Bee

Spider venom pesticide devised which does not threaten bees

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Friday, June 6, 2014 - 15:26 GMT Jump to Comments

A new pesticide, derived from spider venom and the snowdrop plant, could help ensure we threaten our vital honeybee population no longer.

The humble bee, a crucial animal in our ecosystem with a massive impact on food production, has long been threatened by the use of pesticides such as thiamethoxam, imidacloprid and clothianidin on crops. 

Conservative 2013 estimates consider the fall of the honeybee population since 2007 to be around 30 per cent, a huge dip in just six years and a great concern to environmentalists, the food industry, farmers and politicians alike. 

Last year, Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, told the Information Daily: "Bees and other pollinating insects are vital for the pollination of crops. Without them, flowers, plants and crops would not be able to reproduce and we would soon find ourselves unable to grow the food we need to survive."

So, faced with this potentially insurmountable challenge, researchers at Newcastle University combined venom from the Australian funnel web spider with a protein from the snowdrop plant to create a new biopesticide which is not harmful to humans, bees or bee larvae. 

The scientists exposed bees to the biopesticide and saw none of the effects commonly seen with other, harmful pesticides, such as confusion, listlessness and loss of memory. The pesticide cannot be asborbed through the bees exoskeleton, and would have to be consumed instead.

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