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Pesticide that still allows bees to flourish.

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor

DECLINETHREAT EAT EA ENED bees are set to benet from a biological pesticide which is being tested in the North East.

e bio-pesticide has been created using spider venom and snowdrop extract and has been found to be safe for honeybees - despite being highly toxic to a number of key insect pests.

New research led by Newcastle University has tested the bio-pesticide - a combination of a natural toxin from the venom of an Australian funnel web spider and snowdrop protein.

Feeding acute and chronic doses to honeybees - beyond the levels they would ever experience in the eld - the Newcastle team found it had only a very slight eect on the bees' survival and no measurable eect at all on their learning and memory.

is means the compound has huge potential as an environmentally-benign, bee-safe bio-pesticide and an alternative to the chemical pesticides which have been linked to declines in pollinator populations.

Honeybees perform sophisticated behaviours while foraging that require them to learn and remember !oral traits associated with food.

Disruption to this important function has profound implications for honeybee colony survival, because bees that cannot learn will not be able to nd food and return to their hives.

By pollinating some key crop species, honeybees make a vital contribution to food security. eir decline raises signicant concerns about our ability to feed a growing population.

Professor Angharad Gatehouse, based in Newcastle University's School of Biology and one of the supervisors on the project, said that the ndings suggest that the bio-pesticide is unlikely to cause any detrimental eects on honeybees and oers a safe alternative to some currently on the market.

e project is part of the Insect Pollinators Initiative, jointly funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Defra, the Natural Environment Research Counesearch Council, the Scottish Government and the Wellcome Trust.

is research, involving academics from Newcastle and Durham Universities and the Food and Environment Research Agency, was funded by the UK's innovation agency the TechnolT -ogy Strategy Board.

During the study, the bees were exposed to varying concentrations of the spider/snowdrop bio-pesticide over a period of seven days.

roughout the study period, the team carried out a series of memory tests and recorded any changes in behaviour.

Research lead Erich Nakasu, a PhD student at Newcastle University, said: "is is an oral pesticide so unlike "is is an oral pesticide so unlike some that get absorbed through the exoskeleton, the spider/snowdrop protein has to be ingested."

He said that although the bio-pesticide was carried to the brain of the honeybee, it had no eect on the insect. e larvae were also unaected by the substance, which they were able to break it down in their gut.

Dr Geraldine Wright, one of the authors on the paper, heads Newcastle University's Honeybee Lab. Last year she led the research which highlighted the damaging eect of some pesticides on bees' ability to learn and remember and communicate to their hive mates.

"Around 90% of the world's plants are directly or indirectly reliant on pollinators to survive," she said. "If we destroy the biodiversity of pollinators then it will be irrelevant how tors then it will be irrelevant how eective our pesticides are because eective our pesticides are because we won't have any crops to protect."


A bee <Bgathering pollen
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 4, 2014
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