The risk exposure of bee colonies to the toxicity of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides was assessed. Various methods of chemical prevention of commercial winter and spring oilseed rape crops in field-realistic conditions were taken into account in the assessment. Pesticides were applied in accordance with the actual agricultural practice. Commercial crop protection products with thiamethoxam, clothianidin or imidacloprid were used as seed treatment. Formulations containing acetamiprid or thiacloprid were used for spraying. Fifteen healthy bee colonies were placed in close proximity to each of the oilseed rape fields throughout the blooming period. During florescence, the samples of nectar (directly from flowers and nectar flow from combs) and pollen loads were collected repeatedly. Samples of honey, bee bread and adult bees were taken one week after the end of plants flowering. To ensure high specificity and sensitivity of analysed pestcicides modified QuEChERS extraction method and liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was used. The five of neonicotinoid insecticides (imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiametoxam, acetamiprid and thiacloprid) were analyzed in multi-residue method with 0.1 - 10 ng/g limits of detection. Palynological analysis was done to determine the botanical origin of the nectar, honey and pollen. Development of bee colonies (brood area, worker biomass, colony health) was assessed every 3 weeks until the end of the beekeeping season. The amount of pollen collected by bees per hive, bee bread area and rape honey yield was also measured. The long-term effects of insecticides on bees were estimated using the same methods in April of the following year.
All the neonicotinoid insecticides applied to control oilseed rape pests were present in the samples of nectar and pollen. Their residue levels were lower than the acute oral and contact LD50 values. Among five examined neonicotinoids, the most frequently detected were: thiamethoxam, thiacloprid and acetamiprid. These substances were present in 65, 64, and 51% of the nectar samples and in 37, 62, and 45% of the pollen samples, respectively. The highest level of residues were noted after the thiamethoxam seed treatment; on average, 4.2 and 3.8 ng/g in the nectar and pollen samples. In the nectar and pollen samples from winter rape fields, lower levels of neonicotinoid residues were found in comparison to spring rape samples. The contaminations of neonicotinoids applied as seed dressing in nectar samples were significantly higher in comparison to the pollen samples. No negative effects of neonicotinoids on the bee mortality, brood development, strength, and honey yield of healthy bee colonies were found throughout the study period. However, the risk exposure of bee colonies on adverse impact of pesticide residues is high in areas of intensively cultivated oilseed rape.
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