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30
Mar

Unprecedented Pesticide Contamination Found in Beehives

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2010) Searching for clues to the mysterious disappearance of bees, known as “colony collapse disorder”(CCD), Penn State University researchers have identified widespread pesticide contamination of beehives. The study, “High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health,” was published March 19, 2010 in the scientific journal Public Library of Science (PLOS).

The study finds 121 different types of pesticides within 887 wax, pollen, bee and hive samples from 23 states. The top 10 most frequently detected pesticides are fluvalinate, coumaphos, chlorpyrifos, chlorothalonil, amitraz, pendamethalin, endosulfan, fenpropathrin, esfenvalerate and atrazine. Miticides are the most common contaminant in the wax and bees, and fungicides are the most common contaminant of pollen. For the full results of the study, including several tables of wax, pollen and bee sample data, download the study from the PLOS website.

“The pollen is not in good shape,” Chris Mullin, PhD, lead author of the study, told Discovery News. The authors state that the 98 pesticides and metabolites detected in mixtures up to 214 parts per million (ppm) in bee pollen alone represents a remarkably high level for toxicants in the brood and adult food of this primary pollinator. While none of the chemicals themselves were at high enough levels to kill bees, the combination and variety of pesticides is a primary concern to Dr. Mullin. On average, the samples had a combination of eight different pesticides.

First reported in 2006, CCD is unlike other ailments that have affected honeybees in the past because worker bees simply disappear rapidly, never returning to the hive where the queen still lives with a small cluster of bees amidst pollen and honey stores in the presence of immature bees (brood). It has been reported that losses of honeybee colonies across 21 states in the winter of 2007-8 averaged 35%, with a high degree of variability. Large declines of honeybee colonies were also experienced in select European countries, where average losses were 26%.

Many indications point to CCD potentially being induced by pesticides in the neonicotinoid family, including imidacloprid and clothianidin, in combination with other pesticides, pathogens, nutritional deficits and environmental stresses. Continued debate about the cause of CCD threatens to induce “paralysis by analysis” in a situation that necessitates action.

Beyond Pesticides believes that pesticides are likely to be a part of the CCD equation and a precautionary approach must be taken. Solutions to the loss of bees and human productivity are clearly within our reach if we engage our communities and governmental bodies. We know how to live in harmony with the ecosystem through the adoption of sustainable practices that simply do not allow toxic pesticide use. Because our survival depends on healthy pollinators, we must do everything in our power to solve this problem.

David Hackenberg, the beekeeper who first discovered a mysterious disappearance of honeybees now known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), is scheduled to speak at Beyond Pesticides’ 28th National Pesticide Forum, Greening the Community, April 9-10 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. Mr. Hackenberg believes that pesticides contribute to CCD and that honeybees are a barometer of the environment. Featured in several films and news investigations, he has been front and center in this important fight to protect our pollinators. Register online.

For more information on pollinators and CCD, read our factsheet: Pollinators and Pesticides: Escalating crisis demands action.

 

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3 Responses to “Unprecedented Pesticide Contamination Found in Beehives”

  1. 1
    Dan Detard Says:

    I applaud this article but there is a glaring omission. The imidacloprid results show that only 1% of the wax samples, 2.9% of the pollen samples, and 0% or none of the bees had detectable levels. That makes it hard to argue that this chemical constitutes a major problem to bees in the U.S. My reading of the authors conclusions and discussions seems to be – the neonics are reported to cause problems, but this data doesn’t support widespread or high level exposure, with the exception of ONE out of 350 pollen samples.”

    “Note, the 49 detections were from 558 samples of pollen and wax, or 698 samples including bees, so only 8.78% of all of the wax and pollen samples and 7.02% of all samples (wax, pollen, bees) had any detectable levels, and
    most of these were low levels.

    “More importantly, no residues of any of these chemicals were found in any of the analyzed bees – which either says it was so toxic, that any exposed
    bees died (outside the hive) and as such weren’t available for sampling, or we have to conclude that not much, if any of these chemicals accumulated in the bees themselves. I have to conclude: These chemicals are in some of the wax and pollen samples (representing a potential dose) but none ended up at detectable levels in the bees (the ultimate fate) sampled.”

