A comprehensive, joint study by Exeter University, Rothamsted Research and Bayer researchers, recently published in Current Biology, has identified and characterized the enzymes in honey bees and bumble bees that determine how sensitive they are to different neonicotinoid insecticides, namely CYP9Q, a subfamily of P450 detoxification enzymes.
The results reveal these enzymes in the metabolic mechanisms in bees effectively break down certain insecticides quickly, allowing their safe application even in flowering crops where foraging bees can be exposed. “The findings also show that you can’t make generalizations about the bee toxicity of insecticides of a chemical class such as neonicotinoids,” said Dr. Ralf Nauen, an insect toxicologist at Bayer and lead investigator of the study.
We are confident that this knowledge will enable the company to design further bee-friendly insecticides in an even more targeted way, using relatively simple methods (in vitro) at an early stage of a product’s development.
Differences in the way thiacloprid and imidacloprid bind to protein receptors in the bees’ heads were not the answer to the differences in toxicity.
For more on the background to this work:
In pursuit of key enzymes
Toxigenomics: How honey bees detoxify plant protection products