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Pesticide exposure hurts honey bee colony recovery
Nebraska Ag Connection - 02/22/2024

Honeybees, vital pollinators contributing billions to the economy, face threats beyond honey production. Pesticides, intended for other pests, can harm and even kill them, potentially contributing to colony collapse. This raises concerns for beekeepers seeking to revive failed colonies using resources from previous ones, which may have been exposed to pesticides.

Researchers in Nebraska investigated this issue by establishing two groups of queenless colonies. One group received pollen and honey from pesticide-free colonies, while the other used resources from colonies previously exposed to pesticides known to affect bee development and reproduction.

Results showed significant differences:

• Queen cell production: Pesticide-exposed resources led to a 5.9 reduction in queen cells, crucial for colony survival.

• Queen rearing success: Only 32.6% of colonies with contaminated resources produced fertile queens, compared to 83.9% in the control group.

• Short-term exposure impact: Notably, these effects were observed even with limited pesticide exposure, highlighting the potential dangers.

While the study focused on small colonies, the team acknowledges the need for further research on larger populations where dilution may play a role.

Recommendations for beekeepers:

• Necropsies: Identify the cause of colony loss before reusing resources. Avoid those linked to pesticide exposure.

• Performance monitoring: Track new colony health, looking for signs of disease or queen-related issues that might indicate contaminated resources.

• Removal options: If concerns arise, consider removing potentially harmful resources or equipment.

This study underscores the complex challenges facing beekeepers and highlights the need for proactive measures to protect honey bees from pesticides. By understanding the potential impact of contaminated resources and implementing responsible practices, beekeepers can contribute to the health and sustainability of their colonies.

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