A new generation of pesticides could pose the most serious threat yet to the dwindling population of honeybees.

Research from the US Department of Agriculture’s bee research lab suggests a new line of insecticides dubbed neonicotinoids – derived from nicotine – is making honeybees more susceptible to disease.

Controversially, the findings were reached two years ago but have yet to be formally published. The delay has promped concerns over the influence of the pesticide industry.

“[The research] was completed almost two years ago but it has been too long in getting out,” Dr Jeffrey Pettis, who led research, told The Independent.

The research showed that imidacloprid – the leading pesticide developed by German chemicals giant Bayer – greatly increases the insects’ susceptibility to illness, even at tiny doses.

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Bee crisis: The buzz is back (analysis; 10 September 2010)