NEONICOTINOIDS are so good at killing things which suck the sap and chew the flesh of crops that they have become the world’s most widely used family of insecticides. For decades, though, there has been a fear that they harm non-crop-eating insects, too—in particular, bees.
The evidence for this has been mixed. Swedish research published in 2015—two years after the EU imposed a moratorium on the use of three popular neonicotinoids, clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam—found that wild bees in fields sown with neonicotinoid-treated oilseed rape (canola) reproduced poorly.
Neonicotinoids have not been found responsible for big declines in bee populations, or widespread colony collapses. Bayer and Syngenta both argue the new results do not support a ban on the chemicals. But they do show that some neonicotinoids, at least, hurt some bees in some places and under some circumstances.
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