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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Bee colony health: ANSES examines the results of a study of the effect of an active insecticide ingredient on the behaviour of forager bees

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News of 30/03/2012

30 March 2012

A new study has just been published on the potential effect of an insecticide ingredient, thiamethoxam, on bee colony health via its influence on the behaviour of forager bees. ANSES, in keeping with its mission of continuous surveillance, and at the request of the French Ministry of Agriculture, will immediately analyse this new study as well as any other new studies available, in preparation for issuing possible recommendations to the French authorities. ANSES will work in conjunction with its European counterparts, if necessary, in order to incorporate the information gathered from this analysis into the process of evaluation used for substances of this type.

For several years now, a phenomenon resulting in the weakening and mortality of bee colonies has been observed in many countries. Within this context, the impact of various factors which can affect bee colonies synergistically (diseases and parasites, stress due to changes in food resources, plant protection products, climatic conditions, etc.) has often been emphasised in the scientific literature.

A new study has just been published on the effect of thiamethoxam on the behaviour of forager bees and the indirect effect that these behaviour modifications may have on the health of bee colonies.

Thiamethoxam is an active insecticide ingredient belonging to the class of neonicotinoids. It is authorised on the European Union level for use in formulations intended to control certain insect pests of maize or oilseed rape (canola), in accordance with Regulation (EC) No.1107/2009 concerning the marketing of plant protection products.
The authors of this new study tested the hypothesis that this compound may impair homing skills in forager bees exposed to non-lethal doses of it and may thus indirectly increases bee colony mortality by altering foragers' ability to return to the hive.

This study used an innovative method in which bees were monitored using RFID microchips glued to their thorax to detect their return to the hive. ANSES considers that return to the hive by foragers is a relevant parameter that is not currently monitored in the studies required by law. The Agency will therefore closely monitor the full-scale experiments that will follow on from this initial study.

ANSES, in keeping with its mission of continuous surveillance, and at the request of the Ministry of Agriculture, will immediately analyse this study as well as all the other recent data available. It will consult the authors of the study in order to clarify certain points of the methodology employed (bee exposure techniques, bee-to-bee variability of the doses administered, etc.). Based on this, the Agency will issue recommendations to the French authorities, if necessary, and will work in conjunction with its European counterparts in order to incorporate the information gathered from this analysis into the process of evaluation of active insecticide ingredients.