Bumblebee queen numbers declining due to pesticides

March 29, 2012

in Bumblebees and their ecology

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Queen bumblebees affected by commonly used pesticides

Some of the world’s most commonly used pesticides are killing bees by damaging their ability to navigate and reducing numbers of queens, research suggests. Often the chemical is applied to seeds before planting. As the plant grows, the pesticide is contained in every part of it, deterring insect pests such as aphids. It also enters the pollen and nectar, which is how it can affect bees.

See video by Prof. Dave Goulson from Stirling University explaining the impact neonicotinoid imidacloprid has on bumblebees.

Researchers let bumblebees from some colonies feed on pollen and sugar water containing levels of imidacloprid typically found in the wild, while others received a natural diet. Then they placed the colonies out in the field.

After six weeks, colonies exposed to the pesticide were lighter than the others, suggesting that workers had brought back less food to the hive. But the most dramatic effect was on queen production. The naturally-fed hives produced around 14 queens each – those exposed to the pesticide, just two.

Pollination is calculated to be worth about £430m to the UK economy

“I wouldn’t say this proves neonicotinoids are the sole cause of the problems bees face,” said Dr Goulson, “but it does suggest they’re likely to be one of the causes, and possibly a significant one.

“The use of these pesticides is so widespread that most bee colonies in areas of arable farming are likely to be exposed to them, so there is potential for them to be playing a significant role in suppression of bee populations on a pretty staggering scale.”

Read more articles about bumblebees.

See the radical new design of bumblebee nest box, designed to protect them from pests and to provide them with a suitable nesting environment which allows safe viewing, as does my newly designed solitary bee box. Great for schools!

For more bumblebee information and to help save bumblebees join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at Stirling University.


This edited article is taken from the BBC web site….Pesticides hit queen bee numbers itself complied from two scientific papers

Whitethorn. P.R et al (2012) ” Neonicotinoids Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production” Science Magazine, Vol 335 No. 6076

Henry. M. et al (2012) ” A Common Pesticide Decreases Foraging Success and Survival in Honey Bees” Science Magazine, Vol 335 No. 6076


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