Pesticide 'could have devastating effect' on wild bumblebee numbers
A controversial pesticide can potentially wipe out common bumblebee populations by preventing the formation of new colonies, research has shown.
The neonicotinoid chemical thiamethoxam dramatically reduces egg-laying by queen bumblebees, say scientists.
Predictions based on a mathematical model suggest this could result in the total collapse of local populations of the wild bees.
Lead researcher Professor Nigel Raine, from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, said: "Bumblebee queens that were exposed to the neonicotinoid were 26% less likely to lay eggs to start a colony.
"A reduction this big in the ability of queens to start new colonies significantly increases the chances that wild populations could go extinct."
In 2013 a two-year temporary ban on the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops was imposed throughout the European Union due to claims the nicotine-related chemicals can harm valuable pollinators.
Currently the ban remains in place while it is under review.
Environmental campaigners want to see a permanent ban extended to all crops, while farmers have warned this could lead to crop losses and a return to older, more harmful pesticides.