Widespread contamination of wildflower and bee-collected pollen with complex mixtures of neonicotinoids and fungicides commonly applied to crops

David, Arthur, Botias, Cristina, Abdul-Sada, Alaa, Nicholls, Elizabeth, Rotheray, Ellen L, Hill, Elizabeth M and Goulson, Dave (2016) Widespread contamination of wildflower and bee-collected pollen with complex mixtures of neonicotinoids and fungicides commonly applied to crops. Environment International, 88. pp. 169-178. ISSN 0160-4120

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Abstract

There is considerable and ongoing debate as to the harm inflicted on bees by exposure to agricultural pesticides.
In part, the lack of consensus reflects a shortage of information on field-realistic levels of exposure. Here, we
quantify concentrations of neonicotinoid insecticides and fungicides in the pollen of oilseed rape, and in pollen
of wildflowers growing near arable fields. We then compare this to concentrations of these pesticides found in
pollen collected by honey bees and in pollen and adult bees sampled from bumble bee colonies placed on arable
farms. We also compared this with levels found in bumble bee colonies placed in urban areas. Pollen of oilseed
rape was heavily contaminated with a broad range of pesticides, as was the pollen of wildflowers growing
nearby. Consequently, pollen collected by both bee species also contained a wide range of pesticides, notably
including the fungicides carbendazim, boscalid, flusilazole, metconazole, tebuconazole and trifloxystrobin and
the neonicotinoids thiamethoxam, thiacloprid and imidacloprid. In bumble bees, the fungicides carbendazim,
boscalid, tebuconazole, flusilazole and metconazole were present at concentrations up to 73 nanogram/gram
(ng/g). It is notable that pollen collected by bumble bees in rural areas contained high levels of the neonicotinoids
thiamethoxam (mean 18 ng/g) and thiacloprid (mean 2.9 ng/g), along with a range of fungicides, some of which
are known to act synergistically with neonicotinoids. Pesticide exposure of bumble bee colonies in urban areas
was much lower than in rural areas. Understanding the effects of simultaneous exposure of bees to complex
mixtures of pesticides remains a major challenge.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Biology and Environmental Science
School of Life Sciences > Chemistry
Subjects: Q Science > QD Chemistry
Q Science > QD Chemistry > QD0071 Analytical chemistry
S Agriculture
Depositing User: Elizabeth Hill
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2016 15:53
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2016 15:53
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/59906
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