An international team led jointly by Exeter University scientists have had a breakthrough that could lead to bee safe pesticides.
Farmers widely use chemicals known as neonicotinoids to control insects on their land and this has been blamed for the collapse in the bee and bumblebee population. The bees and bumblebees pollinate crops and flowers.
Scientists from Exeter, Rothampsted Research and Bayer AG have discovered that two kinds of bee species can break down some chemicals and not others, meaning that chemical treatments to protect crops from pests could be used without harming bees.
Lin Field of Rothamsted said: “Some neonicotinoids were highly toxic to bees while others had a low toxicity, but they tended to get tarred with the same brush.”
Chris Bass, professor of applied entomology, who led the Exeter team said: “Identifying these key enzymes provides valuable tools to screen new pesticides early in their development to see if bees can break them down. It can take decades and hundreds of millions of pounds to develop a single pesticide, so this knowledge can help us.”