New bum­ble­bee pes­ti­cide risk

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News -

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.

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