0 Study: Neonicotinoid pesticides pose low risk to honey bees

While neonicotinoid pesticides can harm honey bees, a new study by Washington State University researchers shows that the substances pose little risk to bees in real-world settings.

The team of WSU entomologists studied apiaries in urban, rural and agricultural areas in Washington state, looking at potential honey bee colony exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides from pollen foraging.

The results were published in the Journal of Economic Entomology (http://jee.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/01/19/jee.tov397) this spring.

WSU student separating beebread from wax comb web

After calculating the risk based on a "dietary no observable adverse effect concentration" - the highest experimental point before there is an adverse effect on a species - of five parts per billion, the study's results suggest low potential for neonicotinoids to harm bee behavior or colony health.

Understanding risk vs. hazard

"Calculating risk, which is the likelihood that bad things will happen to a species based on a specific hazard or dose, is very different from calculating hazard, which is the potential to cause harm under a specific set of circumstances," said co-author Allan Felsot, WSU Tri-Cities professor of entomology and environmental toxicology.

"Most of what has dominated the literature recently regarding neonicotinoids and honey bees has been hazard identification," he said. "But hazardous exposures are not likely to occur in a real-life setting."

Felsot said the study shows that the risk of bee exposure to neonicotinoids is small because bees aren't exposed to enough of the pesticide to cause much harm in a real-world scenario.

Lead author Timothy Lawrence, assistant professor and director of WSU Island County Extension, said many sublethal toxicity studies, whether at the organism level or colony level, have not done formal dose-response analyses.

"The question we posed focused on the risk of exposure to actively managed honey bee colonies in different landscapes," he said.

You can read the full article from Washington State University HERE

Image: A WSU students separates beebread from the wax comb

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