Neonicotinoid residues in UK honey despite European Union moratorium

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© 2018 Woodcock et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Due to concerns over negative impacts on insect pollinators, the European Union has implemented a moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticide seed dressings for mass-flowering crops. We assessed the effectiveness of this policy in reducing the exposure risk to honeybees by collecting 130 samples of honey from bee keepers across the UK before (2014: N = 21) and after the moratorium was in effect (2015: N = 109). Neonicotinoids were present in about half of the honey samples taken before the moratorium, and they were present in over a fifth of honey samples following the moratorium. Clothianidin was the most frequently detected neonicotinoid. Neonicotinoid concentrations declined from May to September in the year following the ban. However, the majority of post-moratorium neonicotinoid residues were from honey harvested early in the year, coinciding with oilseed rape flowering. Neonicotinoid concentrations were correlated with the area of oilseed rape surrounding the hive location. These results suggest mass flowering crops may contain neonicotinoid residues where they have been grown on soils contaminated by previously seed treated crops. This may include winter seed treatments applied to cereals that are currently exempt from EU restrictions. Although concentrations of neonicotinoids were low (<2.0 ng g-1), and posed no risk to human health, they may represent a continued risk to honeybees through long-term chronic exposure.




Woodcock, B. A., Ridding, L., Freeman, S. N., Gloria Pereira, M., Sleep, D., Redhead, J., … Pywell, R. F. (2018). Neonicotinoid residues in UK honey despite European Union moratorium. PLoS ONE, 13(1).

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