Is a common pesticide putting in harm’s way?

A new study published in Nature shows that , wildly popular insecticides that contain a similar molecular structure to nicotine, impair bumblebee ability to plants and provide fewer “ services” to apples. This is the first report that shows pesticide exposure can affect ‘s crop pollination.

“We know the flowers were visited less often and that the bee was carrying less pollen,” lead author Dara Stanley, a researcher at the University of London, told

The study, which was conducted at University of Reading’s Sonning Farm in the United Kingdom, showed that bumblebees exposed to to a “realistic level” of neonicotinoid were found to collect less pollen from apple trees. In addition, the trees that were pollinated by the affected bumblebees produced 36 percent fewer seeds.

When neonicotinoids were first commercially released, they were considered a greener alternative to other pesticides and initially deemed a low threat to pollinator insects. But studies have increasingly shown that wild bees are being negatively affected by the pesticide, harming their health, navigation and reproduction. The chemicals might even be harming birds as well.


“Bumblebees are major pollinators of apples and many crops around the world,” said Nigel Raine, a professor at the University of Guelph, in a statement provided to the press. “The findings of this study have important implications for both society and the economy, as insect pollination services to crops are worth at least $361 billion worldwide every year, and are vital to the functioning of natural ecosystem.”

The company that produces the specific neonicotinoid chemical used in the study told The Guardian that they were skeptical of the study’s findings. “The conclusion is premature and only representative of a single experiment conducted under artificial conditions,” Peter Campbell, Syngenta’s senior environmental risk assessor, said.

Neonicotinoids were banned by the European Union in 2013 after a string of scientific findings that found adverse impacts to bees from the chemical. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is projected to complete risk assessments for neonicotinoids as early as next year.

Bret Adee, the co-owner of Adee Honey Farms of South Dakota, the nation’s largest beekeeper, told that he sees neonicoditals as a defective product that is contaminating the environment.

“People put a lot of trust in our government to do the right thing, and I think there’s so much political pressure from chemical companies to approve these products,” Adee said.

Stanley said that her study should be evalutated by policy makers, especially in seeing how important bees are as pollinators of many of the foods we take for granted.

“I think the important thing about our work is that the impact to pollination services are considered in terms of weighing the cost and benefits (of using this pesticide)” Stanley said.


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