A team of international researchers have found traces of neonicotinoid chemicals in honey samples taken from numerous bee populations across the world, according to a recent study in the journal Science.
The team detected the harmful chemicals in 75 percent of the samples looked at in the research honey samples taken from bees collected around the world. While the levels are far below anything that could be dangerous to humans, one third of the honey had levels that could harm bees.
Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used class of insecticides. The chemicals are popular because they can be added as a seed coating to crops, which then reduces the need for spraying. While many believe they are better for the environment than past products, they negatively affect certain pollinators.
This issue has troubled scientists for some time, especially because numerous studies have shown a strong connection between the pesticides and a decline in bee health.
To expand on that link, researchers in the study looked at the prevalence of neonicotinoids in 198 different honey samples taken from every continent except Antarctica. They found at least one chemical in 75 percent of the samples, and a mix of two or more neonicotinoids in 45 percent of the samples. Pesticide concentrations were the highest in North America, Asia, and Europe.
“Neonicotinoids are highly persistent in the environment, and frequently turn up in soils, water samples, and in wildflowers, so we would expect to find them in honey,” said Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at the University of Sussex who was not involved in the study, according to BBC News. “Entire landscapes all over the world are now permeated with highly potent neurotoxins, undoubtedly contributing to the global collapse of biodiversity. Some of us have been pointing this out for years, but few governments have listened.”
The findings are concerning because bees are crucial to many ecosystems around the world. They also help certain crops grow. Though the team could not distinguish between organic and other types of honey in their research, many still agree the study shows the danger of the chemicals.
“The findings are alarming,” said Chris Connolly, a neurobiology expert at the University of Dundee who wrote a Perspective article alongside the new study, according to Phys.org. “The levels detected are sufficient to affect bee brain function and may hinder their ability to forage on, and pollinate, our crops and our native plants.”