The worries over honey bee populations continues with the news that common insecticides may affect their sex lives.

According to a new study, two neonicotinoid insecticides are causing male honey bees to have shorter lives and affecting their ability to produce sperm, writes Chris D’Angelo for The Huffington Post.

Honey Bee
Image source: Pixabay

Neonicotinoids affect lifespan and sexual health

Male honey bees are known as drones, and their ability to reproduce is being affected by the chemicals. Researchers from the University of Bonn, Switzerland, say that the contraceptive effects of the chemicals could have “profound consequences for the health of the queen, as well as the entire colony.”

Lars Straub, a doctoral student at Bern, led the study. Results were published this Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, detailing yet another threat to the main pollinator that lives on our planet.

“We know multiple stressors can affect honey bee health, including parasites and poor nutrition,” senior author Geoff Williams of the University of Bern and Agroscope said in a statement. “It is possible that agricultural chemicals may also play an important role.”

Chemicals under review in U.S., partially banned in Europe

The study shows that male honey bees exposed to thiamethoxam and clothianidin had 39% fewer sperm than those that were not exposed. This is the first time that a study has shown the negative effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on male honey bees.

Honey bees exposed to the chemicals lived an average of 15 days instead of 22 for non-exposed honey bees, a reduction of 32%. From April 2015 to March 2016, U.S. beekeepers lost 44% of their total colonies.

The two chemicals in the study are partially banned in Europe, and are under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The first findings will be released this December.

The declining bee populations are of huge concern due to the possible impact on food security. Bees are responsible for pollinating three-quarters of fruits, nuts and vegetables in the United States, and are responsible for $15 billion in value to the agricultural industry.

According to study co-author Peter Neumann the results “highlight the need for stringent environmental risk assessments of agricultural chemicals to protect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.”