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      High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health

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          Recent declines in honey bees for crop pollination threaten fruit, nut, vegetable and seed production in the United States. A broad survey of pesticide residues was conducted on samples from migratory and other beekeepers across 23 states, one Canadian province and several agricultural cropping systems during the 2007–08 growing seasons.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          We have used LC/MS-MS and GC/MS to analyze bees and hive matrices for pesticide residues utilizing a modified QuEChERS method. We have found 121 different pesticides and metabolites within 887 wax, pollen, bee and associated hive samples. Almost 60% of the 259 wax and 350 pollen samples contained at least one systemic pesticide, and over 47% had both in-hive acaricides fluvalinate and coumaphos, and chlorothalonil, a widely-used fungicide. In bee pollen were found chlorothalonil at levels up to 99 ppm and the insecticides aldicarb, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid, fungicides boscalid, captan and myclobutanil, and herbicide pendimethalin at 1 ppm levels. Almost all comb and foundation wax samples (98%) were contaminated with up to 204 and 94 ppm, respectively, of fluvalinate and coumaphos, and lower amounts of amitraz degradates and chlorothalonil, with an average of 6 pesticide detections per sample and a high of 39. There were fewer pesticides found in adults and brood except for those linked with bee kills by permethrin (20 ppm) and fipronil (3.1 ppm).


          The 98 pesticides and metabolites detected in mixtures up to 214 ppm in bee pollen alone represents a remarkably high level for toxicants in the brood and adult food of this primary pollinator. This represents over half of the maximum individual pesticide incidences ever reported for apiaries. While exposure to many of these neurotoxicants elicits acute and sublethal reductions in honey bee fitness, the effects of these materials in combinations and their direct association with CCD or declining bee health remains to be determined.

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          Most cited references 22

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          A survey of pesticide residues in pollen loads collected by honey bees in France.

          In 2002, a field survey was initiated on French apiaries to monitor weakness of honey bee, Apis mellifera L., colonies. Apiaries were evenly distributed in five sites located on continental France. Five colonies were randomly selected in each apiary, leading to a total of 125 studied honey bee colonies. For 3 yr (starting in autumn 2002), colonies were visited four times per year: after winter, before summer, during summer, and before winter. Pollen loads from traps were collected at each visit. Multiresidue analyses were performed in pollen to search residues of 36 different molecules. Specific analyses were conducted to search fipronil and metabolites and also imidacloprid and metabolites. Residues of 19 searched compounds were found in samples. Contamination by pesticides ranged from 50 to 0%. Coumaphos and tau-fluvalinate residues were the most concentrated of all residues (mean concentrations were 925.0 and 487.2 microg/kg, respectively). Fipronil and metabolite contents were superior to the limit of detection in 16 samples. Residues of fipronil were found in 10 samples. Nine samples contained the sulfone compound, and three samples contained the desulfinyl compound. Residues of imidacloprid and 6-chloronicotinic acid were found in 69% of samples. Imidacloprid contents were quantified in 11 samples with values ranging from 1.1 to 5.7 microg/kg. 6-Chloronicotinic acid content was superior to the limit of quantification in 28 samples with values ranging from 0.6 to 9.3 microg/kg. Statistical tests showed no difference between places of sampling with the exception of fipronil. Possible origins of these contaminations, concentration and toxicity of pesticides, and the possible consequences for bees are discussed.
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            Pesticide Mixtures, Endocrine Disruption, and Amphibian Declines: Are We Underestimating the Impact?

            Amphibian populations are declining globally at an alarming rate. Pesticides are among a number of proposed causes for these declines. Although a sizable database examining effects of pesticides on amphibians exists, the vast majority of these studies focus on toxicological effects (lethality, external malformations, etc.) at relatively high doses (parts per million). Very few studies focus on effects such as endocrine disruption at low concentrations. Further, most studies examine exposures to single chemicals only. The present study examined nine pesticides (four herbicides, two fungicides, and three insecticides) used on cornfields in the midwestern United States. Effects of each pesticide alone (0.1 ppb) or in combination were examined. In addition, we also examined atrazine and S-metolachlor combined (0.1 or 10 ppb each) and the commercial formulation Bicep II Magnum, which contains both of these herbicides. These two pesticides were examined in combination because they are persistent throughout the year in the wild. We examined larval growth and development, sex differentiation, and immune function in leopard frogs (Rana pipiens). In a follow-up study, we also examined the effects of the nine-compound mixture on plasma corticosterone levels in male African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis). Although some of the pesticides individually inhibited larval growth and development, the pesticide mixtures had much greater effects. Larval growth and development were retarded, but most significantly, pesticide mixtures negated or reversed the typically positive correlation between time to metamorphosis and size at metamorphosis observed in controls: exposed larvae that took longer to metamorphose were smaller than their counterparts that metamorphosed earlier. The nine-pesticide mixture also induced damage to the thymus, resulting in immunosuppression and contraction of flavobacterial meningitis. The study in X. laevis revealed that these adverse effects may be due to an increase in plasma levels of the stress hormone corticosterone. Although it cannot be determined whether all the pesticides in the mixture contribute to these adverse effects or whether some pesticides are effectors, some are enhancers, and some are neutral, the present study revealed that estimating ecological risk and the impact of pesticides on amphibians using studies that examine only single pesticides at high concentrations may lead to gross underestimations of the role of pesticides in amphibian declines.
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              Influence of pesticide residues on honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colony health in France.

              A 3-yr field survey was carried out in France, from 2002 to 2005, to study honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colony health in relation to pesticide residues found in the colonies. This study was motivated by recent massive losses of honey bee colonies, and our objective was to examine the possible relationship between low levels of pesticide residues in apicultural matrices (honey, pollen collected by honey bees, beeswax) and colony health as measured by colony mortality and adult and brood population abundance. When all apicultural matrices were pooled together, the number of pesticide residue detected per sampling period (four sampling periods per year) and per apiary ranged from 0 to 9, with the most frequent being two (29.6%). No pesticide residues were detected during 12.7% of the sampling periods. Residues of imidacloprid and 6- chloronicotinic acid were the most frequently detected in pollen loads, honey, and honey bee matrices. Several pairs of active ingredients were present concurrently within honey bees and in pollen loads but not in beeswax and honey samples. No statistical relationship was found between colony mortality and pesticide residues. When pesticide residues from all matrices were pooled together, a mixed model analysis did not show a significant relationship between the presence of pesticide residues and the abundance of brood and adults, and no statistical relationship was found between colony mortality and pesticide residues. Thus, although certain pesticide residues were detected in apicultural matrices and occasionally with another pesticide residual, more work is needed to determine the role these residues play in affecting colony health.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                19 March 2010
                : 5
                : 3
                [1 ]Department of Entomology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, United States of America
                [2 ]National Science Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Marketing Service, Gastonia, North Carolina, United States of America
                [3 ]Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States of America
                [4 ]Bee Research Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, Maryland, United States of America
                INRA - Paris 6 - AgroParisTech, France
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: CAM MF JF Dv JSP. Performed the experiments: CAM MF SA RS. Analyzed the data: CAM. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: CAM SA RS Dv JSP. Wrote the paper: CAM MF JF.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Public Domain declaration which stipulates that, once placed in the public domain, this work may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose.
                Page count
                Pages: 19
                Research Article
                Chemical Biology



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