While the honey bee may get all the glory when it comes to pollination, they're not the only pollinator we rely on. Like the honey bee, bumblebees have a significant impact in pollinating crops and flowers. And also like the honey bee, their colonies are in danger. A new study done by scientist at the Royal Hollow University of London has revealed pesticides are having a negative effect on bumblebee colonies.
The UK group of scientist tested the effects of the widely used pesticides called neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids have sparked European headlines this past year, calling for a proposal to ban their use. The argument is that the systemic pesticides are putting the declining bee population at risk. Reduced immunity, decline in cognitive function, and reproduction harm are a few negative effects this pesticide has on bee populations.
What the UK researchers did was test the effects on queen bumblebees to determine how this popular pesticide may be effecting wild bumblebee populations. In the study, queen bees were given a syrup with trace amounts - comparable to that of field exposure - of a neonicotinoid pesticide called thiamethoxam. What they found was astonishing.
According to NPR, the queens exposed to the pesticides "were 26 percent less likely to lay eggs" compared to those without exposure. In order for a colony to thrive, queen bees need to reproduce. No eggs mean a decline in population, thus threatening the bumblebee species as a whole.
Despite the study, scientist still can't determine the full impact this pesticide has on bees in the wild. Other factors such as habitat loss, wild flower decline, and global warming also have a significant impact. There is no doubt, however, that these pesticides are putting bumblebee populations in jeopardy.
While government policy may be determining proposals against pesticides, some companies are not waiting. European retailer B&Q has already announced they will no longer sell plants containing bee-harming pesticides. Their determination to create a bee-friendly environment along - with more companies taking action - may lead to a significant impact on populations. But only time will tell.