A Taste of Honey Is Worse Than None At All: Bee-Harming Pesticides Are Found in Most Honey


by Hope Henderson

A honey bee in Tanzania. Image credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)


Honey bees on every inhabited continent face exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides, which growing evidence suggests are a culprit in the decline in bee populations. In a study published this month in the academic journal Science, researchers surveyed honey from almost 200 locations worldwide, and found that 75% of samples contained these pesticides.

Neonicotinoids are the most commonly used class of insecticides in the world. They are meant to damage the nervous system of plant-eating pests like aphids in order to protect crops, but studies have shown that neonicotinoids can also harm bees: they are implicated in slowing growth, reducing immune function, lowering ability to forage for nectar and pollen, decreasing chances of surviving winter, and reducing reproduction.

Honey is bees’ main food source. These findings indicate that bees are not just being exposed to these pesticides occasionally, depending on where they forage on a given day, but that they are subject to chronic exposure through diet. The level of neonicotinoids found in nearly half of the honey samples was within the range known to harm bees.

55% of all samples contained multiple neonicotinoid pesticides, bringing to light the need for studies that look at the possible additive effects of being exposed to multiple pesticides at once.

The good news: you can keep adding honey to your tea for now. All neonicotinoid concentrations were below the limits for safe human consumption according to current US and EU regulations.


Original article: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6359/109

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