Bee Ecotoxicology

  • Fera has the research expertise and scientific resources to help you test products for their effects on pollinator survival, development and behaviour, enabling you to develop products that are safe for bees and other pollinators.
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Bee Ecotoxicology


Bees provide a host of ecosystem services; most importantly they are key pollinators of agricultural crops and wild plants. In addition to this honey bees also provide products such as honey, wax, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and venom.

Since the release of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) Guidance Document of 2013 (revised 2014) on the risk assessment of plant protection products (PPPs) on bees, which sees the introduction of far more complex safety data requirements including a tiered risk assessment scheme. This includes different exposure routes needing to be considered, evaluation of impacts on the ecosystem, exposure assessment for each regulatory territory as well as the introduction of bumble bees (Bombus spp.) and solitary bees alongside honeybees (Apis mellifera). These new safety data safety requirements are far more complex than previous and they do introduce a potential higher failure rate.

With these new protection goals you now need to consider the survival and development of colonies and effects on larvae and bee behaviour, abundance of biomass and then the subsequent impacts on reproduction, as well as viability of colonies, pollination services and the overall yield of hive products. In addition to this, you must also consider upward, downward exposure routes, in and outside the field and the water guttation across honeybees, bumble bees and solitary bees, making these studies far more challenging than they have ever been.

Commission Regulations (EU) No 283 /2013 and 284/2013 include a requirement for data on chronic adult bee and brood toxicity, if bees are likely to be exposed during use. These data requirements are applicable for the renewal of the approval of active substances under Regulation (EU) No 844/2012 and for the approval of active substances under Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009. Therefore, receiving authorities will expect to see these data.


Are you ready for the new MRLs for honey?

Honey can potentially contain residues of PPPs and residues can sometimes be detected in honey during residue monitoring. It is therefore appropriate to establish safe Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for consumers. The MRLs for honey have historically been set at a default level of 0.05 mg/kg. European data requirements (Regulation (EU) No 283/2013, Annex 6.10) require studies on residues in pollen and bee products for human consumption, new technical guidelines (SANTE/11956/2016 rev.9) for determining the magnitude of pesticide residue in honey and setting maximum residue levels in honey is being implemented in January 2020.

"We work closely and are co-located with the National Bee Unit and have 150 colonies of honey bees alongside a highly skilled bee keeping team on site to support our partner’s risk assessments."




  • Range of proven laboratory tests to assess product toxicity to bees
  • Field studies to assess impacts on bees under tunnel & open-field conditions
  • Bespoke tests designed to address specific requirements
  • Access to resources and expertise of National Bee Unit

Meet the team

Our research expertise and scientific resources can help you to test your plant-protection products for their effects on bee survival, development and behaviour – helping you to develop products that are safe for bees and other pollinators. We work closely with the National Bee Unit, giving us access to a huge range of resources to support your risk assessments, including more than 150 colonies of honey bees and a highly skilled beekeeping team. 


Fera has the best people in the right place focussed on delivering the right solution. We continuously invest in our people and support them in delivering the best science to our partners.
Areas of Expertise

Emma Wright

Emma is a GLP study director focusing mainly on OECD laboratory tests including acute contact and oral tests for both honey bees and bumblebees, chronic 10-day feeding tests for honeybees and single and repeat dose tests for honeybee larvae.  She has also worked on field and semi-field studies and bespoke tests such as using choice chambers to determine the attractiveness of pesticide treated baits.

Meet the scientists

Steve Mattock

Steve is the Head of the Ecotoxicology group at Fera. Steve has over 22 years practical experience of conducting ecotoxicology studies in both industry and contract research laboratories. In addition, he has also spent over 15 years working as an environmental risk assessor preparing ecotoxicology risk assessments for plant protection products, biocides and REACH related registrations.

Selwyn Wilkins

Selwyn Wilkins

Selwyn has approaching 30 years of experience in all aspects of apiculture. For over 20 years he worked within the UK National Bee Unit where he specialised in honey bee management, disease recognition diagnosis and control, extension to beekeepers, advice to policy and government and honey bee ecotoxicology. He also acts as a UK representative on the OECD Expert Panel.


