The effects to honeybee colonies (Apis mellifera L.) during and after exposure to flowering maize (Zea mays L.), grown from seeds coated with clothianidin and imidacloprid was assessed in field-realistic conditions. The experimental maize crops were adjacent to the other flowering agriculture plants. Honey bee colonies were placed in three differently protected maize fields throughout the blooming period, and thereafter they were transferred to a stationary apiary. Samples of pollen loads, bee bread, and adult bees were collected and analyzed for neonicotinoid residues. To ensure high specificity and sensitivity of detection of the analyzed pesticides, a modified QuEChERS extraction method and liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry were used. Clothianidin was detected only in the samples of pollen loads. Their residue levels ranged from 10.0 to 41.0 ng/g (average 27.0 ng/g). Imidacloprid was found in no investigated sample. No negative effects of neonicotinoid seed-treated maize on the development and long-term survival of honey bee colonies were observed. The low proportion of Zea mays pollen in total bee-collected pollen during the maize flowering period was noted. The findings suggest that maize plants are less attractive forage for honey bees than phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth.), buckwheat (Fagopyrum Mill.), white clover (Trifolium repens L.), goldenrod (Solidago L.), and vegetation from Brassicaceae family.
The results indicate a possibility of reducing the risk of bees being exposed to the toxic effect of insecticidal dusts dispersed during maize sowing by seeding, in the areas surrounding maize crops, plants that bloom later in the year.