Wood bees have been hit hard by a recent wave of pesticides and are now being targeted with more toxic pesticides.
The number of reports of wood bees having symptoms of exposure to the pesticides rose sharply in the past two weeks to more than 3,500, with the largest number of incidents occurring in western and central Queensland, according to the Department of Primary Industries.
The department said the spike was the result of a “large-scale pesticide rollout” across Queensland, including more than 1,000 new pesticides being released in the state.
“Wood bees have experienced serious, systemic impacts including loss of their natural habitat and the development of toxic algal blooms in their overwintering pools,” the department said in a statement.
“This is especially worrying in areas where they overwinter on the ground, where the conditions for these blooms are particularly challenging.”
The department also said it was taking further measures to prevent wood bees from being exposed to the toxic pesticides in the future.
“As of this week, the department has undertaken additional measures to limit wood bee exposure to other toxic pesticides, such as BPA-free, and to control other emerging risk factors, such a high number of wood-killing bugs and high levels of pesticide residues,” the statement said.
The Department of Agriculture said it had “worked closely” with its agricultural partners to prevent the wood-bee population from becoming unmanageable, and would be “working with the industry to ensure the situation is managed safely”.
“The department is committed to ensuring our products are used responsibly and our customers have confidence in our products,” the agency said in the statement.
A number of companies are now selling wood bees as a natural alternative to pesticides, but there has been little scientific evidence to back up this claim.