Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees

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Science  30 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6345, pp. 1393-1395
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1190

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  • Multiple stressors, neonicotinoid insecticides and bee declines
    • Joachim R. de Miranda, Researcher/Professor, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
    • Other Contributors:
      • Francesco Nazzi, Professor/Researcher, University of Udine, Udine, Italy

    The paper by Woodcock et al. (1), recently published on Science, is the latest in a long series trying to assess if neonicotinoid insecticides are harmful to bees under realistic field conditions. It follows a number of studies carried out under more controlled conditions which clearly showed that compounds from this family of insecticides have several sublethal effects on bees, affecting navigation, immunity and reproduction (2-4). In fact, despite the bigger scale of the present study, its conclusions do not seem to be different from those attained previously, in that negative effects were noted on some bees, under certain conditions, whereas other bees, under the same conditions, did not seem to suffer adverse effects (5).
    This study will therefore most likely be coopted to bolster partisan agendas on both sides of the neonicotinoid debate: that these chemicals are inherently dangerous to pollinators and should be banned, or that the real-world consequences for pollinators of neonicotinoid use in agriculture remain unproven and are (therefore) insufficient to off-set its incremental benefits relative to alternative pest control methods. Both claims are grounded in reasoned arguments and a resolution requires a decision of how much damage society is willing to accept, and to what benefit. Neonicotinoids are highly effective at killing insects and it is disingenuous to pretend that just pollinating insects are somehow exempted, even when this cannot be demonstrated...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Problems with data provided on statistical tests:

    When examining the detailed data provided in the Supplementary File (Tables S4B,S4C,S5B), it seems that p-values published for the CHI2 statistics are sometimes not the good ones. Maybe mistyping.
    For example: Table S4C: CHI2 (6)=1.47, p<0.01;CHI2(4)=0.85, p=0.01; CHI2(4)=6.65, p=0.03.

    Competing Interests: None declared.