New pesticide link to sudden decline in bee population

US study says nerve agent causes Colony Collapse Disorder

A A A

A commonly used nerve-agent pesticide is the likely culprit in sharp worldwide declines in honey bee colonies in the last five years, a scientific study claimed yesterday.

Imidacloprid, one of the neonicotinoid family of pesticides introduced over the past 15 years, is likely to be responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the recently observed phenomenon in which bees abandon their hives en masse, according to the study by scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States.

The study, to appear in the June issue of The Bulletin of Insectology, provides "convincing evidence" of the link between imidacloprid and CCD, claim the authors, led by Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the school's Department of Environmental Health. It follows two other widely publicised studies, from Britain and France, published last week in the journal Science, which strongly suggested that neonicotinoids were linked to the declines in bees and other pollinating insects seen in Europe and the US.

Neonicotinoids, which attack the central nervous system of insects, are considered by some scientists as dangerous to species which are not the compounds' principal targets, because they are "systemic" – meaning they do not just sit on the surface of a plant but are taken up into every part of it, including the pollen and nectar, where they can be ingested repeatedly by bees and other pollinating insects.

Imidacloprid, manufactured by the German agrochemicals giant Bayer, was one of the first neonicotinoids to be introduced and has since been used on millions of acres of crops, especially in the US. The compound was Bayer's top-selling insecticide in 2009, earning the company £510m.

The Harvard researchers dosed bees with imidacloprid at levels "determined to reflect imidacloprid residues reported in the environment previously", they said. They found that at the end of the research period, the hives had been abandoned.

The Green MP, Caroline Lucas, said yesterday: "This research from Harvard, together with the two recently published studies from Britain and France, clearly exposing the risk to bee colonies from neonicotinoid insecticides, should be a deafening wake-up call for the Government."

She has written to the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, "to demand an immediate ban on both lethal and non lethal doses of neonicotinoids". No one from Bayer was available to comment yesterday. However, Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife, the invertebrate conservation charity, criticised the Harvard research. "This study is further evidence of the toxicity of neonicotinoids to bees, but the levels of pesticide in the food fed to the bees was higher than would be found in pollen and nectar in treated crops, hence it would be stretching the point to claim that it was strong evidence that neonicotinoids are responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin