As regulators consider a ban on neonicotinoids, debate rages over the harm they cause to bees.
Nature.com said:Maj Rundlöf remembers the moment she changed her mind about neonicotinoids. In December 2013, in her office at Lund University in Sweden, she and postdoc Georg Andersson were peering at data from their latest study. It was designed to test what would happen to bees if they fed on crops treated with neonicotinoids — the world's most widely used insecticides. "I didn't expect to see any effect at all, to be honest," says Rundlöf.
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Hives of honeybees (Apis mellifera) weren't greatly affected by the chemicals in their pollen and nectar, the study suggested1. But the data on bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) told a different story. Bumblebee colonies that hadn't fed on the treated crops looked normal: they were packing on weight to survive the winter. But in the colonies exposed to neonicotinoids, the growth chart was a flat line.
When the Swedish study was published in April 2015, it made headlines around the world. It was the first to show that neonicotinoid chemicals — known as neonics — could harm bees in a real-world farming situation.
Bee populations are declining in many parts of the globe, a worrying sign for the crops and wild plants that rely on these pollinators for their survival. Parasites, disease and shrinking food resources are all prime suspects. But a link to neonics has become a major flashpoint.