New Honey Research Suggests a Grim Outcome For Bees Worldwide

Alexandre Aebi inspecting one of his hives in his apiary in Switzerland

Although researchers believe the measured concentrations of neonicotinoids in the tested honey samples are not enough to harm humans, they warn that "a significant detrimental effect on bees is likely for a substantial proportion of the analyzed samples, as adult bees rely on honey for food, including during periods of overwintering or seasons without blossoming flowers".

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

Honey Bee on Willow Catkin.

The study, carried out by the University of Neuchatel, analyzed almost 200 samples of honey from all continents around the world, except Antarctica, and from numerous isolated islands as well.

Alexandre Aebi from the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland and his colleges gathered 198 honey samples from every continent but Antarctica and looked for signs of neonicotinoids-the world's most widely used class of insecticides.

Of the 75 percent that were contaminated with pesticides, 30 percent contained trace amounts of a single neonicotinoid, while 45 percent had two or three insecticides and 10 percent contained four or five.




The impact on bees of continuing to use these pesticides is expected to have widespread consequences.

That demonstrates how pervasive a problem the much-debated pesticide is for honeybees, said authors of a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

"An interesting point raised in this study is that honey could be used as a tool to sample environmental contamination".

"Despite the fact that the majority of our samples were contaminated, as a beekeeper I was stunned by the cocktails [of neonicotinoids] at which honeybees are exposed, especially since cocktail effects are now not tested on non-target organisms", said Aebi. "The findings are alarming, neonicotinoids have become so globally ubiquitous that they are now present in 75 per cent of all honey", said Chris Connolly from the University of Dundee, who was not involved in the research.

Bumblebees and sweat bees tend to live in smaller hives than honeybees, so just a few foragers can more quickly spread contamination to the whole colony.

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