Pollen Sleuths: Tracking Pesticides in Honey Bee Pollen to Their Source Plant
This article is by Kimberly Stoner, Richard Cowles, and Brian Eitzer and was published in Entomology Today on February 14th, 2019. The original article can be found here.
More than 10 years after the appearance of Colony Collapse Disorder, people are still worried about honey bees, and for good reason. Beekeepers still lose a substantial portion of their honey bee colonies each year. A nationwide bee survey estimated annual loss at 40 percent for 2017-2018. Many factors are likely to be involved, but the one that we study as a team is exposure to pesticides.
We have been measuring honey bee (Apis mellifera) exposure to pesticides in pollen since 2007 by putting honey bee hives in different habitats, collecting pollen using a pollen trap, and then measuring pesticide residues in the pollen using high-pressure liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. A pollen trap is a clever device, invented by beekeepers, which forces each foraging worker bee returning to the hive to travel through a screen. The screen removes the pollen pellets from the bee’s pollen baskets on her hind legs, whereupon the pellets are collected onto a smaller-mesh screen. Ideally, the result is a collection of pollen pellets, of fairly uniform size, each representing the pollen collected on a single foraging trip by a worker bee…