European Commission | Characterizing honey bee exposure and effects from pesticides for chemical prioritization and life cycle assessment

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Agricultural pesticides are key contributors to pollinator decline worldwide. However, methods for quantifying impacts associated with pollinator exposure to pesticides are currently missing in comparative risk screening, chemical substitution and prioritization, and life cycle impact assessment methods. To address this gap, we developed a method for quantifying pesticide field exposure and ecotoxicity effects of honey bees as most economically important pollinator species worldwide. We defined bee intake and dermal contact fractions representing respectively oral and dermal exposure per unit mass applied, and tested our model on two pesticides applied to oilseed rape. Our results show that exposure varies between types of forager bees, with highest dermal contact fraction of 59 ppm in nectar foragers for lambda-cyhalothrin (insecticide), and highest oral intake fractions of 32 and 190 ppm in nectar foragers for boscalid (fungicide) and lambda-cyhalothrin, respectively. Hive oral exposure is up to 115 times higher than forager oral exposure. Combining exposure with effect estimates yields impacts, which are three orders of magnitude higher for the insecticide. Overall, nectar foragers are the most affected forager type for both pesticides, dominated by oral exposure. Our framework constitutes an important step toward integrating pollinator impacts in chemical substitution and life cycle impact assessment, and should be expanded to cover all relevant pesticide-crop combinations.



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