The insecticide fipronil poses a high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize, EFSA has concluded in a report requested by the European Commission. EFSA was asked to perform a risk assessment of fipronil, paying particular regard to the acute and chronic effects on colony survival and development and the effects of sublethal doses on bee mortality and behaviour.
EFSA’s pesticide risk assessment experts examined the potential risk to bees from the active substance through a number of exposure routes. They concluded the following:
- Risk from dust drift: A high acute risk was identified for maize. For other field crops, including sunflower, full risk assessments could not be completed so the level of risk from exposure to dust originating from seed drilling could not be established.
- Nectar and pollen: The available studies – field and semi-field – had weaknesses and thus were insufficient to establish the level of risk to honey bees from the use of fipronil as a treatment for sunflower and maize seed. However, there was deemed to be a low risk to honey bees from the authorised use of fipronil on vegetables, as these cannot be foraged for pollen and nectar.
- Several gaps were identified in the available data related to other potential routes of exposure.
The conclusions were reached using the EFSA Scientific Opinion on the science behind the development of guidance for the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees, which was published last year. EFSA’s experts used data submitted for the approval of fipronil at EU level and for the authorisation of plant protection products containing fipronil at Member State level. They also considered the previous EFSA Conclusion on fipronil (2006) and the Authority’s statement on the Italian APENET project, as well as data from studies, research and monitoring activities that were considered relevant.
In January 2013, EFSA published risk assessments examining the effects on bees of the neonicotinoids clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.
- Fipronil is a broad-use insecticide that belongs to the phenylpyrazole chemical family. It is used to control various soil insects during their larval growth stage and acts through contact and ingestion.
- Drilling is a sowing technique by which seeds are mechanically placed in the soil and then covered. Before the introduction of drill machines, seeds were commonly planted by hand.
- Semi-field studies are also known as cage or tunnel studies.