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Daily News Blog

01
Jun

Study Finds Honey Bees Frequently Collect Contaminated Pollen from Non-Crop Plants

(Beyond Pesticides, June 1, 2016) A study  by researchers at Purdue University has concluded  that honey bees collect most of their pollen from non-crop plants that are frequently contaminated with agricultural and urban pesticides. The researchers found this to be true even in places where croplands dominate the area.  The study, which detected neonicotinoids, pyrethroids, fungicides, and others, highlights the large number of toxic pesticides to which bees are exposed to in the environment.

Susan Quals Algood TN Honeybee on Yellow Crownbeard2Researchers collected pollen from Indiana honey bee hives at three sites over 16 weeks. The hives were placed in a variety of settings, such as an open meadow with wildflowers, woody shrubs and trees present (non-agricultural), the border of a corn field that was treated with the neonicotinoid clothianidin and three fungicides, and the border of a non-treated corn field. The pollen samples that were collected by the bees represented up to 30 plant families and contained residues from pesticides spanning nine chemical classes. The researchers found 29 pesticides in pollen from the meadow site, 29 pesticides in pollen from the treated cornfield, and 31 pesticides in pollen from the untreated cornfield. The most common chemical products found in pollen from each site were fungicides and herbicides, typical crop disease and weed management products. Of the insecticides that were found, in addition to neonicotinoids, the highest concentrations in the bee pollen were pyrethroids, typically used to control mosquitoes.

“Although crop pollen was only a minor part of what they collected, bees in our study were exposed to a far wider range of chemicals than we expected,” said Christian Krupke, Ph.D., one of the researchers, in a press release. “The sheer numbers of pesticides we found in pollen samples were astonishing. Agricultural chemicals are only part of the problem. Homeowners and urban landscapes are big contributors, even when hives are directly adjacent to crop fields.” Pyrethroids, typically used near homes and gardens with many different kinds of flowering plants, where pollinators are likely to be found, may expose bees to higher levels of chemicals on a more frequent basis.

Pyrethroids, due to their toxicity to bees, are thought by some researchers to be a major contributor to the significant decline in bee populations after neonicotinoids. In fact, some scientists are finding that honey bees’ olfactory receptor neurons, which are responsible for inter-individual communication, are affected by pyrethroid exposures. Studies find that sublethal concentrations of the pyrethroids can significantly reduce bee fecundity and decrease the rate at which bees develop to adulthood and reproduce. Several field and laboratory studies using pyrethroids have consistently documented decreases in foraging activity and activity at the hive entrance after exposure.

What Can You Do?

There are safer and more effective alternatives to pyrethroid-based mosquito control, given that these spray programs are of very limited efficacy. In a study published  in  the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, former Cornell University professor of entomology David Pimentel, PhD calculated that less than .0001 percent of ultra low volume (ULV) pesticide sprays reach target insects. Further, along with vulnerable honey bees, people with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitized people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma, are particularly vulnerable to these pesticide spray programs and will suffer disproportionately from exposure.

Beyond Pesticides believes the ideal mosquito management strategy comes from an integrated approach that emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water sources, larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Control of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be successful when emphasis is placed on public education and preventive strategies. Individuals can take action by eliminating standing water, introducing mosquito-eating fish, encouraging predators, such as bats, birds, dragonflies and frogs, and using least-toxic larvacides like bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Community based programs should encourage residents to employ these effective techniques, focus on eliminating breeding sites on public lands, and promote monitoring and action levels in order to determine what, where, and when control measures might be needed. Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of hazardous  control methods, such as toxic pesticides, can be eliminated, and you can better protect pollinators such as honey bees.

Let’s BEE Protective and support a shift away from the use of these toxic chemicals by encouraging organic methods and sustainable land management practices in your home, campus, or community.

Source: Nature Communications, EurekAlert!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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3 Responses to “Study Finds Honey Bees Frequently Collect Contaminated Pollen from Non-Crop Plants”

  1. 1
    PesticidesRallfailed"technology" Says:

    Pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs are all supremely failed technology.

    Contemporary American “agriculture” is probably the greatest technological fraud/disaster of all time.

    I hope to see this phony “science” banned from the Planet in my lifetime.

  2. 2
    Paule Hjertaas Says:

    I also read it from Honeybees pick up ‘astonishing’ number of pesticides via non-crop plants (Purdue University, May 31, 2016). They mention that DEET was found in every sample. DEET is not directly sprayed onto plants.
    How do you think it got there? Hopefully the researchers were not all wearing it when handling samples. Carried by air and rain?

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