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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Managing Diseases and Pests of Honey Bees to Improve Queen and Colony Health

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Title: Pesticides and honey bee health: High levels of Acaricides and crop protection chemicals in U.S. apiaires

item Mullin, Christopher
item Frazier, Maryann
item Frazier, James
item Ashcraft, Sara
item Simonds, Roger
item Vanengelsdorp, Dennis
item Pettis, Jeffery

Submitted to: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/26/2010
Publication Date: 3/19/2010
Citation: Mullin, C., Frazier, M., Frazier, J.L., Ashcraft, S., Simonds, R., Vanengelsdorp, D., Pettis, J.S. 2010. Pesticides and honey bee health: High levels of Acaricides and crop protection chemicals in U.S. apiaires. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 5(3):e9754.

Interpretive Summary: Honey bee health has been declining in recent years and increased colony deaths have gone unexplained. One factor implicated in the recent colony deaths, termed Colony Collapse Disorder, is pesticide exposure. Here we report on elevated pesticide levels in bees, beeswax and pollen of both crop related pesticides and pesticides used by beekeepers to control parasitic mites. Many of these pesticides are known to be toxic to honey bees and were detected at lethal and sub-lethal levels. This information will help guide future research and help beekeepers to find ways to limit the impact of these hive contaminants.

Technical Abstract: Recent declines in honey bees for crop pollination threaten nut, fruit, vegetable and seed production in the U.S. We have used LC/MS-MS and GC/MS to analyze bees and hive matrices for pesticide residues using a modified QuEChERS method. Samples came from mostly migratory beekeepers across 7 states and several agricultural cropping systems during the 2007 growing season. Unprecedented levels of the acaricides fluvalinate (up to 204 ppm) and coumaphos were found in all comb and foundation wax samples, while lower levels of 52 other pesticides and metabolites prevailed in pollen and bees. The most frequently found residues after the acaricides were chlorpyrifos, chlorothalonil and endosulfan, all being from applications external to the hive. Pollen averaged 5 with up to 24 pesticide detections per sample, including 14 systemics. Stored pollen or beebread that is capped-off (“entombed”) from consumption contains on average 45-times more chlorothalonil, 9-times more coumaphos and 5-times more fluvalinate than non-entombed pollen. Total pesticide residues in 29% of our bee samples and 10% of our pollen samples are deemed hazardous to bees by using the most conservative application of the hazard quotient. This represents a new high level for pesticide residues in pollen collected by honey bees employed for pollination purposes, and is reflective of the materials being used in current agricultural practices. Chronic exposures to high levels of these neurotoxicants elicits acute and sublethal reductions in honey bee fitness, but direct association with CCD and declining bee health remains to be resolved.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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