News Round-Up

Bumblebee reproduction at heightened risk from radiation


New research by experts at the University of Stirling has revealed the reproduction rates of bumblebees living in radiation-contaminated areas, such as Chernobyl, are more severely impacted than previously thought.

Research led by Dr Katherine Raines, of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, shows that bumblebees exposed to radiation comparable to the highest dose rates at Chernobyl (50-400 µGyh-1) experience lower reproductive rates and delayed colony growth. The research, published in ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences’, indicates the impact on bumblebees may have consequences for the wider ecosystem, including reduced pollination as a result of fewer bumblebees.

The consequences for wildlife of living in radiologically contaminated environments are uncertain. Previous laboratory studies suggest insects are relatively radiation-resistant; however, some field studies from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone report severe adverse effects at substantially lower radiation dose rates than expected. MORE