Press Release: New study on pesticide residues in honey

publication date: Jul 4, 2014
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Press Release

[embargoed until 00:01 GMT on 4/7/14]

New study on pesticide residues in honey

Much attention in recent years has focussed on agricultural pesticides and their possible role in the decline of bee populations. Several studies have shown, however, that the majority of pesticides found in bee hives result from chemicals used by the beekeepers themselves, especially those used to control the parasitic mite varroa. A new study published today in the Journal of Apicultural Research looks at pesticide residues in honey samples from the USA by comparing the pesticide levels for honey collected in the supers (which would be used for human consumption) with honey contained in the brood nest which would be consumed by the bees themselves.

The study, by Dr Nancy Ostiguy of Penn State University, and Dr Brian Eitzer of the Connecticut Experiment Station examined paired samples of honey collected by amateur beekeepers from five US states. Eight different pesticides were identified of which four are used by US beekeepers, and four are widely used in agriculture. They identified the organophosphate coumaphos; the synthetic pyrethroid fluvalinate; and the essential oil thymol, which are used by US beekeepers to control varroa. The fourth compound, dichlorobenzene, is used to fumigate empty honey comb to protect it from wax moth attack. The other agricultural compounds identified were dimethoate, an organophosphate insecticide, a fungicide and two herbicides; they are not used in beekeeping. All of the honey samples taken from the honey supers contained coumaphos and fluvalinate at levels below the tolerance limits set by the US Environmental Protection Agency, but several samples collected directly from the brood chambers had higher levels.

IBRA Science Director Norman Carreck says: “In general, the levels of residues found in honey from the brood combs in this study were significantly higher than in the honey supers. Even though the amounts of pesticide found were well below the LD50 levels known to directly kill bees, because the brood nest honey is fed to developing bee larvae, there is a concern that these sub lethal doses of pesticide may harm bees. This study’s results support current concerns relating to the possible effects of sub-lethal doses of pesticides on bees and clearly demonstrates that further studies of this nature are needed”.


 Press Release



Norman Carreck, Science Director, IBRA +44 (0)791 8670169 Email:


1. The paper: “Overwintered brood comb honey: colony exposure to pesticide residues” can be viewed at:-

2. The International Bee Research Association (“IBRA”) is the world's longest established apicultural research publishers and promotes the value of bees by providing information on bee science and beekeeping worldwide.

3. IBRA publishes the peer reviewed scientific journal the Journal of Apicultural Research, founded by IBRA in 1962. It includes original research articles, theoretical papers; scientific notes and comments; together with authoritative reviews on scientific aspects of the biology, ecology, natural history, conservation and culture of all types of bee. The ISI Impact Factor (2012) is 1.926 and the ISI 5-year Impact Factor is 1.447:-

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