Pyrethroids can cause smaller bumblebees, say researchers

Bumblebee - image:Stewart Black
Bumblebee - image:Stewart Black

A pyrethroid insecticide widely used in commercial horticulture can lead to smaller, less productive bumblebees, according to a new study by researchers at Royal Holloway University of London.

The researchers exposed one bumblebee colony to lambda-cyhalothrin in a laboratory, then compared its progress a four-month period against an untreated control colony. Worker bumblebees from the exposed colony were found to have a lower body mass at hatching.

"The size of workers produced in the field is likely to be a key component of colony success, with smaller bees being less efficient at collecting nectar and pollen from flowers," according to one of the researchers, Gemma Baron.

The exposed colony did not produce any fewer offspring, nor were they any more susceptible to the parasite Crithidia bombi.

The study, published this week in the Journal of Applied Ecology, is believed to be the first to examine the impact of pyrethroid pesticides across the entire lifecycle of bumblebees.

Its publication coincides with a national bee health conference being held in London from Wednesday to Friday this week (22-24 January).


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