Pollinators, including honey bees, are responsible for the successful reproduction of more than 87% of flowering plant species: they are thus vital to ecosystem health and agricultural services world-wide. To investigate honey bee exposure to pesticides, 168 pollen samples and 142 wax comb samples were collected from colonies within six stationary apiaries in six U.S. states. These samples were analyzed for evidence of pesticides. Samples were taken bi-weekly when each colony was active. Each apiary included thirty colonies, of which five randomly chosen colonies in each apiary were sampled for pollen. The pollen samples were separately pooled by apiary. There were a total of 714 detections in the collected pollen and 1008 detections in collected wax. A total of 91 different compounds were detected: of these, 79 different pesticides and metabolites were observed in the pollen and 56 were observed in the wax. In all years, insecticides were detected more frequently than were fungicides or herbicides: one third of the detected pesticides were found only in pollen. The mean (standard deviation (SD)) number of detections per pooled pollen sample varied by location from 1.1 (1.1) to 8.7 (2.1). Ten different modes of action were found across all four years and nine additional modes of action occurred in only one year. If synergy in toxicological response is a function of simultaneous occurrence of multiple distinct modes of action, then a high frequency of potential synergies was found in pollen and wax-comb samples. Because only pooled pollen samples were obtained from each apiary, and these from only five colonies per apiary per year, more data are needed to adequately evaluate the differences in pesticide exposure risk to honey bees among colonies in the same apiary and by year and location.
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