Research from the UK Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) has cast doubt on links between bee population declines and a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids.
‘Neo-nics’ have been a controversial topic of late. In January, Europe’s food-safety body said that they may pose a risk to honeybees, but an attempt to ban the use of three such compounds — clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam — across the European Union hit roadblocks this month when it was rejected in a vote by member states. Campaigners hope that ending the use of these compounds could help to arrest declines seen in some bee populations across the globe.
Now, a field trial run by FERA, based in Sand Hutton, has failed to find any “clear consistent relationship” between neonicotinoid residues and the size of bumblebee colonies or the number of new queens they produce. “The absence of these effects is reassuring but not definitive,” says the FERA study, which involved assessing the health of colonies near crops grown from seeds that were treated with clothianidin and imidacloprid.