A worrying new study has bad news for this important insect.
An absolutely massive amount of pesticides are being picked up by honeybees throughout the growing season from non-crop plants.
The concerning report indicates that honeybees get the vast majority of their pollen from plants other crops, even in areas where soybeans and corn are far more prevalent, but despite this they’re getting lots of pesticides, according to a Purdue University statement.
Researchers collected pollen from honeybee hives in Indiana over a 16-week period to find out what pollen sources honeybees were using during the season, and whether pesticides could be found in those samples.
They found 30 different plant families represented in the samples, and they had residues from pesticides from nine chemical classes.
Honeybee numbers have been declining nationwide due to habitat fragmentation and disease, but also because of pesticides. The study suggests the pesticide problem is a lot more widespread than most people believe.
“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,” Christian Krupke, professor of entomology, said in the statement. “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.”
The statement added: “Of the insecticides, neonicotinoids and pyrethroids were the most common in the pollen samples and pose the highest risks to bees, Krupke said. While both are toxic to bees, they differ in their relative risk levels. Neonicotinoids are more poisonous to bees but are primarily used on agricultural land. Conversely, pyrethroids are typically used where pollinators are likely to be – near homes and gardens with a diversity of flowering plants – potentially exposing bees to higher levels of chemicals and on a more frequent basis. The study showed distinct spikes of pyrethroids in August and September, months when many homeowners spray these chemicals to knock out mosquitoes, hornets and other nuisance pests.”