According to a recent study one of the world’s most widely used insecticide doubles as a dangerous contraceptive in male bees. Neonicotinoid pesticides reduce male bee’s sperm production by up to 40%. The researchers behind this believe it’s one of several possible explanations for the decrease in the honeybee population over the past few years.
Honeybees make up a huge part of a group of insects known as wild pollinators who play a huge role in the maintenance of crops throughout the northern hemisphere. Pollination is crucial for plants to reproduce so many plants are reliant on pollinators, and in turn so are the humans that benefit from them.
In the past research showed that neonicotinoid pesticides had damaging effects on bumblebee queens, reducing their general population, but this is the first time that the pesticides have been proven to effect the internal workings of the hive, in particular the male sperm production.
“Any influence on sperm quality may have profound consequences for the fitness of the queen, as well as the entire colony,” remarked the researchers.
The sharp decrease in bee population over the past few years has been blamed on loss of habitat, global warming, and disease, but it wasn’t until 2013 that neonicotinoid pesticides were identified as a major threat to pollinators.
The insecticide was banned for use on crops by The European Union in 2013 but since then many governments, including that of The United Kingdom, have lifted the ban. The problem is that there’s little to no research proving that neonicotinoids affect the colony’s performance as a whole despite clear evidence that the chemicals are harmful to individual bees.
It’s frequently said that bees are responsible for one of every three bites of food that we eat, their importance to the agricultural industry goes far beyond what most people think and it’s crucial that we do what we can to protect them.