Insecticides found in honey show major global threat to bees

Pauline Gross
October 8, 2017

Swiss researchers tested honey samples from around the world and found that three-quarters of them had a common type of pesticide.

Widespread application of neonicotinoids has been identified as a key factor responsible for the global decline in pollinators, and in particular bees.

Regarding bees, the study shows that 34 percent of the almost 200 samples contained insecticide levels known to be detrimental to bees and other pollinators, demonstrating that a substantial portion of the global population of pollinators are adversely affected by the widespread distribution of neonicotinoids. Because honey bees do not produce honey.

Neonicotinoids are considered to be the world's most widely used class of insecticides. They looked for traces of five of the most commonly used neonicotinoids: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Samples were taken across all continents (except Antarctica), as well as numerous isolated islands.

Two-fifths of the samples contained two or more varieties of the pesticides, and 10% held residues from four or five.

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"[The] average concentration [found in the honey] lies within the bioactive range, causing deficits in learning, behaviour, and colony performance".

Concentrations of such pesticide contamination were highest in European, North American, and Asian samples.

"This is an important paper if for no other reason that it will attract a great deal of attention to the mounting problem of worldwide dependence on agrochemicals, the side effects of which we know relatively little", Cameron said in an email. An updated assessment that is slated to appear in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research found even stronger evidence that the insecticides are harmful, and reportedly concludes: "The consequences are far reaching and can not be ignored any longer". "Therefore, this approach could address the effectiveness of the current European Union moratorium where the use of some neonicotinoids on bee-visited crops is banned", said Christopher Connolly of the University of Dundee, Scotland, who wrote an accompanying Perspective article for the Science study.

"It is definitely scary for honeybees and other bees and useful insects".

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