Pollinator exposure to systemic insecticides and fungicides applied in the previous fall and pre-bloom period in apple orchards

Sarah Heller, Neelendra K. Joshi, Jing Chen, Edwin G. Rajotte, Chris Mullin, David J. Biddinger

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33 Scopus citations


Pollinators provide a crucial ecosystem service by pollinating commercially cultivated crops, but they are frequently exposed to various agricultural chemicals used for pest management. In this study, we assessed the potential exposure of pollinators to various systemic insecticides and a fungicide used in apple orchards. Residue levels were determined for the whole flower as well as pollen and nectar separately for pre-bloom applications of acetamiprid, imidacloprid, sulfoxaflor, thiacloprid, thiamethoxam, and myclobutanil. Very low pesticide residue levels (2–70 parts per billion, ppb) were found in the whole flower, pollen and nectar samples compared with pesticide concentrations of 60–200 parts per million (ppm) in applied foliarly only 5 days earlier. Insecticide residues from nectar and pollen samples were below the USA EPA classification of No Observable Effect Limit (NOEL) for acute toxicity to honey bees, suggesting that a single foraging visit to flowers may not cause toxicity to bees. However, cumulative acute exposure from multiple flower visits could potentially be harmful to bees, and needs to be studied further. We also examined apple flowers for residues of several systemic insecticides that were applied for brown marmorated stink bug control late in the fall of the previous season. None of the fall sprays that contained premixed insecticide active ingredients (viz., thiamethoxam + lambda-cyhalothrin, and imidacloprid + beta-cyfluthrin), including multiple applications of individual active ingredients (viz., dinotefuran, clothianidin, and sulfoxaflor), persisted until the following spring. Based on these findings, fall applications of insecticides used for controlling invasive pests such as the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) and the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) could be considered safe to pollinator species foraging in apple orchards during the spring bloom the following season.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114589
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Oct 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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