Correspondence | Published:

Environment

Overhaul pesticide testing on bees

Nature volume 497, page 188 (09 May 2013) | Download Citation

Political action is needed to address the adverse side effects of systemic pesticides on bees (Nature 496, 408; 2013) by revising procedures for pesticide registration. The current risk-assessment process for these chemicals is outdated and does not incorporate important developments from the past 30 years.

To register a new pesticide in industrialized countries, the substance must be assessed for toxicity to the honeybee (Apis mellifera), which was originally chosen as a representative model of the Apoidea superfamily of some 20,000 bee species. However, the life histories of different bee species vary considerably. Unlike honeybees, most bee species are solitary, so individuals killed by pesticides are not easily replaced. There are 42 studies (source: Web of Science) reporting side effects of registered pesticides on other bee species, even though these passed risk assessment for honeybees. Tests need to be much more sensitive if they are to pick up all pesticide-related effects for bees as a whole.

Current risk assessments evaluate the survival of adult honeybees only after a short exposure to pesticide. However, numerous studies have stressed the importance of also testing for chronic toxicity, larval toxicity and sublethal effects of pesticides (N. Desneux et al. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 52, 81–106; 2007).

More rigorous pesticide testing therefore needs to include a broader range of exposure scenarios and to take relevant biological traits into account. This will stand to improve insect pollination generally, which is currently worth about €153 billion (US$202 billion) annually worldwide (N. Gallai et al. Ecol. Econ. 68, 810–821; 2009).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Association for Technical Coordination in Agriculture (ACTA), Avignon, France.

    • Axel Decourtye
  2. French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Avignon, France.

    • Mickaël Henry
  3. French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Sophia-Antipolis, France.

    • Nicolas Desneux

Authors

  1. Search for Axel Decourtye in:

  2. Search for Mickaël Henry in:

  3. Search for Nicolas Desneux in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nicolas Desneux.

About this article

Publication history

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/497188a

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing