Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bees survival: ban more pesticides?

May 3, 2013
Neonicotinoids are under intense scrutiny. But a ban of a broad variety of pesticides may be required to protect bees, humans and the environment.

Credit: Image courtesy of youris.com

Neonicotinoids are under intense scrutiny. But a ban of a broad variety of pesticides may be required to protect bees, humans and the environment.

Related Articles

The European Commission, on 29th April 2013, slapped a two-year ban on insecticides suspected of killing off bee colonies. This follows the European Food Safety Authority finding that they pose a high acute risk to honey bees. Studies suggest that the nicotine-like compounds fry bees' navigation systems and leave them unable to learn, while weakening their immune system.

But scientists now warn that other nerve agents targeting insect pests may also be harming bees and other pollinators. "These neonicotinoids are just one of hundreds of compounds being used and I would be surprised if it was all down to just these chemicals," says Christopher Connolly, a neuroscientist at the University of Dundee, UK. He argues that we should not allow farmers spray a toxic soup of chemicals onto their crops.

Pesticides not adequately tested

Connolly exposed bee brains to these pesticides and organo-based pesticides andreported that the nerves spun into hyperactivity and then stopped working. A combination of these two pesticides types had a stronger impact, suggesting the combined soup of pesticides could be causing more serious harm. "I don't understand how this was missed. As a neuroscientist it just seemed blindingly obvious. The biggest effect was hyperactivation of the major learning centre, which was completely predictable," Connolly said.

The nerve agents effects were missed because safety screens looked to see how many honey bees die after four days exposure. But harm is only evident over a period of two weeks in bumblebees and is seen when you look at entire colonies. "So the safety test is all wrong. The thing that concerns me is that this throws a question mark over several hundred pesticides, all tested by inadequate safety screens," says Connolly. He suggests that we should be tracking pesticides use in the environment, just like we monitor drug use in patients.

Not collecting such data might even pose health issues for people. "Bear in mind we have lots of idiopathic diseases in humans which we don't know the cause of and given that we don't know what pesticides are used in what combinations and when, we don't know if these pesticides may be contributing to some or even all these unknown diseases," Connolly warns.

More research needed

Connolly argues that we need to carry out research to find out which pesticides are the least harmful. If neonicotinoids are the least toxic, then we should go with them. He says governments have underfunded this research area partly because it is inconvenient to find pesticides are dangerous. Dave Goulson, professor of biological science at the University of Sterling, UK agrees: "there haven't been nearly enough studies of all pesticides or interactions between them." He recently published a studyshowing neonicotinoids hit bumblebee colony growth and queen production. He also said: "beneficial insects such as ladybirds and bees are exposed to lots of different chemicals and we have a really poor understanding of what it does to them." He also points out that we need to be concerned with what we replace these nerve agents with.

More research may be helpful, but industry criticises extrapolation of lab studies to field conditions. Julian Little, spokesperson for Bayer Cropscience, based in Norwich, UK, says the evidence against these pesticides has all been lab based, essentially taking a social insect and force-feeding it insecticide. It says the results cannot be replicated in the environment.

But he also agrees more monitoring of pollinators is needed. "Where you do get large-scale bee deaths not enough has been done to know exactly what has happened," Little commented. He says pests and loss of feeding sites and nesting sites are most likely behind bee declines. "France has had restrictions [of neonicotinoids] over the last ten years, yet the bees there remain as bad if not worse than they are in the UK."

Avoidance of pesticide use

A possible solution to preserve bee populations further would be to restore the principle of avoidance of pesticide use. "The whole ethos of pest management has gone in the wrong direction," Goulson argues. Whereas integrated pest management sought to use as few pesticides as possible, the neonicotinoids are a preventive strike. "A simple analogy is that it's like taking antibiotics in case you get ill rather than when you get ill. Everyone knows that is a silly idea, as it results in bacteria rapidly developing resistance. It is the same with these pesticides."

However, opponents believe that the neonicotinoids ban is unlikely to decrease pesticide use. Quite the opposite. Little warns that farmers may now have to resort to spraying insecticides up to four times a year, now that they cannot coat seeds in neonicotinoids.

But other experts do not agree. There are several alternatives to using neonicotinoids, and other pesticides, according to Simon Potts, professor of biodiversity and ecosystem services at Reading University, UK. This is a great opportunity for farmers to adopt these practices to protect bees and other pollinators. Indeed, he believes farmers will benefit from healthy pollinator populations as they provide substantial economic benefits to crop pollination.

"Few people would disagree that we need to protect our food production, but it shouldn't be at the cost of damaging the environment," Potts said, adding: "A short-term decision to keep using harmful products may be convenient, but will almost certainly have much greater long-term costs for food production and the environment."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by youris.com. The original article was written by Anthony King. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

youris.com. "Bees survival: ban more pesticides?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130503094140.htm>.
youris.com. (2013, May 3). Bees survival: ban more pesticides?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130503094140.htm
youris.com. "Bees survival: ban more pesticides?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130503094140.htm (accessed April 1, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Wound-Healing Laser Soon to Be a Reality Israeli Scientist

Wound-Healing Laser Soon to Be a Reality Israeli Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 1, 2015) Israeli scientists says laser bonding of tissue allows much faster healing and less scarring. Amy Pollock has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Liberia Sees Resurgence of Drug Trafficking as Ebola Wanes

Liberia Sees Resurgence of Drug Trafficking as Ebola Wanes

AFP (Apr. 1, 2015) The governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone have been busy fighting the menace created by the deadly Ebola virus, but illicit drug lords have taken advantage of the situation to advance the drug trade. Duration: 01:12 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stigma Stalks India's Leprosy Sufferers as Disease Returns

Stigma Stalks India's Leprosy Sufferers as Disease Returns

AFP (Apr. 1, 2015) The Indian government declared victory over leprosy in 2005, but the disease is making a comeback in some parts of the country, with more than a hundred thousand lepers still living in colonies, shunned from society. Duration: 02:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
7-Year-Old Girl Gets 3-D Printed 'robohand'

7-Year-Old Girl Gets 3-D Printed 'robohand'

AP (Mar. 31, 2015) Although she never had much interest in prosthetic limbs before, Faith Lennox couldn&apos;t wait to slip on her new robohand. The 7-year-old, who lost part of her left arm when she was a baby, grabbed it as soon as it came off a 3-D printer. (March 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins