Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 32, pp 32163–32177 | Cite as

Pesticide residue profiles in bee bread and pollen samples and the survival of honeybee colonies—a case study from Luxembourg

  • Marco BeyerEmail author
  • Audrey Lenouvel
  • Cédric Guignard
  • Michael Eickermann
  • Antoine Clermont
  • François Kraus
  • Lucien Hoffmann
Research Article


Pesticide residues (112 compounds) were quantified by GC-MS/MS or LC-MS/MS in 85 bee bread samples and 154 pollen samples obtained from five apiaries each with three or four colonies (genotype Buckfast) in Luxembourg over the period 2011–2013. Thiacloprid, chlorfenvinphos, tebuconazole, and methiocarb were found most frequently in bee bread while thiacloprid, permethrin-cis, and permethrin-trans were detected most frequently in the pollen samples. Three neonicotinoid insecticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam) that were restricted by an EU regulation in 2013 after our sampling campaign was finished were each found in less than 8% of the pollen or bee bread samples. The maximum concentrations of thiacloprid, metazachlor, and methiocarb measured in the pollen collected by a group of honeybee colonies (n = 5) without survivors within the 3-year period of observation were 86.20 ± 10.74 ng/g, 2.80 ± 1.26 ng/g, and below the limit of quantification, respectively. The maximum concentrations of the same compounds measured in the pollen collected by a group of honeybee colonies with significantly (P = 0.02) more survivors (7 out of 9) than expected, if the survivors had been distributed randomly among the groups of colonies, were 11.98 ± 2.28 ng/g, 0.44 ± 0.29 ng/g, and 8.49 ± 4.13 ng/g, respectively. No honeybee colony that gathered pollen containing more than 23 ng/g thiacloprid survived the 3-year project period. There was no statistically significant association between pesticide residues in the bee bread and the survival of the colonies. Actions already taken or planned and potential further actions to protect bees from exposure to pesticides are discussed.


Apis mellifera Crop protection Pollinator decline Food quality Varroa control 



We thank Jean-Paul Beck and Roger Dammé (Fédération des Unions d’Apiculteurs du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, FUAL) for organizational support, Jacques Engel and Andreas Reichart for helpful discussions, the “Administration des Services Techniques de l’Agriculture” in Luxembourg for the financial support of the “BeeFirst” project, the beekeepers of the FUAL honeybee breeding group for their invaluable support during the sampling campaigns, Léa Tison (INRA Centre de Recherche PACA, Unité “Abeilles et Environnement,” Avignon) for critical comments on an early version of the manuscript, and Lindsey Auguin for language editing.

Compliance with ethical standards

This article does not contain any studies with human subjects performed by any of the authors. The treatments of the animals reported in the manuscript comply with the local animal welfare laws, guidelines, and policies.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Research and Innovation DepartmentLuxembourg Institute of Science and TechnologyBelvauxLuxembourg
  2. 2.IRSTEA MontpellierMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Administration des Services Techniques de l’AgricultureLuxembourgLuxembourg

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