Exposure of bees to neonicotinoid insecticides through treated corn seed
Not as sexy as zombie bees, but important – particularly where there are large acreages of corn treated with systemic insecticides. This paper also came out today in PLOS one – my colleague Brian Eitzer is a co-author:
Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields
Populations of honey bees and other pollinators have declined worldwide in recent years. A variety of stressors have been implicated as potential causes, including agricultural pesticides. Neonicotinoid insecticides, which are widely used and highly toxic to honey bees, have been found in previous analyses of honey bee pollen and comb material. However, the routes of exposure have remained largely undefined. We used LC/MS-MS to analyze samples of honey bees, pollen stored in the hive and several potential exposure routes associated with plantings of neonicotinoid treated maize. Our results demonstrate that bees are exposed to these compounds and several other agricultural pesticides in several ways throughout the foraging period. During spring, extremely high levels of clothianidin and thiamethoxam were found in planter exhaust material produced during the planting of treated maize seed. We also found neonicotinoids in the soil of each field we sampled, including unplanted fields. Plants visited by foraging bees (dandelions) growing near these fields were found to contain neonicotinoids as well. This indicates deposition of neonicotinoids on the flowers, uptake by the root system, or both. Dead bees collected near hive entrances during the spring sampling period were found to contain clothianidin as well, although whether exposure was oral (consuming pollen) or by contact (soil/planter dust) is unclear. We also detected the insecticide clothianidin in pollen collected by bees and stored in the hive. When maize plants in our field reached anthesis, maize pollen from treated seed was found to contain clothianidin and other pesticides; and honey bees in our study readily collected maize pollen. These findings clarify some of the mechanisms by which honey bees may be exposed to agricultural pesticides throughout the growing season. These results have implications for a wide range of large-scale annual cropping systems that utilize neonicotinoid seed treatments.
Here is the research paper that article was based on. A little less spin and a little more science:
On Wed, Jan 4, 2012 at 12:45 PM, Skinner, John A <jskinner@...> wrote:
Interesting. Zombies! Zowie, What will be reported next? I think I will wait until I see some real science.
John A. Skinner
Professor and Apiculture Specialist
University of Tennessee
2431 Joe Johnson Drive
205 Ellington Plant Sciences
Knoxville, TN 37996-4560
Here's a link to an interesting news story with the latest possible explanation for colony collapse disorder. A fly species already documented parasitising bumble bees is now know to use honey bees for hosts as well. Hosts are often disoriented which gives them the zombie look that inspired the articles's title and its possible these parasites act as a vector for other honey bee diseases.