A meta-analysis comparing the sensitivity of bees to pesticides

The honey bee Apis mellifera, the test species used in the current environmental risk assessment procedure, is generally considered as extremely sensitive to pesticides when compared to other bee species, although a quantitative approach for comparing the difference in sensitivity among bees has not yet been reported. A systematic review of the relevant literature on the topic followed by a meta-analysis has been performed. Both the contact and oral acute LD50 and the chronic LC50 reported in laboratory studies for as many substances as possible have been extracted from the papers in order to compare the sensitivity to pesticides of honey bees and other bee species (Apiformes). The sensitivity ratio R between the endpoint for the species a (A. mellifera) and the species s (bees other than A. mellifera) was calculated for a total of 150 case studies including 19 bee species. A ratio higher than 1 indicated that the species s was more sensitive to pesticides than honey bees. The meta-analysis showed a high variability of sensitivity among bee species (R from 0.001 to 2085.7), however, in approximately 95 % of the cases the sensitivity ratio was below 10. The effect of pesticides in domestic and wild bees is dependent on the intrinsic sensitivity of single bee species as well as their specific life cycle, nesting activity and foraging behaviour. Current data indicates a need for more comparative information between honey bees and non-Apis bees as well as separate pesticide risk assessment procedures for non-Apis bees.


Arena M., Sgolastra F. (2014). A meta-analysis comparing the sensitivity of bees to pesticides. Ecotoxicology, 23: 324-334. DOI 10.1007/s10646-014-1190-1

Supported by

Ricola Foundation


University of Bern

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