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Impacts of neonicotinoid seed treatments on the wild bee community in agricultural field margins

September 10, 2021

Wild bees support global agroecosystems via pollination of agricultural crops and maintaining diverse plant communities. However, with an increased reliance on pesticides to enhance crop production, wild bee communities may inadvertently be affected through exposure to chemical residues. Laboratory and semi-field studies have demonstrated lethal and sublethal effects of neonicotinoids on limited genera (e.g., Apis, Bombus, Megachile), yet full field studies evaluating impacts to wild bee communities remain limited. Here, we conducted a two-year field study to assess whether neonicotinoid seed treatment and presence in environmental media (e.g., soil, flowers) influenced bee nest and diet guild abundance and richness. In 2017 and 2018, we planted 23 Missouri agricultural fields to soybeans (Glycine max) using one of three seed treatments: untreated (no insecticide), treated (imidacloprid), or previously-treated (untreated, but neonicotinoid use prior to 2017). During both years, wild bees were collected in study field margins monthly (May to September) in tandem with soil and flowers from fields and field margins that were analyzed for neonicotinoid residues. Insecticide presence in soils and flowers varied over the study with neonicotinoids infrequently detected in both years within margin flowers (0%), soybean flowers (<1%), margin soils (<8%), and field soils (~39%). Wild bee abundance and species richness were not significantly different among field treatments. In contrast, neonicotinoid presence in field soils was associated with significantly lower richness (ground- and aboveground-nesting, diet generalists) of wild bee guilds. Our findings support that soil remains an underexplored route of exposure and long-term persistence of neonicotinoids in field soils may lead to reduced diversity in regional bee communities. Future reduction or elimination of neonicotinoid seed treatment use on areas managed for wildlife may facilitate conservation goals to sustain viable, diverse wild bee populations.

Publication Year 2021
Title Impacts of neonicotinoid seed treatments on the wild bee community in agricultural field margins
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.147299
Authors Anson R. Main, Elisabeth B. Webb, Keith W. Goyne, Robert Abney, Doreen C. Mengel
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70228957
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta