, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 324–334 | Cite as

A meta-analysis comparing the sensitivity of bees to pesticides

  • Maria Arena
  • Fabio Sgolastra


The honey bee Apis mellifera, the test species used in the current environmental risk assessment procedure, is generally considered as extremely sensitive to pesticides when compared to other bee species, although a quantitative approach for comparing the difference in sensitivity among bees has not yet been reported. A systematic review of the relevant literature on the topic followed by a meta-analysis has been performed. Both the contact and oral acute LD50 and the chronic LC50 reported in laboratory studies for as many substances as possible have been extracted from the papers in order to compare the sensitivity to pesticides of honey bees and other bee species (Apiformes). The sensitivity ratio R between the endpoint for the species a (A. mellifera) and the species s (bees other than A. mellifera) was calculated for a total of 150 case studies including 19 bee species. A ratio higher than 1 indicated that the species s was more sensitive to pesticides than honey bees. The meta-analysis showed a high variability of sensitivity among bee species (R from 0.001 to 2085.7), however, in approximately 95 % of the cases the sensitivity ratio was below 10. The effect of pesticides in domestic and wild bees is dependent on the intrinsic sensitivity of single bee species as well as their specific life cycle, nesting activity and foraging behaviour. Current data indicates a need for more comparative information between honey bees and non-Apis bees as well as separate pesticide risk assessment procedures for non-Apis bees.


Toxicity Environmental risk assessment Apis mellifera Apiformes Pollinators Comparative ecotoxicology 



We are very grateful to the EFSA Bee Working group (Robert Luttik, Franz Streissl, Csaba Szentes, Agnes Rortais, Gèrard Arnold, Jos Boesten, Mark Clook, Jacoba Wassenberg) for their comments and suggestions and to Stephanie Bopp and Sotirios Vasileiadis for reviewing part of the manuscript. We very much appreciate the constructive and helpful comments of Rachel Sharp (EFSA) and the three anonymous reviewers.


The publication was drafted under the sole responsibility of the authors and is not considered as an EFSA output. The positions and opinions presented are those of the authors alone and are not intended to represent the views of EFSA.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10646_2014_1190_MOESM1_ESM.doc (626 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 626 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pesticides UnitEuropean Food Safety Authority (EFSA)ParmaItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Area EntomologiaUniversità di BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Consiglio per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione in Agricoltura, Unità di Ricerca in Apicoltura e Bachicoltura (CRA-API)BolognaItaly

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