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Bumblebee Acute and Contact Studies

Charles River perform Bumblebee studies.

A long-time area of focus for regulators, assessing the impact of plant protection products (PPPs) on pollinators has lately become a hot topic for the general public. In the past, acute and oral contact pollinator testing of agrochemical products (other than insecticides) was often only conducted with the honeybee (Apis mellifera). Adding to the honeybee methods adopted by the OECD in 1998, regulators in 2017 introduced equivalent acute testing methods for bumblebees (Bombus spp) to address the important issue of identifying chemicals that may adversely affect pollinators other than the honeybee.

Used by the global agricultural industry in the greenhouse setting, bumblebees offer a greater flexibility for meeting regulatory requirements for pollinator testing. Unlike honeybee testing which must be conducted in outdoor hives and thus has seasonal limitations, bumblebees may be tested year-round. In a drive to support global regulatory requirements and expand coverage for pollinator assessments, our Veszprém facility has added bumblebee testing for both contact and oral exposure (OECD 246 and 247). Commonly these tests are combined into a single GLP study, involving approximately 600 bumblebees from at least three different bumblebee colonies for each study.

Meeting Your Requirements

The acute bumblebee testing is considered by regulatory authorities such as EFSA and the USA EPA to be fully acceptable for the identification of an intrinsic toxicity for test items, as a key lower tier test which will be used in an overall assessment on pollinator effects. Chemicals which raise a concern for pollinator toxicity will commonly require further higher tier testing in other species and/or in field or semi-field studies.

Typically, the registration or re-registration of a plant protection product in the EU, USA or most major countries will require a detailed assessment of pollinator toxicity; honeybee and bumblebee acute contact and oral toxicity assessments are the foundation tests for any such program. Since regulatory agencies are particularly vigilant regarding pollinator toxicity, we advise performing these tests early in the development phase for any new product coming to market, since the higher tier studies, if required, can be very lengthy projects. Have questions? Our team of expert ecotoxicologists can help you design an appropriate program to prepare for PPP registration.

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