Bees loaded with pes­ti­cides

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH -

EURO­PEAN hon­ey­bees are be­ing poi­soned with up to 57 dif­fer­ent pes­ti­cides, ac­cord­ing to new re­search pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Chro­matog­ra­phy A. A new method for de­tect­ing a whole range of pes­ti­cides in bees could help un­ravel the mys­tery be­hind the wide­spread de­cline of hon­ey­bees in re­cent years, and help de­velop an ap­proach to sav­ing them.

Hon­ey­bees are un­der threat glob­ally: in the United States, dra­matic de­clines in bee pop­u­la­tions due to a con­di­tion called colony col­lapse dis­or­der ( CCD) con­tin­ues to put crops at risk an farm­ers out of busi­ness. Sev­eral stud­ies have shown a link be­tween pes­ti­cide use and bee deaths and the Euro­pean Union has banned the use of neon­i­coti­noid pes­ti­cides.

But it’s not as sim­ple as ban­ning one pes­ti­cide that’s killing bees; the re­la­tion­ship be­tween pes­ti­cide use and bee death is com­plex and sci­en­tists are still try­ing to fig­ure out ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing. In the new study, re­searchers from the Na­tional Ve­teri­nary Re­search In­sti­tute in Poland have de­vel­oped a method for analysing 200 pes­ti­cides at the same time, to fig­ure out what’s re­ally putting hon­ey­bees at risk.

“Bee health is a mat­ter of pub­lic con­cern. Bees are con­sid­ered crit­i­cally im­por­tant for the en­vi­ron­ment and agri­cul­ture by pol­li­nat­ing more than 80% of crops and wild plants in Europe,” said lead au­thor To­masz Kil­janek. “We wanted to de­velop a test for a large num­ber of pes­ti­cides cur­rently ap­proved for use in the Euro­pean Union to see what is poi­son­ing the bees.”

With so many pes­ti­cides cur­rently in use, it’s dif­fi­cult to work out which ones are harm­ing the bees. Cer­tain com­bi­na­tions of pes­ti­cides, or their use over time, could af­fect hon­ey­bees in dif­fer­ent ways. In or­der to un­der­stand what’s re­ally go­ing on, we need to know which pes­ti­cides and at what con­cen­tra­tion lev­els are present in hon­ey­bees.

Kil­janek and the team used a method called QuEChERS, which is cur­rently used to de­tect pes­ti­cides in food. With this anal­y­sis, they could test poi­soned bees for 200 dif­fer­ent pes­ti­cides si­mul­ta­ne­ously, as well as sev­eral ad­di­tional com­pounds cre­ated when the pes­ti­cides are bro­ken down. About 98% of the pes­ti­cides they tested for are ap­proved for use in the Euro­pean Union.

The team used the method to in­ves­ti­gate more than 70 honey­bee poi­son­ing in­ci­dents. Their find­ings re­vealed 57 dif­fer­ent pes­ti­cides present in the bees – it’s a toxic puz­zle they hope their new method will help solve.

“Honey­bee poi­son­ing in­ci­dents are the tip of the ice­berg,” said Kil­janek. “Even at very low lev­els, pes­ti­cides can weaken bees’ de­fence sys­tems, al­low­ing par­a­sites or viruses to kill the colony. Our re­sults will help ex­pand our knowl­edge about the in­flu­ence of pes­ti­cides on honey­bee health, and will pro­vide im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion for other re­searchers to bet­ter as­sess the risk con­nected with the mix of cur­rently used pes­ti­cides.” – El­se­vier

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