UK Government field study proves that neonicotinoids harm bumblebees

Tuesday 24th March 2015

A Government field study which had previously used as the basis of the UK’s position that a controversial group of insecticides were safe for bumblebees, has been re-analysed by a leading bee expert – only to find the reverse, the toxins were extremely harmful in miniscule quantities.

The paper, which was published today in PeerJ, took the data from a 2012 field study by the Government’s Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) looking at the effects in the field of neonicotinoids on bumblebees. The re-analysis found a strong negative relationship between neonicotinoid contamination and both colony growth and queen production.

Professor Dave Goulson, from the University of Sussex and author of the new paper said “This experiment shows clearly that bumblebees on normal, working farms in the UK are exposed to mixtures of neonicotinoids, and that the dose they receive is sufficient to reduce nest growth and reduce the number of queens produced. Even doses of clothianidin below 0.3 parts per billion appear to be enough to do significant harm”

Many independent scientists have found that even small amounts of neonicotinoids cause ‘sub-lethal’ and even deadly effects on wildlife. However the agrochemical companies and UK Government have been adamant that neonicotinoids are safe to use. After the FERA study was published Mr Paterson said. “We did not see grounds for a ban based on our field trial data”.

Matt Shardlow, Buglife’s CEO said “the UK Government touted the FERA field study across Europe as evidence that neonicotinoids were safe.  It is now abundantly clear that Defra reports produced at the time to support the Government’s position presented distorted evidence”.