Fungicides and bees: a review of exposure and risk


Fungicides account for more than 35% of the global pesticide market and their use is predicted to increase in the future. While fungicides are commonly applied during bloom when bees are likely foraging on crops, whether real-world exposure to these chemicals – alone or in combination with other stressors – constitutes a threat to the health of bees is still the subject of great uncertainty. The first step in estimating the risks of exposure to fungicides for bees is to understand how and to what extent bees are exposed to these active ingredients. Here we review the current knowledge that exists about exposure to fungicides that bees experience in the field, and link quantitative data on exposure to acute and chronic risk of lethal endpoints for honey bees (Apis mellifera). From the 702 publications we screened, 76 studies contained quantitative data on residue detections in honey bee matrices, and a further 47 provided qualitative information about exposure for a range of bee taxa through various routes. We compiled data for 90 fungicides and metabolites that have been detected in honey, beebread, pollen, beeswax, and the bodies of honey bees. The risks posed to honey bees by fungicide residues was estimated through the EPA Risk Quotient (RQ) approach. Based on residue concentrations detected in honey and pollen/beebread, none of the reported fungicides exceeded the levels of concern (LOC) set by regulatory agencies for acute risk, while 3 and 12 fungicides exceeded the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) chronic LOC for honey bees and wild bees, respectively. When considering exposure to all bees, fungicides of most concern include many broad-spectrum systemic fungicides, as well as the widely used broad-spectrum contact fungicide chlorothalonil. In addition to providing a detailed overview of the frequency and extent of fungicide residue detections in the bee environment, we identified important research gaps and suggest future directions to move towards a more comprehensive understanding and mitigation of the risks of exposure to fungicides for bees, including synergistic risks of co-exposure to fungicides and other pesticides or pathogens.

Authors: Sabrina Rondeau, Nigel E Raine
; Full Source: Environment international 2022 Jul;165:107311. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2022.107311.