Honey Samples Worldwide Test Positive for Pesticide

Katrina Barker
October 8, 2017

"What this shows is the magnitude of the contamination", said study lead author Edward Mitchell, a biology professor at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, adding that there are "relatively few places where we did not find any".

Regarding bees, the study shows that 34 percent of the almost 200 samples contained insecticide levels known to be detrimental to bees and other pollinators, demonstrating that a substantial portion of the global population of pollinators are adversely affected by the widespread distribution of neonicotinoids.

The researchers found that 75% of honey samples contained at least one of the neonicotinoids: 30% of them contained one species, 45% - two or more, and 10% of the samples contained four or five neonicotinoids. They looked for traces of five of the most commonly used neonicotinoids: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam.

As for the effects on bees, 34% of honey samples were found to have concentrations of neonicotinoids that are known to be detrimental to insects, suggesting that a substantial proportion of world pollinators are probably affected by the pesticides.

In 2013, the European Union began a temporary ban on the use of three neonicotinoids on crops visited by bees, and is considering a comprehensive ban on the use of the pesticides in all outdoor fields.

As part of a citizen science project, the Swiss researchers asked other experts, friends and relatives to ship them honey samples. The highest concentrations were in honey samples from North America, Asia, and Europe.

In all the samples, the pesticide levels were below what's been established as safe for human exposure.

"I used to think of neonicotinoids as being a [localized] problem next to a small set of crops", says Amro Zayed, who studies bees at York University in Toronto and wasn't involved in the research. University of IL bee expert Sydney Cameron and other scientists said those comparisons aren't right because neonics don't stay in an animal's system like DDT did and are applied to seeds and not sprayed in mass quantities.

"It is definitely scary for honeybees and other bees and useful insects".

The positive honey samples contained one or more varieties of insecticides that can harm bees.

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