Reduced species richness of native bees in field margins associated with neonicotinoid concentrations in non-target soils
Main, Anson R.
Webb, Elisabeth B.
Goyne, Keith W.
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Native bees are in decline as many species are sensitive to habitat loss, climate change, and non-target exposure to synthetic pesticides. Recent laboratory and semi-field assessments of pesticide impacts on bees have focused on neonicotinoid insecticides. However, field studies evaluating influences of neonicotinoid seed treatments on native bee communities of North America are absent from the literature. On four Conservation Areas of Missouri, we sampled row-cropped (treated, n = 15) and reference (untreated, n = 9) agricultural fields, and their surrounding field margins for neonicotinoids in soil and non-target vegetation (i.e., native wildflowers). Wildflowers were further collected and screened for the presence of fungicides. Concurrently, we sampled native bees over three discrete time points throughout the agricultural growing season to assess potential impacts of seed treatment use on local bee populations over time. Neonicotinoids were detected in 87% to 100% of treated field soils and 22% to 56% of reference field soils. In adjacent field margin soils, quantifiable concentrations were measured near treated (53% to 93% detection) and untreated fields (33% to 56% detection). Fungicides were detected in < 40% of wildflowers, whereas neonicotinoids were rarely detected in field margin vegetation (< 7%). Neonicotinoid concentrations in margin soils were negatively associated with native bee richness (beta = -0.21, P < 0.05). Field margins with a combination of greater neonicotinoid concentrations in soil and fungicides in wildflowers also contained fewer wild bee species (beta = -0.21, P < 0.001). By comparison, bee abundance was positively influenced by the number of wildflower species in bloom with no apparent impact of pesticides. Results of this study indicate that neonicotinoids in soil are a potential route of exposure for pollinator communities, specifically ground-nesting species. Importantly, native bee richness in non-target field margins may be negatively affected by the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments in agroecosystems.