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Concept: Pesticide


Recent declines in honey bee populations and increasing demand for insect-pollinated crops raise concerns about pollinator shortages. Pesticide exposure and pathogens may interact to have strong negative effects on managed honey bee colonies. Such findings are of great concern given the large numbers and high levels of pesticides found in honey bee colonies. Thus it is crucial to determine how field-relevant combinations and loads of pesticides affect bee health. We collected pollen from bee hives in seven major crops to determine 1) what types of pesticides bees are exposed to when rented for pollination of various crops and 2) how field-relevant pesticide blends affect bees' susceptibility to the gut parasite Nosema ceranae. Our samples represent pollen collected by foragers for use by the colony, and do not necessarily indicate foragers' roles as pollinators. In blueberry, cranberry, cucumber, pumpkin and watermelon bees collected pollen almost exclusively from weeds and wildflowers during our sampling. Thus more attention must be paid to how honey bees are exposed to pesticides outside of the field in which they are placed. We detected 35 different pesticides in the sampled pollen, and found high fungicide loads. The insecticides esfenvalerate and phosmet were at a concentration higher than their median lethal dose in at least one pollen sample. While fungicides are typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees, we found an increased probability of Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load. Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees placed in an agricultural setting are exposed to.

Concepts: Insect, Beekeeping, Pesticide, Pollination, Flower, Pollinator decline, Bumblebee, Pollinator


This study measured part of the in-hive pesticide exposome by analyzing residues from live in-hive bees, stored pollen, and wax in migratory colonies over time and compared exposure to colony health. We summarized the pesticide burden using three different additive methods: (1) the hazard quotient (HQ), an estimate of pesticide exposure risk, (2) the total number of pesticide residues, and (3) the number of relevant residues. Despite being simplistic, these models attempt to summarize potential risk from multiple contaminations in real-world contexts. Colonies performing pollination services were subject to increased pesticide exposure compared to honey-production and holding yards. We found clear links between an increase in the total number of products in wax and colony mortality. In particular, we found that fungicides with particular modes of action increased disproportionally in wax within colonies that died. The occurrence of queen events, a significant risk factor for colony health and productivity, was positively associated with all three proxies of pesticide exposure. While our exposome summation models do not fully capture the complexities of pesticide exposure, they nonetheless help elucidate their risks to colony health. Implementing and improving such models can help identify potential pesticide risks, permitting preventative actions to improve pollinator health.

Concepts: Insect, Risk, Risk management, Honey bee, Beekeeping, Pesticide, Pollination, Pollinator decline


Development and evaluation of new insect pest management tools is critical for overcoming over-reliance upon, and growing resistance to, synthetic, biological and plant-expressed insecticides. For transgenic crops expressing insecticidal proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (‘Bt crops’) emergence of resistance is slowed by maintaining a proportion of the crop as non-Bt varieties, which produce pest insects unselected for resistance. While this strategy has been largely successful, multiple cases of Bt resistance have now been reported. One new approach to pest management is the use of genetically engineered insects to suppress populations of their own species. Models suggest that released insects carrying male-selecting (MS) transgenes would be effective agents of direct, species-specific pest management by preventing survival of female progeny, and simultaneously provide an alternative insecticide resistance management strategy by introgression of susceptibility alleles into target populations. We developed a MS strain of the diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella, a serious global pest of crucifers. MS-strain larvae are reared as normal with dietary tetracycline, but, when reared without tetracycline or on host plants, only males will survive to adulthood. We used this strain in glasshouse-cages to study the effect of MS male P. xylostella releases on target pest population size and spread of Bt resistance in these populations.

Concepts: Male, Agriculture, Insect, Pesticide, Bacillus thuringiensis, Insecticide, Diamondback moth, Transgene


Amphibians, a class of animals in global decline, are present in agricultural landscapes characterized by agrochemical inputs. Effects of pesticides on terrestrial life stages of amphibians such as juvenile and adult frogs, toads and newts are little understood and a specific risk assessment for pesticide exposure, mandatory for other vertebrate groups, is currently not conducted. We studied the effects of seven pesticide products on juvenile European common frogs (Rana temporaria) in an agricultural overspray scenario. Mortality ranged from 100% after one hour to 40% after seven days at the recommended label rate of currently registered products. The demonstrated toxicity is alarming and a large-scale negative effect of terrestrial pesticide exposure on amphibian populations seems likely. Terrestrial pesticide exposure might be underestimated as a driver of their decline calling for more attention in conservation efforts and the risk assessment procedures in place do not protect this vanishing animal group.

Concepts: Species, Animal, Pesticide, Tetrapod, Risk assessment, Amphibian, Frog, Toad


Recently, the widespread distribution of pesticides detected in the hive has raised serious concerns about pesticide exposure on honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) health. A larval rearing method was adapted to assess the chronic oral toxicity to honey bee larvae of the four most common pesticides detected in pollen and wax - fluvalinate, coumaphos, chlorothalonil, and chloropyrifos - tested alone and in all combinations. All pesticides at hive-residue levels triggered a significant increase in larval mortality compared to untreated larvae by over two fold, with a strong increase after 3 days of exposure. Among these four pesticides, honey bee larvae were most sensitive to chlorothalonil compared to adults. Synergistic toxicity was observed in the binary mixture of chlorothalonil with fluvalinate at the concentrations of 34 mg/L and 3 mg/L, respectively; whereas, when diluted by 10 fold, the interaction switched to antagonism. Chlorothalonil at 34 mg/L was also found to synergize the miticide coumaphos at 8 mg/L. The addition of coumaphos significantly reduced the toxicity of the fluvalinate and chlorothalonil mixture, the only significant non-additive effect in all tested ternary mixtures. We also tested the common ‘inert’ ingredient N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone at seven concentrations, and documented its high toxicity to larval bees. We have shown that chronic dietary exposure to a fungicide, pesticide mixtures, and a formulation solvent have the potential to impact honey bee populations, and warrants further investigation. We suggest that pesticide mixtures in pollen be evaluated by adding their toxicities together, until complete data on interactions can be accumulated.

