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OECD issues new test guidelines for the toxicity testing of bees

On 9 October 2017 the following OECD test guidelines were adopted; all three of which bring together the methods from various publications and other test designs which are currently referenced when developing study protocols:

  • OECD Test Guideline No. 245: Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera L.), Chronic Oral Toxicity Test (10-Day Feeding)
  • OECD Test Guideline No. 246: Bumblebee, Acute Contact Toxicity Test
  • OECD Test Guideline No. 247: Bumblebee, Acute Oral Toxicity Test

The 10-day chronic oral feeding test guideline formalises the proposal for a new OECD guideline by Kling & Schmitzer (2015) and has been based on the test methods of OECD 213 – Acute Oral Toxicity Test (1998) and the CEB method no. 230 (2012) as well as the publications of Decourtye et al. (2005) and Suchail et al. (2001), as referenced in the EFSA bee guidance document. The test method was validated by a German ring test group in 2013 and subsequently by two international ring tests in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

The bumble bee acute contact (no. 246) and oral (no. 247) toxicity test guidelines have been based largely upon the OECD honey bee test guidelines no. 214 and no. 213, respectively but also methods by van der Steen et al. (1996) and Hanewald et al. (2013). The test method was internationally ring tested by an ICPPR group in 2014 as well as an OECD group in 2015 in which both Bombus terrestris and Bombus impatiens were successfully validated.

Although the OECD test guideline no. 237 (Honey bee larval toxicity test, single exposure) has been in circulation since 2013, there is currently no formalised OECD honey bee larval toxicity test guideline for repeated exposure. However, there is a guidance document (OECD series on Testing & Assessment No. 239, 15 July 2016) in which a method for a 22-day test following repeated exposure and a validation report are presented. Honey bee larval toxicity tests following 8 days of repeated exposure are now widely conducted and reported whereas the 22-day test design remains challenging with control validity criteria often very difficult to achieve.

Whilst the EFSA bee guidance document remains controversial with little progress being made in the adoption of the risk assessment scheme, it is clear that significant progress has been made in the development and publication of formalised toxicity test guidelines for honey bees and bumble bees. Meanwhile the development of formalised test guidelines for solitary bees is ongoing.

The published test guidelines can be downloaded from the OECD website:

For advice on risk assessment and further information on the registration of plant protection products, biocides or general chemicals, or any other regulatory issues, please contact JSC on +44 (0)1423 520245,


Published 20th November 2017
Categories Agrochemicals, Links, News
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