Study finds evidence proving pesticides are killing honey bees

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A government backed study has dug out evidence that shows the harmful effects of neonicotinoid on pollinators especially honey bees.

A new research published in Nature demonstrates that farmers using neonicotinoid seed coatings have to subsequently use less insecticides, but it also shows that honey bees are being affected greatly with entire colonies being used because of the usage of imidacloprid, a first generation neonicotinoid.

The recent study involving a team of scientists saw researchers analyse national, long-term agricultural datasets to discover new information that contributes to a long standing debate wherein scientists and farmers have been debating whether to use neonicotinoid seed coatings to control crop pests.

One of the key findings of the study is that there is a clear relationship across regions between imidacloprid use and overwintering honeybee colony losses. Though the study found that farmers who use neonicotinoid seed coatings reduced the number of foliar insecticide sprays used to control pests on oilseed rape, it did not produce a consistent yield benefit – positive in three years, negative in one and no overall effect.

Dr. Giles Budge, Head of Crop Science and lead author of the study said, “Our data indicate that farmers who used neonicotinoid seed coatings often had positive economic returns driven by an increase in yield, but this was not always the case. We now need to understand why neonicotinoid use does not always result in increased profitability for farmers to help target appropriate use to those situations where farmers see the most benefit.”

In line with recently published studies, the Fera research also demonstrated the potential impact on honey bees associated with using imidacloprid. The study revealed that more honey bee colonies were lost as the usage of imidacloprid increased. However honey bee colony losses were also linked to adverse weather and showed regional patterns, with beekeepers in Wales suffering consistently high losses.

Dr. Budge added: “Our analyses suggest that honey bee colonies are being lost due to a range of pressures including imidacloprid usage, regional factors, adverse weather and, in our other work, pests and diseases. The drivers behind these losses are complex but it is important that the science community continue to present a balanced argument to help farmers, beekeepers and the public understand the costs and benefits of agricultural practices. Further evidence, particularly from large scale field studies, is vital.”

However, this is not the first time that the Government has been made aware about the possible link. Back in early 2013, during a meeting of Advisory Committee on Pesticides, there were discussions about a “prepublication” analysis wherein it was shown that 7-8 per cent of honeybee colony loss was associated with imidacloprid use.

Buglife, a leading charity, has since been pushing the Government to publish the findings, but that didn’t happen as scientists indicated that assessment of data did not find sufficient evidence to carry out a valid study.

“Using neonicotinoid seed dressings is prophylactic and results in a net increase in area of land treated with insecticides, but again we find that neonicotinoids do not provide any consistent benefit to crop yields or the economy, they do however damage bees, pollinators and freshwater life: a complete ban is long overdue”, said Buglife CEO Matt Shardlow.