New report: The Bees' Burden: An analysis of residues in pollen in 12 European countries

This study reports concentrations of pesticides found in pollen brought back to hives by foraging bees, and sampled using pollen traps (trapped pollen) or direct from the comb (comb pollen, beebread). Twenty-five samples of comb pollen stored over winter from the 2012 foraging season were obtained from locations in seven European countries, and subsequently 107 samples of trapped pollen from the 2013 foraging season were obtained from locations in 12 European countries and analysed at an accredited laboratory. In terms of the geographical areas covered, and the numbers of samples taken simultaneously, this is one of the most extensive studies of pesticides in bee-collected pollen carried out to date.

Residues of at least one of 53 pesticides (including 22 insecticides/acaricides, 29 fungicides and two herbicides) were identified in 72 of the 107 trapped pollen samples, while residues of at least one of 17 pesticides (including nine insecticides/acaricides and eight fungicides) were identified in 17 of the 25 samples of comb pollen (beebread).

The results indicate the widespread use of the insecticides chlorpyrifos (in 18 samples) and thiacloprid (14 samples), as well as the fungicide boscalid (14 samples), which were the most commonly detected residues in trapped pollen samples. The results also indicate that a wide variety of plant protection products, particularly fungicides, were present in
the trapped pollen, with a maximum of 17 different residues (three insecticides/acaricides and 14 fungicides) detected in a sample from Italy. Overall, the results reported here are broadly consistent with other studies of trapped pollen and bee products, in which a wide variety of pesticides were also commonly detected. This study sheds further light on the potentially serious toxic exposures suffered by honey bees at an individual and colony level throughout their lifecycle, and raises significant questions about likely exposures of wild bee populations and other wild pollinators to chemicals through various pathways. These exposures have either been ignored or have been underestimated in past and current discussions of bee health and pollinator protection measures. Read or download full report here.