New bumblebee pesticide risk
Apesticide poised to fill the gap left by neonicotinoids – banned by the EU earlier this year on the basis of the danger they pose to pollinating insects – has been found to have similarly harmful effects on bumblebees.
Biologists at Royal Holloway, University of London have found that bumblebee colonies exposed to Sulfoxaflor, in a class of pesticides called sulfoximines, produce significantly fewer workers and reproductive males – an effect similar to that caused by neonicotinoids.
“We’d like to understand more about why Sulfoxaflor has the effects that it does,” says Elli Leadbeater, one of the researchers. “Is it because bumblebee larvae that are exposed to the insecticide fail to develop, or because exposed worker bees are less efficient?”
There’s also the question of whether the EU’s banning of neonicotinoids was hasty, in the absence of well-considered alternatives. “No, I don’t feel that’s the case,” says Leadbeater. “The EU’s decision was well considered, based on a large body of evidence.”
“Sulfoxaflor has been available in many non-EU markets for a number of years,” she says, “so hasn’t appeared as a result of the EU’s decision, although that may well make it more attractive to European markets. What our study highlights is that the issues surrounding neonicotinoids are unlikely to be limited to those particular products.” SB
FIND OUT MORE Nature: nature. com/articles/s41586-018-0430-6
For bumblebees it’s goodbye to neonicotinoids, hello to new pesticide threat.