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Wild bees need stronger pesticide regulation

Pesticide regulations designed to protect honeybees fail to account for potential health threats to the full diversity of bee species that are even more important pollinators

Pesticide regulations designed to protect honeybees fail to account for potential health threats posed to other, even more important pollinators, according to a trio of research papers from the University of Guelph.

As the global human population grows, and as pollinators continue to suffer declines caused by everything from habitat loss to pathogens, regulators need to widen pesticide risk assessments to protect not just honeybees but other species from bumblebees to solitary bees, said environmental sciences professor Nigel Raine.

“There is evidence that our dependency on insect-pollinated crops is increasing and will continue to do so as the global population rises,” said Raine, co-author of all three papers recently published in the journal Environmental Entomology.

With growing demands for crop pollination outstripping increases in honeybee stocks, he said, “Protecting wild pollinators is more important now than ever before. Honeybees alone simply cannot deliver the crop pollination services we need.”

Government regulators worldwide currently use honeybees as the sole model species for assessing potential risks of pesticide exposure to insect pollinators.

But Raine said wild bees are probably more important for pollination of food crops than managed honeybees. Many of those wild species live in soil, but scientists lack information about exposure of adult or larval bees to pesticides through food or soil residues.

The papers call on regulators to look for additional models among solitary bees and bumblebees to better gauge health risks and improve protection for these species.

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