Pesticide levels previously thought to be safe for pollinators may prove harmful to wild bee health, according to research published in Pest Management Science this month.
The Canadian study shows that adult bumble bees exposed to the pesticide spinosad during larval development – at levels they could encounter in the environment – have impaired foraging ability. Bees are important pollinators of crops. In developed countries, approximately a third of human food is reliant on pollinating activity. Wild bees are thought to contribute significantly to this quantity. But although many pesticides are known to be toxic to bees, toxicity testing is largely restricted to direct lethal effects on adult honey bees, if tested on bees at all.
The researchers say sub-lethal effects on honey bees could be going unnoticed, and that different bee species could be also be affected. Dr Lora Morandin and colleagues at Canada’s Simon Fraser University tested the effects of different levels of spinosad on bumble bee colony health and foraging ability. Spinosad is a natural pesticide derived from the bacteria Actinomycetes. It is used in over 30 countries including North America, Canada and the UK to combat common crop pests such as caterpillars and thrips.
Jacqueline Ali | alfa
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