Insecticide use is affecting Swedish wild bee populations

Insecticide use is affecting Swedish wild bee populations

By Shakir Sayani

If we gaze upon evolutionary history, it will reveal that bees are an important ancient insect species whose origins can be traced back to some 25 million years. It would also come as little surprise that they are an important cultivator of maintaining flora diversity on our planet. However, the modern trend of an alarmingly high rate of insecticide use threatens their well-being and thus has raised important questions on what can be done to preserve the natural bee population.

To determine if a particular class of insecticide, known as neonicotinoid, negatively affects wild bees, a team of Swedish researchers led by Henrik Smith from the University of Lund began investigating wild bee populations in Southern Sweden. In particular, the Swedish scientists focused on bees residing near rapeseed fields. Rapeseed is a plant with bright-yellow flowers and is an agriculturally important staple. In particular, the researchers focused on the fate of bumblebees and wild honeybees residing near the rapeseed fields.

Upon the conclusion of their study, the researchers revealed some important findings. First, it was determined that bees residing near the rapeseed fields, where the neonicotinoid insecticide had been used, exhibited a decrease in the bee population density. In addition, the use of this neonicotinoid insecticide also affected their reproduction ability. Surprisingly, apart from bumblebees, it was determined that the neonicotinoid insecticide didn’t have a strong adverse effect on wild honeybees. However, since the field study was conducted on a rather short timescale, it nevertheless remains to be determined if the neonicotinoids are affecting wild honeybee populations in the long run. This study provides important evidence regarding how the use of a common insecticide, neonicotinoid, has produced drastic negative effects on the population of bees.

In December 2013, the European Union began taking a stricter role in limiting the use of insecticides that could potentially threaten environmentally and ecologically important fauna. Other environmentally conscious, forward thinking and scientifically apt nations should also revise and/or rewrite policies in favor of the well-being of preserving important insect species. Unfortunately, the modern trend of rampant and thoughtless insecticide use could lead to the unfortunate extinction of some important insect species.

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