High pesticide risk to honey bees despite low focal crop pollen collection during pollination of a mass blooming crop.
Sci Rep. 2017 Apr 19 ;7:46554. Epub 2017 Apr 19. PMID: 28422139
Scott H McArt
Honey bees provide critical pollination services for many agricultural crops. While the contribution of pesticides to current hive loss rates is debated, remarkably little is known regarding the magnitude of risk to bees and mechanisms of exposure during pollination. Here, we show that pesticide risk in recently accumulated beebread was above regulatory agency levels of concern for acute or chronic exposure at 5 and 22 of the 30 apple orchards, respectively, where we placed 120 experimental hives. Landscape context strongly predicted focal crop pollen foraging and total pesticide residues, which were dominated by fungicides. Yet focal crop pollen foraging was a poor predictor of pesticide risk, which was driven primarily by insecticides. Instead, risk was positively related to diversity of non-focal crop pollen sources. Furthermore, over 60% of pesticide risk was attributed to pesticides that were not sprayed during the apple bloom period. These results suggest the majority of pesticide risk to honey bees providing pollination services came from residues in non-focal crop pollen, likely contaminated wildflowers or other sources. We suggest a greater understanding of the specific mechanisms of non-focal crop pesticide exposure is essential for minimizing risk to bees and improving the sustainability of grower pest management programs.