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Neonicotinoids and Bees

Neonicotinoids and Bees

Published: Monday, April 8, 2013
Category: Archive

The UK recently abstained from a vote in the EU regarding a European wide ban on Neonicotinoids, instead calling for further research into the effects of Neonicotinoids as currently the scientific evidence is conflicting.


For further the full report please download the following pdf Bees

or to view  Ian Boyd's explanation please follow this link.

Executive summary

Three recent studies in which bees were dosed with neonicotinoids showed sub-lethal effects on bees [1-3]. The results from these studies contrast with a growing body of evidence from field studies that has failed to show an effect of neonicotinoids when bees are allowed to forage naturally in the presence of crops treated with neonicotinoids [4-8]. The evidence suggests the reason for this difference is over-dosing of bees in the dosing studies; in all cases there is evidence that the doses of neonicotinoids presented to bees under laboratory or semi-field conditions were unrealistically high. The dosing studies therefore represented the extreme case in a field situation. In the only study in which dose was measured [1] the dose was much greater than would have ever been experienced in a field situation.

A concentration of 1-5 μg/l of neonicotinoid in nectar appears to be the threshold below which an effect tends not to be observed [9] and most residue measurements in the nectar and pollen of treated crops are normally at or below this level [4,6,7,10,11]. In addition, examination of bee foraging shows that they tend not to feed exclusively on treated crops [7], thus diluting any effects of neonicotinoids. Consequently, the evidence of effects of neonicotinoids on bees come from studies [1-3] in which doses were likely to have been at least 2-10 times above this threshold.

There is a possibility that field studies did not have the statistical power to show effects but the accumulated evidence across several independent studies suggests that this is unlikely and, any effects that are present are likely to be small and not biologically significant. Moreover, oilseed rape (OSR) requires insect pollinators to support its productivity [12-18]. The fact that OSR treated with neonicotinoids has been a productive crop for over a decade in the UK is itself evidence that pollinator populations, including bees, are not being reduced by the presence of neonicotinoids.

Conclusion: While this assessment cannot exclude rare effects of neonicotinoids on bees in the field, it suggests that effects on bees do not occur under normal circumstances. This assessment also suggests that laboratory based studies demonstrating sub-lethal effects on bees from neonicotinoids did not replicate realistic conditions, but extreme scenarios. Consequently, it supports the view that the risk to bee populations from neonicotinoids, as they are currently used, is low.


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Pearce Seeds LLP
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Tel: 01935 811 400
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