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A study to review the scientific literature on the environmental risks of releasing non-native species of bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) for crop pollination

Research

PE 026 - A study to review the scientific literature on the environmental risks of releasing non-native species of bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) for crop pollination

Start Date: 
01/05/2015
Completion Date: 
31/10/2015
Project Leader: 
Dr Dave Chandler, University of Warwick
Code: 
PE 026

Industry representative: Dr Philip Morley, British Tomato Growers Association Technical Committee

AHDB Horticulture Cost: £15,623

Aims and Objective:

The overall aim is to conduct an independent, comprehensive review of the scientific literature relevant to the effects (potential and realized) of releasing non-native species of bumblebees as pollinators in the UK.  The Project objective(s):

  1. Collate current knowledge from the scientific literature relevant to the effects of releasing non-native species of bumblebees as pollinators in the UK.
  2. Compare the information from (1) against the updated risk assessment of non-native bumblebees prepared for the Great Britain Non-Native Species Secretariat (GB NSS) and identify any relevant information not used in the GB NSS assessment.
  3. Identify key gaps in knowledge relevant to the risk assessment of non-native bumblebees released in the UK.
  4.  Make findings available to the relevant sectors of the UK horticultural industry

Benefits to Industry :

  • Growers of crops that are reliant on the use of bumblebees for pollination will benefit from being provided with independent advice on the environmental risks associated with the release of non-native bumblebees (Bombus terrestris terrestris and Bombus terrestris dalmatinus).
  • Any new information identified, gaps in knowledge, or concerns about the quality of scientific evidence could be fed into government policy making, helping to ensure that any decisions made by government regulators on the licencing of non-native bumblebees is made on the basis of the best available evidence. 
  • The TGA estimate that withdrawal of B t terrestris and B t dalmatinus could lead to losses of 5.3% of annual UK tomato production, equating to a loss of over £4.7 m across the British tomato industry. This would result in some growers making a loss and going out of business. It is therefore of critical importance to the industry (tomato growers in particular but also other sectors dependent on bumblebees for pollination) that decisions on the licensing of non-native bumblebees for release are based on sound evidence.
  • Consumers will benefit from the continued availability of fresh, home-grown, high quality produce.
  • If there are real risks to the environment from releasing non-native bumblebees, then stopping this practice will result in positive outcomes for the environment.