Oct 5, 2017

A pesticide that hurts bees is showing up in honey around the world

Bee populations are at risk around the world. Photo: Ted S. Warren / AP

Neonicotinoid pesticides — known to be harmful to bees — are present in 75% of honey samples from around the globe, per a new study.

The big picture: The detrimental effects of these pesticides have been observed in multiple studies of bee populations in the United States and Europe, but this study is the first to find neonicotinoids are present all over the world. There is "no place in the world" safe from contamination for bees, Alexandre Aebi, one of the researchers, told Axios.

The pesticide, from Axios' Erin Ross: Neonicotinoids have been in use since the 1990s. They can be sprayed on a plant, but they're generally coated on seeds and then taken up by the plant and expressed in their leaves. The pesticides were thought to be environmentally friendly because they're only supposed to harm insects that bite the now-poisonous plants. But they can also be expressed in plant pollen, which is how bees are exposed.

The study: Scientists conducted their research as a citizen science project, taking contributions from amateur scientists around the world. They found an average neonicotinoid concentration of 1.8 nanograms/gram in honey samples. The pesticide begins to show harmful effects in bees at a concentration of 0.1 nanograms/gram, but the European Union puts the toxic level for humans at 10-15 nanograms/gram, Aebi said.

What's next: Aebi said the world should follow the example of France, which is banning the use of neonicotinoids starting in 2018. But it's worth noting that though the study shows that neonicotinoids are present in samples worldwide, there isn't yet corresponding evidence that bee populations in areas outside the U.S. and Europe are in decline, even though the science suggests they are, says conservation biologist Jeremy Kerr.

Go deeper

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 6 hours ago - Health

California coronavirus: Latest case has no recent history of international travel

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A new case of the novel coronavirus in California was announced on Friday after Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that 33 people had tested positive for the virus, noting the risk to the public remains low.

What's new: An adult woman with chronic health conditions in Santa Clara County who "did not recently travel overseas" or come into contact with anyone known to be ill was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus on Friday by CDC and California Department of Public Health officials.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 7 hours ago - Health

Big video game conference delayed amid coronavirus concerns

Photo: GDC

Next month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco became the latest tech event to be cancelled or postponed amid growing concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The big picture: A growing number of events are being scrapped, including Mobile World Congress and Facebook's F8 developer conference. Some, like the giant SXSW event in Austin, insist they are moving forward.