The plight of bees is well known. Their populations are declining and colony collapse disorder is a real problem. It is becoming increasingly clear that if bees are in difficulty, it is a problem for us too.
The consequences of losing our pollinators would be serious for human well-being. So, we should take heed of the evidence that tells us why bee decline is happening – and take action to stop it.
The latest UK study to be released highlights again the dangers of neonicotinoids. Neonics, a type of pesticide, are banned in the EU as they are dangerous to bees and other pollinators. Repeated studies have shown the immediate effects on individual bees and colonies. Now research conducted over 18 years by researchers at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology links the immediate effects with long-term declines in wild bee populations. Five of the worst affected wild bee species in the UK saw their geographical distribution areas reduced by more than 20% in the study period.
Neonicotinoids are a relatively new type of insecticide, used in the last 20 years to control a variety of pests, especially sap-feeding insects, such as aphids on cereals, and root-feeding grubs.
Neonics are systemic pesticides. Unlike contact pesticides, which remain on the surface of the treated foliage, systemics are taken up by the plant and transported to all the tissues (leaves, flowers, roots and stems, as well as pollen and nectar). Products containing neonics can be applied at the root (as seed coating or soil drench) or sprayed onto crop foliage. The insecticide toxin remains active in the plant for many weeks, protecting the crop season-long.
In the UK, 5 neonicotinoid insecticides are authorised for use in agriculture: acetamiprid; clothianidin; imidacloprid; thiacloprid; and thiamethoxam. They are widely used as:
- seed treatments for cereals, sugar beet and oil seed rape (around 90% of the area treated with neonics)
- soil treatment for pot plants in the ornamental sector
- treatment for turf in the amenity sector
- So, we should take heed of the evidence that tells us why bee decline is happening – and take action to stop it.
The latest UK study to be released highlights again the dangers of neonicotinoids. Neonics are dangerous to bees and other pollinators. Repeated studies have shown the immediate effects on individual bees and colonies. Now research conducted over 18 years by researchers at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology links the immediate effects with long-term declines in wild bee populations. Five of the worst affected wild bee species in the UK saw their geographical distribution areas reduced by more than 20% in the study period.
Neonicotinoids, especially seed treatments of imidacloprid and clothianidin on arable crops, have become of increasing concern to beekeepers and bee researchers in recent years with many of them suspecting that they may be connected to current bee declines. These concerns have led to partial bans on the use of some neonicotinoids for specific crops in several European countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia.
Dr Lynn Dicks, a biodiversity and ecosystem services research fellow at the University of Cambridge, told the Science Media Centre: “We now have robust evidence that neonicotinoids have a serious impact on free-living bumblebee colonies in real farmed landscapes.
“The Bayer ingredient allowed under this derogation – clothianidin – is the one tested in the recent study. It showed that bumblebees in landscapes with treated oilseed rape produced only a third as many queens as those in landscapes treated with other insecticide sprays, but not neonicotinoid.
“On this basis, areas with 5% of the UK’s rape crop might expect to lose two-thirds of their wild bumblebee queens going into the winter of 2016/17 because of this decision. I would like to ask the two companies who gain from this decision – Bayer and Syngenta – to pay scientists to monitor the impacts on wild bumblebees and solitary bees, in comparison with areas that remain under the ban.”
Several neonics are available to the public as treatments for lawns, houseplants and pot plants and greenhouse crops including: Baby Bio House Plant Insecticide. Bugclear Ultra and Roseclear Ultra.
These products contain between them Thiacloprid and Acetamiprid.
Thiacloprid is a chloronicotinyl insecticide for the control of a wide range of insects. It causes disruption of the nervous system by acting as an inhibitor at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.
Acetamiprid is an odorless, neonicotinoid insecticide composed from a synthetic organic compound. It is generally used to protect plants against sucking insects such as aphids, but it has also become common in household pest control to combat bed bugs.
Neonicotinoid insecticides target the nervous system of insects causing paralyzation. Neonicotinoid insecticides were discovered in the 1980’s and are used throughout the world.