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The impact of an insecticide on insect flower visitation and pollination in an agricultural landscape

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Abstract:

• Pesticides are considered a threat to pollinators but little is known about the potential impacts of their widespread use on pollinators. Less still is known about the impacts on pollination, comprising the ecosystem service that pollinators provide to wildflowers and crops.

• The present study measured flower visitation and pollination in an agricultural landscape, by placing potted flowering plants (Petunia sp.) in vine fields sprayed with a highly toxic insecticide (fenitrothion). During two sampling rounds, insect visitors to the petunias were observed and measures of pollination were recorded by counting and weighing seeds.

• In the earlier sampling round, a lower species richness of insect visitors was observed in fields that had received an early application of insecticide. No negative impacts were found from later applications. The results obtained suggest a greater potential harm to insect pollinators and flower visitation as a result of insecticide application early in the season.

• No reduction in pollination was found in fields that received an early insecticide application. Pollination was greater with two insecticide applications between sampling rounds rather than one application.

• In the present study system, insecticide application had a negative effect on pollinators but a possible positive effect on pollination services. In some cases, it may be that actions for conserving biodiversity will not benefit pollination services to all plants.

Keywords: Agro-chemical; bees; ecosystem service; fenitrothion; pesticide; pollinator

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-9563.2010.00485.x

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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