramatically harming wild bees, according to a new in-the-field study that outside experts say may help shift the way the U.S. government looks at a controversial class of chemicals.

But in the study published by the journal Nature on Wednesday, honeybees — which get trucked from place to place to pollinate major crops like almonds— didn’t show the significant ill effects that wild cousins like bumblebees did. This is a finding some experts found surprising. A second study published in the same journal showed that in lab tests bees are not repelled by the pesticides and in fact may even prefer pesticide coated crops, making the problem worse…

Exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides reduced the density of wild bees, resulted in less reproduction, and colonies that didn’t grow when compared to bees not exposed to the pesticide, the study found.

Scientists in Sweden were able to conduct a study that was in the wild, but still had the in-the-lab qualities of having control groups that researchers covet. They used 16 patches of landscape, eight where canola seeds were coated with the pesticide and eight where they weren’t, and compared the two areas.

When the first results came in, “I was quite, ‘Oh my God,'” said study lead author Maj Rundlof of Lund University. She said the reduction in bee health was “much more dramatic than I ever expected.”

In areas treated with the pesticide, there were half as many wild bees per square meter than there were in areas not treated, Rundlof said. In the pesticide patches, bumblebee colonies had “almost no weight gain” compared to the normal colonies that gained about a pound, she said…

The European Union has a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids and some environmentalists are pushing for the same in the United States. Rundlof conducted her study just before the European ban went into effect in 2013…

While many large farms rely on honeybee colonies, a 2013 study found that wild bees and other insects were more important in pollination than previously thought and far more efficient at pollination than honeybees. Plus, the wild flowers around the world are mostly pollinated by wild bees, said Rundolf’s co-author, Henrik Smith of Lund University.

The irony was a spokesperson for Bayer Chemicals complaining that the researchers in Sweden used too much of their neonicotinoid pesticide. What they used was – Bayer’s recommended dose.

8 thoughts on “Common pesticide harms wild bees

    • WTFU says:

      “What we’re seeing with this bee problem is just a loud signal that there’s some bad things happening with our agro-ecosystems. We just happen to notice it with the honeybee because they are so easy to count.” Keith Delaplane, a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia, and co-author of a federal study of honeybees that found that, since April 2014, beekeepers have lost 41.5 percent of their honeybee colonies. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765673819/Survey-More-than-40-percent-of-bee-hives-died-in-past-year.html “More than two out of five American honeybee colonies died in the past year, and surprisingly the worst die-off was in the summer, according to the federal survey. …Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine and Wisconsin all saw more than 60 percent of their hives die since April 2014, according to the survey.”

  1. Harbinger says:

    Feed the World has set up the first ever validated glyphosate testing (LC/MS/MS) for the general public worldwide, which will be provided in the U.S. with the support of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). http://feedtheworld.info/glyphosate-testing-test-yourself/ “With increasing evidence that glyphosate may be toxic at very low doses through mechanisms such as disruption of endocrine (hormone) systems that in turn can lead to serious illness in all age groups, it is becoming ever more imperative to obtain wide-scale information on the levels of this substance in the human population at large.” Dr. Michael Antoniou, Molecular Geneticist, London.

  2. Meanwhile says:

    Bees are attracted to nectar containing common pesticides, scientists at Newcastle University and Trinity College Dublin have discovered. This could increase their chances of exposure to high levels of pesticides. Previous studies have suggested that exposure of this kind can affect bees’ fitness. The research, published in Nature, discovered that buff-tailed bumblebees and honeybees could not taste the three most commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides and so did not avoid them. In fact, the bees showed a preference for food which contained pesticides: when the bees were given a choice between sugar solution, and sugar solution containing neonicotinoids, they chose the neonicotinoid-laced food. The lab-based study also showed that the bumblebees ate more of the food containing pesticides than the honeybees, and so were exposed to higher doses of toxins. http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/bees-prefer-nectar-containing-pesticides According to Professor Geraldine Wright, lead scientist on the study at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, “Neonicotinoids target the same mechanisms in the bee brain that are affected by nicotine in the human brain. The fact that bees show a preference for food containing neonicotinoids is concerning as it suggests that like nicotine, neonicotinoids may act like a drug to make foods containing these substances more rewarding” {and} “If foraging bees prefer to collect nectar containing neonicotinoids, this could have a knock-on negative impact on whole colonies and on bee populations.”

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