University of Oulu

Kaila, L., Ketola, J., Toivonen, M. et al. Pesticide residues in honeybee-collected pollen: does the EU regulation protect honeybees from pesticides?. Environ Sci Pollut Res 29, 18225–18244 (2022).

Pesticide residues in honeybee-collected pollen : does the EU regulation protect honeybees from pesticides?

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Author: Kaila, Lotta1,2; Ketola, Jarmo3; Toivonen, Marjaana1,4;
Organizations: 1Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 27, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
2Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Latokartanonkaari 9, 00790 Helsinki, Finland
3Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Tietotie 4, 31600 Jokioinen, Finland
4Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Biodiversity Centre, Latokartanonkaari 11, 00790 Helsinki, Finland
5Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, 90014 Oulu, Finland
6Finnish Food Authority, Mustialankatu 3, 00790 Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-03-10


Researchers globally identify pesticides as one of the main reasons for pollinator decline. In the European Union (EU), extensive legislation is implemented to protect pollinators from harmful pesticide exposure. The aim of our study was to discover whether the pesticide residue levels in honeybee matrices, such as nectar and pollen, exceeded the chronic or acute toxicity levels when beehives were located next to fields treated with specific insecticides. The insecticides were used according to the EU legislation and its national implementation. The experiments were conducted in turnip rape, oilseed rape, and caraway fields in southern Finland during the years 2019 and 2020. The pesticides used in the experiments contained the active substances lambda-cyhalothrin (2019), esfenvalerate (2020), and tau-fluvalinate (2020). However, the honeybee-collected pollen and nectar were analyzed for residues of more than 100 active substances. The results showed that the pesticide residue levels clearly remained under the oral acute toxicity for honeybees, although we found high levels of thiacloprid residues in the pollen collected in 2019. The pesticide residues in nectar were below LOQ values, which was most likely due to the rainy weather conditions together with the chosen sampling method. No statistically significant differences were observed between the insecticide-treated and untreated fields. In light of our research, the EU legislation protected honeybees from oral acute toxicity during the years 2019 and 2020. However, potential sublethal effects of thiacloprid and other pesticide compounds found in the collected pollen cannot be ruled out. In the future, constant monitoring of pesticide exposure of honeybees and wild pollinators should be established to ensure that pesticide legislation, and its implementation across the EU successfully protects pollinators and their services in agricultural environments.

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Series: Environmental science and pollution research
ISSN: 0944-1344
ISSN-E: 1614-7499
ISSN-L: 0944-1344
Volume: 29
Issue: 12
Pages: 18225 - 18244
DOI: 10.1007/s11356-021-16947-z
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1172 Environmental sciences
4111 Agronomy
1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Open access funding provided by University of Helsinki including Helsinki University Central Hospital. This work was supported by the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, the Ministry of the Environment, the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), and the Doctoral Programme in Sustainable Use of Renewable Natural Resources (AGFOREE) of the University of Helsinki.
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