Concepts: Insect, Honey bee, Beekeeping, Pesticide, Bee, Apidae, Neurotoxicity, Stingless bee


An evaluation was made of the effects of seven neurotoxic insecticides (esfenvalerate, indoxacarb, clothianidin, thiacloprid, azinphosmethyl, phosmet and imidacloprid), one insect growth regulator (novaluron) and two fungicides (myclobutanin and mancozeb), with water as the control, on the horizontal mobility of plum curculios exposed to dried pesticide residues. Mobility was recorded over a 2 h period using ethological tracking software. Mortality was recorded immediately after horizontal mobility experiments and 24 h later.

Concepts: Sulfur, Pesticide, Insecticide, Insecticides, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid, Cinnamaldehyde, Phosmet


Multiple lines of transgenic rice expressing insecticidal genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have been developed in China, posing the prospect of increases in production with decreased application of pesticides. We explore the issues facing adoption of Bt rice for commercial production in China. A body of safety assessment work on Bt rice has shown that Bt rice poses a negligible risk to the environment and that Bt rice products are as safe as non-Bt control rice products as food. China has a relatively well-developed regulatory system for risk assessment and management of genetically modified (GM) plants; however, decision-making regarding approval of commercial production has become politicized, and two Bt rice lines that otherwise were ready have not been allowed to enter the Chinese agricultural system. We predict that Chinese farmers would value the prospect of increased yield with decreased use of pesticide and would readily adopt production of Bt rice. That Bt rice lines may not be commercialized in the near future we attribute to social pressures, largely due to the low level of understanding and acceptance of GM crops by Chinese consumers. Hence, enhancing communication of GM crop science-related issues to the public is an important, unmet need. While the dynamics of each issue are particular to China, they typify those in many countries where adoption of GM crops has been not been rapid; hence, the assessment of these dynamics might inform resolution of these issues in other countries.

Concepts: Bacteria, Risk, Pesticide, Bacillus thuringiensis, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Genetic engineering, Monsanto


Demand for organic foods is partially driven by consumers' perceptions that they are more nutritious. However, scientific opinion is divided on whether there are significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic foods, and two recent reviews have concluded that there are no differences. In the present study, we carried out meta-analyses based on 343 peer-reviewed publications that indicate statistically significant and meaningful differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops/crop-based foods. Most importantly, the concentrations of a range of antioxidants such as polyphenolics were found to be substantially higher in organic crops/crop-based foods, with those of phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanins being an estimated 19 (95 % CI 5, 33) %, 69 (95 % CI 13, 125) %, 28 (95 % CI 12, 44) %, 26 (95 % CI 3, 48) %, 50 (95 % CI 28, 72) % and 51 (95 % CI 17, 86) % higher, respectively. Many of these compounds have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including CVD and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers, in dietary intervention and epidemiological studies. Additionally, the frequency of occurrence of pesticide residues was found to be four times higher in conventional crops, which also contained significantly higher concentrations of the toxic metal Cd. Significant differences were also detected for some other (e.g. minerals and vitamins) compounds. There is evidence that higher antioxidant concentrations and lower Cd concentrations are linked to specific agronomic practices (e.g. non-use of mineral N and P fertilisers, respectively) prescribed in organic farming systems. In conclusion, organic crops, on average, have higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentrations of Cd and a lower incidence of pesticide residues than the non-organic comparators across regions and production seasons.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Agriculture, Nutrition, Pesticide, Flavonoid, Organic farming, Organic food, Sustainable agriculture


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) are neurodevelopmental toxicants, but few studies have examined associations with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Concepts: Autism, Pesticide, Autism spectrum, Polychlorinated biphenyl, Soil contamination, Biphenyl, Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins


Compared with nutrient levels and habitat degradation, the importance of agricultural pesticides in surface water may have been underestimated due to a lack of comprehensive quantitative analysis. Increasing pesticide contamination results in decreasing regional aquatic biodiversity, i.e., macroinvertebrate family richness is reduced by ∼30% at pesticide concentrations equaling the legally accepted regulatory threshold levels (RTLs). This study provides a comprehensive metaanalysis of 838 peer-reviewed studies (>2,500 sites in 73 countries) that evaluates, for the first time to our knowledge on a global scale, the exposure of surface waters to particularly toxic agricultural insecticides. We tested whether measured insecticide concentrations (MICs; i.e., quantified insecticide concentrations) exceed their RTLs and how risks depend on insecticide development over time and stringency of environmental regulation. Our analysis reveals that MICs occur rarely (i.e., an estimated 97.4% of analyses conducted found no MICs) and there is a complete lack of scientific monitoring data for ∼90% of global cropland. Most importantly, of the 11,300 MICs, 52.4% (5,915 cases; 68.5% of the sites) exceeded the RTL for either surface water (RTLSW) or sediments. Thus, the biological integrity of global water resources is at a substantial risk. RTLSW exceedances depend on the catchment size, sampling regime, and sampling date; are significantly higher for newer-generation insecticides (i.e., pyrethroids); and are high even in countries with stringent environmental regulations. These results suggest the need for worldwide improvements to current pesticide regulations and agricultural pesticide application practices and for intensified research efforts on the presence and effects of pesticides under real-world conditions.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Pesticide, Insecticide, Pesticide application, DDT, Pesticides, Surface water