A recent survey that analyzed the production of honey across the globe found that honeybees may unwillingly bring chemicals back to their hives, thus contaminating it. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been found in samples taken from hives all over the world.
While this is only the first survey of this kind, it does present a rather worrying fact: Honeybees are more exposed to these nicotine-derived pesticides that it was initially thought. Furthermore, the project has also shown that we are exposed to these chemicals, as well.
The team that worked on the study gathered 198 honey samples from around the world, with the help of specialists, friends, or concerned individuals from various country. The results concluded that the already controversial pesticides are present in 86% of the samples collected from North America (these samples contained at least one of the five commonly used nicotine-based pesticides), and in 57% of the ones from South America. These high numbers show that the bees have probably foraged in several contaminated locations.
As far as how this affects us, the samples have shown that the concentrations of pesticides are low, and do not reach the limit of safe human exposure.
These substances, the neonicotinoids have gained popularity in the 1990s, as a result of the fact that they can attack crop-destroying insects, but have a minimal impact on human beings. However, these chemicals have stirred up a lot of controversy in the last few years, due to the fact that they also harm pollinators. Many people have argued that the use of these neonicotinoids is one of the reasons for the pollinator decline that the world has seen lately. In response to this, pesticide manufacturers, as well as a number of farmers said that habitat loss and parasite infection contribute more to the decline in bee populations than nicotine-based pesticides.
Regardless of this, the new study has shown that neonicotinoids are present in all the honey produced on the planet, which means that honeybees everywhere have been exposed to the pesticides, and have probably had to suffer as a result of this fact.
Most people are concerned by the European honeybee, Apis mellifera, however, other native species of pollinators may have been exposed to these chemicals. Depending on the size of the colonies, a few contaminated insects could do irreparable harm to smaller hives, which would, in turn, have a serious effect on agriculture.