A new Europe-wide study has demonstrated how far-reaching the impacts of pesticide use can be across the landscape.
It is now well known that the agricultural use of neonicotinoid insecticides can negatively affect wild bee species, which has subsequently led to restrictions on their use being introduced.
But, despite these restrictions, the negative effects of insecticide use are still being felt well away from the areas of their application.
The study found landscape-scale impacts from pesticides on Buff-tailed Bumblebees across Europe (Vera Buhl / commons.wikimedia.org).
Examining 316 Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colonies at 106 agricultural sites across eight European countries, researchers found that despite tightened pesticide regulations, European agricultural landscapes still negatively affect non-target organisms
The scientists showed that pesticides found in bumblebee-collected pollen were associated with reduced colony performance – or, in other words, a lower number of young produced.
In addition to this, they found that pesticides do more harm in landscapes with less natural habitat. This suggests that habitat restoration efforts can, to some extent, mitigate pesticide effects.
Jess Knapp, one of the paper's authors, wrote on X: "Our findings support the need for sustainability goals to reduce pesticide use and risk – legislation that was recently voted down by MEPs in a critical blow to pollinators and the hugely important pollination service they provide us.
"These valuable pollinators still face such an uphill struggle despite their importance and threats being known to scientists, agriculturalists, economists, and policymakers."
Nicholson, C C, Knapp, J, et al. 2023. Pesticide use negatively affects bumble bees across European landscapes. Nature. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06773-3