No, neonic pesticides do not affect honeybee queen egg development

The mainstream media has put out a news story citing a study published in the biological research journal of the Royal Society based out of London. According to the BBC, the manuscript is said to have found that bumblebee queens are less able to develop their ovaries when exposed to common neonicotinoid pesticides.

The research was conducted by Dr Gemma Baron, Professor Mark Brown of Royal Holloway, University of London and Professor Nigel Raine, (now based at the University of Guelph), respectfully. Declines in butterfly populations have also been linked to neonicotinoid pesticides as too.

However, a review of the actual text of the Discussion section of the manuscript tells quite a different story:

Toxicity may cause bees to learn to avoid a substance that has an adverse effect [60], or may disrupt the physiological, behavioural or muscular processes involved in feeding [58]. However, both honeybees (Apis mellifera) and bumblebees (B. terrestris) appeared to prefer (rather than avoid) neonicotinoid-treated sugar water at nectar-relevant concentrations in laboratory choice tests [61]. Further testing is needed to elucidate the mechanisms controlling the change in feeding observed in this study, and why it differed across species.

The study closes by saying:

This study provides the first evidence that field-realistic exposure to thiamethoxam can have an impact on feeding and ovary development in multiple species of wild-caught bumblebee queens. Bumblebee queens are not currently considered in pesticide risk assessments for pollinators, and yet these results indicate that queens are sensitive to neonicotionoids in realistic exposure scenarios. Furthermore, differential sensitivity among species highlights the importance of considering the impacts of pesticides on a range of wild bee species. More information is urgently needed on residues and persistence of pesticides in crops, wild plants and in wild bee nests in order to accurately assess the exposure risks for the full range of species and castes of bees likely to encounter them. This is essential for understanding and managing the threat to wild bees from agrochemicals, and preventing further declines as a result of exposure to these pest control products.

What the scientists are saying with this manuscript is that they have proof of neonic pesticides affecting the reproductive health of bumblebee queens but, ultimately, more study is needed. The scientists are not entirely sure yet and while their conclusions are not wrong, like the above paragraph states, the scientist’s research shows the first evidence that queen bees are sensitive to exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides.

The BBC article is, most likely, another attempt by the mainstream media to hype science by misrepresenting what the research says and the intent of the scientists are. While they were able to correlate neonic pesticide exposure as affecting bumblebee queen reproduction, much more research needs to be done. This isn’t the first time the mainstream media and environmentalists have misrepresented or outright lied about the results of scientific research and, unfortunately, it will not be the last.

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