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A novel method for assessing risks to pollinators from plant protection products using honeybees as a model species

By Stefania Barmaz, Simon Potts and Marco Vighi


Pollination is one of the most important ecosystem services in agroecosystems and supports food production. Pollinators are potentially at risk being exposed to pesticides and the main route of exposure is direct contact, in some cases ingestion, of contaminated materials such as pollen, nectar, flowers and foliage. To date there are no suitable methods for predicting pesticide exposure for pollinators, therefore official procedures to assess pesticide risk are based on a Hazard Quotient. Here we develop a procedure to assess exposure and risk for pollinators based on the foraging behaviour of honeybees (Apis mellifera) and using this species as indicator representative of pollinating insects. The method was applied in 13 European field sites with different climatic, landscape and land use characteristics. The level of risk during the crop growing season was evaluated as a function of the active ingredients used and application regime. Risk levels were primarily determined by the agronomic practices employed (i.e. crop type, pest control method, pesticide use), and there was a clear temporal partitioning of risks through time. Generally the risk was higher in sites cultivated with permanent crops, such as vineyard and olive, than in annual crops, such as cereals and oil seed rape. The greatest level of risk is generally found at the beginning of the growing season for annual crops and later in June–July for permanent crops

Publisher: Springer
Year: 2010
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