This Popular Pesticide Is Hurting Wild Bees

First Posted: Apr 23, 2015 01:55 AM EDT

Previous studies have shown that pesticides could have a negative effect on plant life and surrounding creatures. Yet a new study published in the journal Nature zeroes in on how wild bees can be particularly affected via this cultural landscape.

Researchers specifically looked at a relatively new class of insecticide chemicals that's related to nicotine, known as Neonicotinoids. They're used for seed dressing of rapeseed to help protect young plants against flea beetles. 

Otherwise known as the most widely used insecticide in the United States, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the product can be particularly dangerous to the pollination of crops because of how it harms the density of bee populations. In fact, two years ago, this type of pesticide was restricted by the EU for crops that are attractive to bees.

Researchers at Lund University have now found that neonicotinoids have quite a negative impact on bees in the wild. As bees are essential for pollination, researchers are hopeful that the study findings could bring about new ways to evaluate risks in conjunction with the approval of certain pesticides.

"We saw a clear negative impact on growth and ability to reproduce in bumblebee colonies near treated rapeseed fields," coordinator and principal investigator for the field study Maj Rundlöf, said in a news release.

Researchers also observed fewer wild bees on the treated rapeseed fields. However, they did not find a negative effect on the colony growth of honeybees.

"If we only investigate how a new pesticide affects honeybees, that is not sufficient to predict the consequences for wild bees in a real landscape," Rundlöf added.

"We need alternative preparations and new cultivation methods if we are to continue growing spring rapeseed in Sweden," concluded Thorsten Rahbek, project manager at the Swedish Board of Agriculture.

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