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Neonicotinoids in rape linked to bee decline

2 commentsBy Michelle Perrett 
 , 06-Sep-2016
Last updated on 06-Sep-2016 at 17:52 GMT2016-09-06T17:52:12Z

Wild bee colonies are in decline
Wild bee colonies are in decline

Research that links neonicotinoid seed treated oilseed rape crops with the long-term population decline of wild bee species has further raised concerns about insecticide use, scientists have suggested.

The research, led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology using data provided by Fera Science and the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society, examined changes in the occurrence of 62 wild bee species with oilseed rape cropping patterns across England between 1994 and 2011 – the time-period spanning the introduction of wide-scale commercial use of neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides that are similar to nicotine. They include imidacloprid – the most widely used insecticide in the world.

The decline reported in the latest research was, on average, three times greater among species that regularly fed on the crop, such as the buff-tailed bumblebee.

According to the researchers, the data suggested that neonicotinoid use correlated with wild bee biodiversity losses at a national scale and had implications for the conservation of bee communities in intensively farmed landscapes.

‘Beneficial to pollinating insects’

Lead author Dr Ben Woodcock said: “As a flowering crop, oilseed rape is beneficial for pollinating insects.

“This benefit however, appears to be more than nullified by the effect of neonicotinoid seed treatment on a range of wild bee species.

“Although we find evidence to show that neonicotinoid use is a contributory factor leading to wild bee species population decline, it is unlikely that they are acting in isolation of other environmental pressures.

“Wild bees have undergone global declines that have been linked to habitat loss and fragmentation, pathogens, climate change and other insecticides.”

Professor Lin Field from Rothamsted Research said: “The paper addresses an extremely complex problem, since we know that many bee species were already in decline prior to the introduction of neonicotinoid seed treatments in oilseed rape.

‘Further evidence’

“The findings, therefore, need to be considered alongside other published studies and further evidence as it becomes available, rather than in isolation.”

National Farmers Union bee health specialist Dr Chris Hartfield said the study was an “interesting” addition to the existing evidence.

“It does not show that neonicotinoids are causing widespread declines in pollinator populations and it certainly does not show that neonicotinoid use has caused any extinction of bees in England,” he said.

While this study supports the EU moratorium on some uses of neonicotinoids, there are still major gaps in our knowledge, he added.

2 comments (Comments are now closed)

What happens when?

What happens when all the bees have been killed off? What will they use to pollinate the crops? Computers???????

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Posted by thinkagain
08 September 2016 | 08h342016-09-08T08:34:39Z

Duh??

True- bee decline is multifactorial. But, we have the capability of controlling only some of the factors - neonicotinoid use being one of the ones we can do something about!!! And, if the use is a MAJOR player, we can have a big improvement on the overall survival rate of our pollinators and on our favorite insects in the US such as the Monarchs.
Those of us who are trying to save the bees want to do what is humanly possible.

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Posted by Beelover
06 September 2016 | 17h482016-09-06T17:48:09Z