A substantial percentage of the world's honey was found to be contaminated with pesticide chemicals which are known to be harmful to bee health. The contamination does not directly affect humans, but it also does not help the already suffering bee population.
Contaminated Honey Samples
Honey samples from all over the world were tested and results revealed that 75 percent of the 198 samples are contaminated with traces of chemicals linked to pesticides. What's more, 34 percent of the samples were seen to contain a level of contamination that is deemed as detrimental to bee health.
North American honey samples displayed the highest frequency of contamination at 86 percent, followed by Asian and European samples at 80 percent and 79 percent respectively. The samples with the lowest contamination frequency came from South America at 57 percent.
All in all, the contamination is at a level that is not directly harmful to humans, but poses serious threats to the already threatened population of one of the world's major pollinators.
Neonicotinoids are common pesticides which were introduced during the mid-1990s. The chemicals involved are based on the chemical structure of nicotine, and works by targeting the nervous system of pest insects. Unfortunately, they also inadvertently affect pollinating insects such as honey bees.
In bees, neonicotinoids' effects include reduced foraging efficiency, cognitive and neurological disorders, reduced immune system efficiency, growth disorders, and limited queen lifespan. Because of this, the European Union (EU) issued a partial ban on the use of such chemicals in 2013.
The honey samples for the current study were taken between 2012 and 2016, and were found to contain five common neonicotinoids: thiamethoxam, thiacloprid, imidacloprid, clothianidin, and acetamiprid. Of the contaminated honey, 30 percent contained one of five neonicotinoids, 45 percent contained two or more, and 10 percent were contaminated with four or five.
Cause For Concern
As mentioned, the level of contamination is not particularly harmful to human health, but that doesn't mean that we are out of the ball park as bees are responsible for pollinating 90 percent of the world's 107 major crops.
As it stands, their worldwide population is already facing serious decline even amidst continuous efforts to save the bees from threats such as pesticides, colony-killing parasites, habitat loss, and poor nutrition.
It's worth noting that some of the samples were taken before the partial ban on neonicotinoids, but the results present significant evidence as to its negative effects on bee populations. Perhaps further studies may show if the EU's steps are effective in reducing such detrimental effects. The study was published in the journal Science.