Researchers from China’s top science academy have published research claiming that the use of imidacloprid – a widely-used neonicotinoid insecticide – is damaging the health of Asian honey bees. The study’s findings could deal a severe blow to China's imidacloprid industry, according to analysts CCM.
The research, undertaken by scientists at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), was published on June 23 and is the first ever study of the effect of neonicotinoid insecticides on Asian honey bees (Apis cerana).
XTBG’s study found that exposure to imidacloprid can do serious damage to Asian bees’ olfactory learning ability, the faculty bees use to distinguish floral scents and find nectar.
According to the study:
· Adult bees exposed even to doses of imidacloprid considered ‘safe’ suffered long-term learning impairments
· Adult bees fed imidacloprid as larvae had inferior short-term learning compared to bees that had not been exposed to the insecticide
Apis cerana are common across South and South East Asia and play an important role in the regions’ agriculture, so CCM believes that the study could have far-reaching effects for Asia’s insecticides market.
The EU restricted the use of imidacloprid and two other neonicotinoid insecticides in December 2013 following the publication of research demonstrating similar effects on European bees.
And Wang Jianwo, Secretary General of the Hunan Pesticide Industry Association, has confessed to CCM that he is worried about China and other Asian countries following the policies of the EU and implementing similar restrictions.
Imidacloprid is a major industry in China, where over 28,000t/a of imidacloprid TC production capacity is located, so many Chinese manufacturers could be affected by any policy change.
Only a third of China’s output is for domestic use, meaning that a Chinese ban would not be too devastating a blow.
However, Vietnam, Pakistan and India are major export destinations for Chinese imidacloprid, all of which have large Apis cerana populations, so manufacturers are also vulnerable to policy moves in other countries.
Many Chinese manufacturers are already facing financial difficulties, so any impact on sales will be very costly. On the one hand, imidacloprid prices have fallen significantly over the past year thanks in large part to the EU restrictions, while producers are also facing rising costs as a result of new waste treatment regulations.
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