Bumblebee colonies at risk of extinction

Bumblebee colonies are at risk of extinction after pesticide exposure says study

Pesticide puts bumblebee colonies at risk

A widely used pesticide is placing bumblebee populations at an increased risk of extinction, a new study from an Ontario researcher suggests.

Nigel Raine, an environmental science professor at the University of Guelph, discovered that thiamethoxam, a major neonicotinoid found in agricultural crops throughout the world, reduced the chances of bumblebee queens starting new colonies by more than a quarter.

The results were published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“Bumblebee queens that were exposed to the pesticide were 26 per cent less likely to lay eggs to start a colony,” Raine said of the research conducted in his lab with researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London.

“It was a bigger impact than I was expecting. And our modelling suggests it could have a major impact on population persistence and increases the chances a population could go extinct.”

Bees are crucial to agriculture. Published reports suggest about a third of the crops eaten by humans depend on insect pollination, with bees responsible for about 80 per cent of that figure.

But bee populations are declining worldwide as scientists try to figure out why. Research has suggested the use of neonicotinoids is among the factors contributing to the declines.

Ontario has taken the lead in North America by placing restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids, while Europe has imposed a moratorium on their use.

Recent research by York University showed neonicotinoids had spilled over from crops such as soy and corn in Ontario and Quebec into plants and wildflowers such as maple trees, dandelions and clover.

Raine wanted to examine the effects thiamethoxam and a common parasite had on the bumblebee queen’s ability to set up a colony, a crucial part of a bee’s life cycle.

Bumblebee queens, he explained, are quite different from honeybee queens in that they largely do all of the work themselves to start a colony, from foraging to nest building to raising their young before worker bees take over.

While there has been much study of the honeybee, not as much research has been conducted on the bumblebee, Raine said.

In his lab, Raine infected half the bumblebee queens he was studying with a parasite and then placed all the bees in a cold, dark room to force an artificial hibernation. Those that survived hibernation were then split into two more groups, one of which was exposed for two weeks to pesticide-laden pollen at “field realistic” levels found in the wild, he said.

Those queen bees were placed in different nest boxes and monitored for survival and signs of egg laying.

“There was very little effect of the parasite in our experiment,” Raine said.

But he did find a substantial impact on egg laying.

“We are trying to link all this up to the broader ecology and life history of these organisms,” Raine said.

He took that new data and plugged it into mathematical models to see what would happen over time.

“We’re seeing a substantial increase of the likelihood of them not surviving over a longer period of time and that’s obviously a serious concern with the current patterns of usage of these chemicals.”

If anything, Raine said, his study is conservative, considering he only examined the effects of one pesticide and one parasite, whereas there are many other factors in the wild that play a role in the bumblebee’s health, including disease and habitat destruction.

Liam Casey , The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Hope mothers work together to improve access, connections for autistic children

Families with autistic children in rural areas have difficulty accessing resources, each other

UPDATE: Man with gunshot wound drives into ditch on Chilliwack River Road

Serious crimes investigators believe early morning shooting to be targeted

WATCH: Rally at MP’s office Friday in Chilliwack to stop KM pipeline

Water samples from Chilliwack rivers were delivered to MP Strahl’s office in a symbolic gesture

Editor’s view: A Hopeful start to the community’s first 10 km run

Good mix of pomp and circumstance, variable terrain and silliness at Sunday’s run

Lower Mainland could see spring flurries

Snow expected at higher elevations

Vancouver Aquarium’s resident octopus released into ocean

Staff let the Giant Pacific octopus go into the waters near Bowen Island so she can reproduce

Alberta tells B.C. to stop opposing pipelines if it doesn’t like gas prices

John Horgan said he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices.

BREAKING: B.C. mother hit in truck rampage dies

Family confirms mother of four Kelly Sandoval dies almost two months after being hit.

B.C. officials failed to tell Kiwis Fraser Health CEO had been fired in 2014

New Zealand spending scandal exposes Dr. Nigel Murray 2014 exit from B.C. job

PHOTOS: Students exhibit stunning paper couture dresses

22 paper made gowns will be on display at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre until March 27

BCHL Today: Prince George avoids elimination with game five win

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Suspect arrested and charged for assault on autistic man

Parmvir Chahil has strong B.C. ties; two others charged with accessory after the fact

Uber self-driving crash video calls safety, rules into question

Experts say footage shows that vehicle’s sensors should have spotted pedestrian, initiated braking

Installation complete for Alex Fraser Bridge cable collars

The collars will continue to be operated manually

Most Read