Alarming number of pesticides found in honeybee pollen

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – An alarming number of pesticides have been found in Midwestern honeybee pollen and homeowners could be playing a role. Pesticides like insect repellent are exposing bees to a greater number of chemicals.

Purdue Entomologist Christian Krupke has been working with bees for the last six years at the university’s bee lab.

Krupke noticed bees were dying off at an alarming rate back in 2012. As a way to try and find the answer, he began a study and put bee hives in three different environments.

“We put hives beside fields of treated corn, untreated corn and also a meadow environment,” said Krupke. “A more natural setting.”

He collected pollen from the hives for 16 weeks. Krupke wanted to see what plants bees were feeding on and what pesticides the insects were exposed to. The results he found surprised him.

“They find plants out there that you and I would have a hard time tracking down,” said Krupke.

Even though the hives were right next to corn fields, bees were venturing out to subdivisions for some plants.

Krupke said to bees crops are like crackers and plants are like steak.

“They don’t use corn and soybean pollen very much,” said Krupke. “They do use it when it’s available, but they never rely on it.”

Krupke also found a diverse amount of pesticides, some being agricultural pesticides, but not all of them.

“What we didn’t expect was how many pesticides we got from urban environments, homeowners and municipal areas,” said Krupke.

Chemicals that don’t even have a label in agriculture, like hornet repellent.

Krupke said DEET, which is an ingredient in mosquito repellent, was found in every pollen sample.

He found 29 pesticides in pollen from the meadow site, 29 pesticides in pollen from the treated cornfield, and 31 pesticides in pollen from the untreated cornfield.

“We’re kind of all in this together, as far as the bee health pesticide issue,” said Krupke.

He said each pesticide is toxic to the bee but differ in their risk levels.

So long story short, farmers aren’t the only ones to blame.

“Which pesticides can we do without?” Krupke asked. “There’s no question, we over use pesticides.”

So next time you spray away weeds, you may want to think twice.

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