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Pesticide exposure of wild bees and honey bees foraging from field border flowers in intensively managed agriculture areas

March 30, 2022

Bees are critical for food crop pollination, yet their populations are declining as agricultural practices intensify. Pollinator-attractive field border plantings (e.g. hedgerows and forb strips) can increase bee diversity and abundance in agricultural areas, however recent studies suggest these plants may contain pesticides. Pesticide exposure for wild bees in agricultural areas remains largely unknown, however this information is needed to inform agricultural practices and pesticide regulations meant to protect bees. It is important to determine whether border plantings that attract and support pollinators by providing floral resources may also deliver pesticides to them. In this study, we collected various samples for pesticide residue analysis including: multiple species of wild bees, honey bees, flowers from four types of bee-attractive field border plants, and soil. Silicone bands were also utilized as passive aerial samplers of pesticide residues. The five pesticides detected most frequently across all samples were the insecticide bifenthrin, the herbicides thiobencarb, metolaclor, and propanil, and the fungicide fluopyram. We detected the greatest number of parent pesticides in passive aerial samplers (24), followed by soil (21). Pesticides were also detected in field border plant flowers (16), which do not receive direct pesticides applications and many of which were not applied to adjacent field crops. Pesticide concentrations were lower in bees than in flowers but higher in bees than in soils. Pesticide residue per bee (ng/bee) increased with increasing wild bee size, though pesticide concentration (ng/g) did not increase. While honey bees and wild bees contained a similar number and concentration of pesticides overall, pesticide mixtures varied by bee type, and included some mixtures known to cause sublethal effects. The results from this study highlight the benefits of measuring more sample types to capture the total exposome of bees, including a greater range of bee species, as well as the need to consider exposure to pesticides at the landscape level.  

Publication Year 2022
Title Pesticide exposure of wild bees and honey bees foraging from field border flowers in intensively managed agriculture areas
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.154697
Authors Laura T. Ward, Michelle Hladik, Aidee Guzman, Sara Winsemius, Ariana Bautista, Claire Kremen, Nicholas Mills
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70230125
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center