  2. 2
    Beyond Pesticides Says:

    The focus of this study was not on one chemical (imidocloprid) as is implied by the above comment, but on the presence of several chemicals (98 total) that are found in pollen and wax and their possible implication as a mixture with CCD. The authors clearly report that the levels they found are considered to be high levels: “98 pesticides and metabolites detected in mixtures up to 214 ppm in bee pollen alone represents a remarkably high level for toxicants in the blood and adult food of this primary pollinator.”

    The presence of this many chemicals in pollen and wax implies that bees and their hives are being exposed to high numbers of toxic chemicals and that the synergistic, aggregate, and cumulative effects from exposure need to be explored for their possible contribution to bee mortality, fitness and CCD. They go on to state that the “widespread occurrence of multiple residues, some at toxic levels for single compounds, and the lack of any scientific literature on the biological consequences of combinations of pesticides, argues strongly for urgent changes in regulatory policies regarding pesticide registration and monitoring procedures as they relate to pollinator safety.”

    The authors here conclude that: “While exposure to many of these neurotoxicants elicits acute and sublethal reductions in honey bee fitness, the effects of these materials in combinations and their direct association with CCD or declining bee health remains to be determined.”

    Whether tests detected chemicals in the actual bee is irrelevant since they are continually exposed via collected pollen and the wax they create; how else would the chemicals get into the wax if not via the bee?

  3. 3
    Dan Detard Says:

    WEBSITE owner asks “how else would the chemicals get into the wax if not via the bee?”

    the sad answer is by BEEKEEPERS!!!!

    Referring to the study and Table 4 titled Pesticide Incidence in wax pollen and bee samples.

    Fluvalinate stands out above all other chemicals found in 98% of the 259 wax samples, 88% of the 350 pollen samples and 83% of the 140 bee samples. WOW!!!!

    Fluvalinate is the active chemical in Apistan an EPA registered miticide used by beekeepers for 20 years now.

    What is most disturbing is the mean sample value of 7239 ppb in wax, puts some of the samples above the LD50 level (LD50 =lethal level) of 15860 ppb as seen in page 12, figure B, titled Wax Fluvalinate.

    A logical question that comes from that data table is how representative is this data to beekeepers across America?

    To further gain insight into that question I looked at the 5 top chemicals found in wax, pollen and bee samples and those are

    Fluvalinate
    Coamaphos
    Chlorpyrifos
    Chlorothalonil
    Amitaz

    #1,#2 and #5 are all beekeeper applied chemicals for treating varroa mites. #5 is not registered by EPA for beehive use but that has not stopped beekeepers from using it anyhow.

    The rest of the list of chemicals show up in less then 47% each of the category of samples of wax, pollen and bees and the percentages drop off dramatically as you go down the list.

    Its obvious 3 of the chemicals are self applied by beekeepers. Some further digging into the other two reveals:

    In the US, chlorothalonil (trade name Bravo) a fungicide, is used predominantly on cranberry, blueberries, almonds, peanuts, potatoes, and cucumbers. It is also used on golf courses and lawns and is the 3rd most common fungicide in the USA. .

    Chlorpyrifos, trade name Lorsban or Dursban is an organophosphate insecticide. The crops with the most intense chlorpyrifos use are cotton, corn, almonds, and fruit trees including oranges and apples.

    Since the study indicated on page 2, column one, that the majority of samples were taken from commercial beekeepers, this is a damming report on the widespread self contamination of beehives by the beekeepers themselves and their quest for cash flow in large scale pollination.

    Thus this study is NOT representative of what smaller beekeepers experience who use soft treatments that do not contaminate the bees (formic acid, thymol) that are also registered for use in bee hives. Small scale local beekeepers also do not expose their bees to almonds and large scale pollination. This pesticide issue then is really a FEEDLOT beekeeper problem .

    A certain very visible “CCD poster Boy” FEEDLOT beekeeper has a long history of using those miticides but yet claims Imidacloprid is killing his bees! Clearly the data is not there to support that claim.

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