Bees and potatoes and fungicides

Did you hear Dave Goulson just now BBC radio 4 "The life scientific"  I am a great fan of Dave and have just read his book on Bumblebees "A sting in the tail".  Dave et al. have been doing some experiments on Neonicotinoid insecticides, usually present in OSR (rape) fields as a seed dressing.  

He treated half of his nests of a common bumblebee with a neonic, at the concentration calculated from the amount on pollen from treated plants that would be brought back to a nest.  Later he counted new queens from treated and untreated nests and found 85% reduction in new queens in treated nests. Clearly the neonic at low concs has a drastic effect on nest productiviy.

This gets me wondering if the mix of fungicides applied to flowering crops of potatoes at weekly intervals to control late blight has any effect on the pollinating insects on the crop.  We hope to learn more about pollinating insects on potato when we do an experiment at Henfaes Research Centre in 2014 as part of a KESS project.  My MRes student, Natalie Chivers, will run the experiment and we hope to find out just how many bees and other insects are present in plots of various varieties of spud (Sarpo included) in different locations.  We will not get all the answers but will certainly know more of the questions we need to ask.