Recently published research (Science; 6th October 2017) clearly shows that neonicotinoid pesticides are entering the honeybee food chain and, via honey, the human diet. Of 198 honeys tested from all continents (except Antarctica) 75% contained at least one pesticide. Whilst the levels detected are below the maximum a person could safely consume (based on current EU food safety guidelines), the levels recorded are sufficient to have detrimental impacts on honeybee learning, behavior and colony survival.
Neonicotinoids are widely used as an insecticide. Here in the UK they were extensively used (until the EU moratorium) on oilseed rape crops, mainly to combat cabbage stem flea beetles. However, oilseed rape crops present a bright yellow field of nectar rich flowers. This then becomes prime foraging for a honeybee colony, as has also been recently demonstrated. Should neonicotinoids once again become a standard part of oilseed rape production then the negative impacts on bee health and the possible contamination of beekeepers produce would only get worse.
As a society we have accepted our role in polluting the oceans with microplastics and begun to take legislative steps to remediate this. Now we need to acknowledge the damage extensive pesticides are doing to the natural and food production environments.
Growing evidence for global pollinator decline is causing concern for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services maintenance. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been identified or suspected as a key factor responsible for this decline. We assessed the global exposure of pollinators to neonicotinoids by analyzing 198 honey samples from across the world. We found at least one of five tested compounds (acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam) in 75% of all samples, 45% of samples contained two or more of these compounds, and 10% contained four or five. Our results confirm the exposure of bees to neonicotinoids in their food throughout the world. The coexistence of neonicotinoids and other pesticides may increase harm to pollinators. However, the concentrations detected are below the maximum residue level authorized for human consumption (average ± standard error for positive samples: 1.8 ± 0.56 nanograms per gram).