Bee Ecotoxicology

  • Fera has the research expertise and scientific resources to help you test products for their effects on pollinator survival, development and behaviour, enabling you to develop products that are safe for bees and other pollinators.
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Bee Ecotoxicology

Bees and other pollinating insects perform essential services in any ecosystem. As well as providing a host of products such as honey, wax, propolis, royal jelly and venom, bees are critical pollinators. They pollinate around 70 of the 100 or so crop species that feed 90% of the world population, and honey bees are responsible for pollinating crops worth $30 billion a year. However, they are under serious threat. Various factors, including climate change, agricultural practices and parasites, such as the varroa mite, mean that bee populations across the world are in rapid decline. It’s now more important than ever to preserve these valuable insects. All participants in the food production supply chain need to work together to safeguard the health of bees and other pollinating insects.

How can Fera help? 

Fera leads the way in pollinator safety research, testing and analysis. We offer a host of services to support the objectives of bee keepers, farmers, chemical producers, retailers and consumers.

  • More than 25 years’ experience of running bee safety studies.
  • Global leader in bee toxicity testing.
  • Co-located with the National Bee Unit, providing access to more than 150 colonies of honey bees.

Our role is to bring all participants in the food production supply chain together, sharing information and research, providing valuable testing services and creating opportunities for collaboration.

Our research expertise and scientific resources can help you to test your plant-protection products for their effects on bee survival, development and behaviour – helping you to develop products that are safe for bees and other pollinators. We work closely with the National Bee Unit, giving us access to a huge range of resources to support your risk assessments, including more than 150 colonies of honey bees and a highly skilled beekeeping team. Read our latest case study on Radio Frequency IDentification tagging - field experiment on bees.

  • Range of proven laboratory tests to assess product toxicity to bees
  • Field studies to assess impacts on bees under tunnel & open-field conditions
  • Bespoke tests designed to address specific requirements
  • Access to resources and expertise of National Bee Unit

Ecotoxicology services: bee ecotoxicology

The tests detailed below demonstrate some of our capabilities. We will work with you to select the appropriate tests to meet the specific needs of your project. We can perform all of the necessary residue analysis for these studies, from testing dosing solutions to analysing complex hive matrices. If you have a specific testing requirement or problem that needs addressing, we can adapt our methods or design bespoke tests to provide the data, analysis and reports you need.

Laboratory tests:

Adult honey bees and bumblebees- acute toxicity

Short-term tests designed to look at the worst-case scenario for the two main routes of exposure to risk for bees. For honey bees, we follow OECD Guidelines 213 & 214: Honey Bees Acute Oral & Contact Toxicity Tests. Bumblebee tests are run in accordance with the latest Draft OECD Guidelines for acute oral and contact dosing of bumblebees 2016.

Adult honey bees - chronic toxicity

Designed to assess the possible longer-term feeding effects of plant-protection products on honey bees. These tests are carried out according to the latest proposal for a new OECD Guideline for the Testing of Chemicals: Honey bee (Apis mellifera L.), chronic oral toxicity test (10 day feeding test in the laboratory) 2016.

In vitro honey bee larval toxicity

These tests assess the effects of PPPs on honey bee larvae. Larvae are grafted from healthy colonies into artificial cells where they are fed an artificial diet (royal jelly and sugars) reared in the laboratory. The test item is combined with the feed and fed directly to the larvae. These tests can be run as a single dose test according to OECD Test Guideline 237: Honey bee larval toxicity test - Single exposure or repeat dosing according to OECD Guidance Document 239 Honey bee larval toxicity test - Repeated exposure.

Aged-residue tests

Extended laboratory test to assess the toxicity of plant-protection product residues on plants post application to bees. Tests performed according to EPA OCSPP 850.3030: Honey Bee Toxicity of Residues on Foliage.

Bee metabolism studies

Studies to examine the metabolism of plant-protection products and the toxicity of the metabolites when ingested or absorbed by adult bees.

For more information on our laboratory test services please get in touch.

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Semi-field and field tests

Honey bee brood tests

Using photographic methods and bee brood monitoring software, it is possible to monitor the effects of PPPs on the development of different brood stages. Tests performed according to OECD 75: Honey Bee Brood Test Under Semi-Field Conditions (tunnel test).

Honey bee brood feeding test

Similar to above, but the test item can be fed directly to free-flying honey bee colonies in sugar syrup. Test undertaken to Oomen, de Ruijter & van der Steen method (1992).

Honey bee effects tests

Conducted under open-field conditions to give realistic exposure scenarios (EPPO 170). Can be designed to assess various aspects, including spray applications, seed treatments (e.g. dust) and risks from guttation. We are experienced in the use of Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) technology under open-field situations to assess the potential effects of plant-protection products on the foraging behaviour and mortality of worker bees.

Solitary bee and bumble effects tests

Bespoke semi-field and field studies under tunnel and open-field conditions. Studies are run in collaboration with Atlantic Pollination Ltd.

For more information on our field and semi-filed test services please get in touch.

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As part of our role we provide support and advice to government running a wide variety of studies which investigate the effects of agro chemical (plant protection products) and new veterinary medicines (for beekeepers), nutrition and disease.

Chemical Producers

Chemical Producers

Chemical companies developing plant protection products for growers need to ensure their pesticides provide effective protection against pests and diseases, at the same time as safeguarding essential pollinators, such as bees.

Food, Retailers & Manufacturers

Food Retailers & Manufacturers

Responsible food retailers and manufacturers are committed to supporting sustainability throughout the food supply chain. This includes protecting pollinating insects as well as consumers from potentially harmful crop treatment products, such as neonicotinoids.

General Public

General Public

There are over 250 species of bee in the UK, made up of 225 species of solitary bees, 25 bumble bees, and just one honey bee. Different species have different life cycles and are active at varying times throughout the year.

General Public

Government, Research & Universities

With a wide range of expertise in the diagnosis of honey bee pests and diseases and our work in preserving the future of our pollinators, Fera are the perfect partner for your diagnostic and research requirements.

Growers & Argonomists

Growers & Agronomists

Pollinators are able to increase the yield and the quality of insect dependant crops. This means by embracing pollinators it can lead to higher production levels of your crops.

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