Back to Page
Assessing the impact of pesticides on honey bee health in New York

Grant Program: OAR
Agricultural Sectors: Fields Crops & Forage, Fruit, Green Industry, Vegetable
Region: Statewide
Project Duration: 4/1/2015 - 3/31/2017
Amount Awarded: $119,999.00
Lead Organization: Cornell University
Project Leader: Scott McArt
Print View

Proposal Abstract

Severe honey bee colony losses have occurred in New York for the past several years.  These losses have greatly impacted full-time commercial, part-time, and hobby beekeepers across the state.  Agricultural revenue in New York has also been impacted, since important pollination services for fruit and vegetable crops are increasingly costly for growers to purchase.  Recently, beekeepers in New York have expressed concern over how pesticides may be impacting colony health.  Numerous pesticides have been found in honey bee colonies, and symptoms during colony losses may be indicative of pesticide exposure.  However, a direct link between pesticide exposure and recent honey bee losses has yet to be established in New York or elsewhere, and no study to date has comprehensively assessed the impact of pesticides on colony health in New York.  We propose to conduct such a study.  We will place 120 experimental hives among 30 beekeepers across New York and closely monitor these hives for pesticide exposure and colony performance over a period of two years.  By investigating the relationship between pesticide exposure and colony performance across a broad network of controlled, experimental hives, we will substantially improve on observational-based monitoring of beekeeper hives that has occurred elsewhere.  To our knowledge, this will be the most comprehensive and controlled study to date which tests for a relationship between pesticides and honey bee health in the United States.

Final Report Summary Statement

Honey bees provide critical pollination services for many agricultural crops. While the contribution of pesticides to current hive loss rates is debated, remarkably little is known regarding the magnitude of risk to bees and mechanisms of exposure during pollination. In this project, we showed that pesticide risk in recently accumulated beebread was above regulatory agency levels of concern for acute or chronic exposure at 5 and 22 of the 30 apple orchards, respectively, where we places 120 experimental hives. Landscape context strongly predicted focal crop pollen foraging and total pesticide residues, which were dominated by fungicides. Yet focal crop pollen foraging was a poor predictor of pesticide risk, which was driven primarily by insecticides. Instead, risk was positively related to diversity of non-focal crop pollen sources. Furthermore, over 60% of pesticide risk was attributed to pesticides that were not sprayed during the apple bloom period. These results suggest the majority of pesticide risk to honey bees providing pollination services came from residues in non-focal crop pollen, likely contaminated wildflowers or other sources. We suggest a greater understanding of the specific mechanisms of non-focal crop pesticide exposure is essential for minimizing risk to bees and improving the sustainability of grower pest management programs.

Project Impact Data

Producers Participating: 4

Producers Advising: 6

Part-Time Jobs Created: 2

Seasonal Jobs Created: 3

Research/Extension Employed: 2

Articles/Publications: 2

Presentations: 10

Total Producers Engaged: 150

Leveraged Funds: $100,000.00

Back to Page