1School Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK. 2Lancaster University, LEC, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK.
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Growing evidence for declines in bee populations has caused great concern due to the valuable ecosystem services they provide. Neonicotinoid insecticides have been implicated in these declines as they occur at trace levels in the nectar and pollen of crop plants. We exposed colonies of the bumble bee Bombus terrestris in the lab to field-realistic levels of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, then allowed them to develop naturally under field conditions. Treated colonies had a significantly reduced growth rate and suffered an 85% reduction in production of new queens compared to control colonies. Given the scale of use of neonicotinoids, we suggest that they may be having a considerable negative impact on wild bumble bee populations across the developed world.