Shutterstock.com

Their pollen and honey contain substances linked to Colony Collapse Disorder.

The U.S. and Europe have recently taken steps to limit the use of neonicotinoids, pesticides that might be involved in the bee-decimating phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

Yet in parts of New England, the toxic substances still appear all over the land. Researchers testing honey and pollen samples in Massachusetts found neonicotinoids every month at every site they checked—“suggesting that bees are at risk of neonicotinoid exposure any time they are foraging anywhere in Massachusetts,” according to a Harvard press release.

The scientists worked with beekeepers to monitor 62 hives across the state during the spring and summer of 2013. Nearly three-quarters of the pollen and honey samples they analyzed contained at least one kind of neonicotinoid. “Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including [Colony Collapse Disorder],” says Chensheng “Alex” Lu, one of the authors of their study in Environmental Chemistry.

Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of pesticide that can be applied in the soil. They are absorbed into plant parts—including nectar and pollen—to provide a ubiquitous, long-lasting armor that destroys the nervous systems of insects. The E.U. has banned them until December (with the occasional break) to allow scientists to study their effects on bees. This spring, the EPA put a moratorium on issuing new neonicotinoid permits for similar reasons (though people who already have permits are free to use them).

The Harvard researchers hope their findings will prod governments into curtailing neonicotinoids to protect bees… and maybe humans, too, they say:

The most commonly detected neonicotinoid was imidacloprid, followed by dinotefuran. Particularly high concentrations of neonicotinoids were found in Worcester County in April, in Hampshire County in May, in Suffolk County in July, and in Essex County in June, suggesting that, in these counties, certain months pose significant risks to bees.

The new findings suggest that neonicotinoids are being used throughout Massachusetts. Not only do these pesticides pose a significant risk for the survival of honey bees, but they also may pose health risks for people inhaling neonicotinoid-contaminated pollen, Lu said. “The data presented in this study should serve as a basis for public policy that aims to reduce neonicotinoid exposure,” he said.

Top image: l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: an open-plan office
    Life

    Even the Pandemic Can’t Kill the Open-Plan Office

    Even before coronavirus, many workers hated the open-plan office. Now that shared work spaces are a public health risk, employers are rethinking office design.

  2. Maps

    Your Maps of Life Under Lockdown

    Stressful commutes, unexpected routines, and emergent wildlife appear in your homemade maps of life during the coronavirus pandemic.

  3. photo: The Pan-Am Worldport at JFK International Airport, built in 1960,
    Design

    Why Airports Die

    Expensive to build, hard to adapt to other uses, and now facing massive pandemic-related challenges, airport terminals often live short, difficult lives.

  4. photo: Social-distancing stickers help elevator passengers at an IKEA store in Berlin.
    Transportation

    Elevators Changed Cities. Will Coronavirus Change Elevators?

    Fear of crowds in small spaces in the pandemic is spurring new norms and technological changes for the people-moving machines that make skyscrapers possible.

  5. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Coronavirus

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

×