Case Study

Read our case study on Radio Frequency IDentification tagging - field experiment on bees

Download Case Study


Read More About : The New MRLs Coming In

MRL decision tree

MRL Decision Tree

Historically, the MRLs for PPPs in honey has been set by default to a level of 0.05mg/kg, as the methodology on the data required was not established. In 2018 the European Commission decided that Technical Guidelines for determining the magnitude of pesticide residues in honey and the setting of Maximum Residue Levels were required. As a result Technical Guidelines were developed and have been introduced by the EFSA. 

MRL factsheet

MRL Factsheet

MRL builds-in a safety margin 100x that of the actual safety  level for a pesticide residue. Food products that exceed a MRL are not allowed on the market. The best known primary products of beekeeping are honey and wax, but pollen, propolis, royal jelly, venom, queens, bees and their larvae are also marketable primary bee products.

 
MRL infographic

MRL Infographic

The MRLs for honey have historically been set at a default level of 0.05 mg/kg. European data requirements (Regulation (EU) No 283/2013, Annex 6.10) require studies on residues in pollen and bee products for human consumption, new technical guidelines (SANTE/11956/2016 rev.9) for determining the magnitude of pesticide residue in honey and setting maximum residue levels in honey.


Our Services - Honey Bees, Bumble Bees & Solitary Bees

Study Type - Acute Toxicity Adult

Regulation How?
Honey Bee: OECD 213 and 214
Bumble Bee: OECD Guideline 246 & OECD Guideline 247  
With honey bees & bumble bees (solitary bees - Fera are members of the International Commission for Plant Pollinator Relationships (ICPPR) non-Apis working group helping to develop new test methods) • Oral and contact exposure routes • Testing for mortality • Laboratory based

Study Type - Chronic Toxicity Adult

Regulation How?
Honey Bee: OECD Guideline 245 for the Testing of Chemicals: Honey bee(Apis mellifera L.),chronic oral toxicity test (10 day feeding test in the laboratory)  With honey bees • Continuous oral exposure • Testing for mortality and sub-lethal effects (feeding behaviour) • Laboratory based

Study Type - Acute Toxicity Larval

Regulation How?
Honey Bee: OECD Test Guideline 237: Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Larval Toxicity Test Following Repeated ExposureWith honey bees • Combined oral and contact exposure routes • Single application • Testing for mortality and sub-lethal effects (growth) • Laboratory based


Study Type - Chronic Toxicity Larval

Regulation How?
Honey Bee: OECD Guidance Document 239: Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Larval Toxicity Test Following Repeated Exposure.With honey bees • Repeat application • Combined oral and contact exposure routes • Assessment of the effects on honey bee brood development - mortality and sub-lethal effects (emergence and abnormalities) • Laboratory based

Study Type - Cage, Tunnel, Semi-field

Regulation How?
Honey Bee: OECD 75 With honey (or bumble / solitary) bees • 7 day (minimum) exposure to treated crop • Evaluates potential for effects on bee brood development - mortality, brood development and colony survival and condition • Option to measure residues in pollen, nectar, wax and honey • Field based

Study Type - Field - Post Registration Monitoring / Residue Monitoring

Regulation How?
Honey Bee: Study specificWith honey bees • Monitoring bee behaviour, colony survival and development • Determination of residues in pollen and nectar • Field based

Resources - Test Factsheets

Adult Honey Bees

Adult Honey Bees Chronic Oral Toxicity Test (10 Day)

bumble bees

Bumblebee Acute Oral & Contact Toxicity Test

Honey Bees larval - single

Honey Bees Larval Toxicity Test, Single Exposure



Honey Bees larval - repeat

Honey Bees Larval Toxicity Test, Repeated Exposure

honey bees acute

Honey Bees Acute Oral and Contact Toxicity Test

bespoke studies

Talk to us about Bespoke Bee Studies


Take a look inside our Bee Ecotoxicology Labs


Listen to our team: Selwyn Wilkins (Leading Bee Expert)


Watch our latest webinar with our leading bee expert, Selwyn Wilkins. Selwyn has nearly 30 years of experience in all aspects of apiculture. For over 20 years he worked within the UK National Bee Unit where he specialised in honey bee management, disease recognition diagnosis and control, extension to beekeepers, advice to policy and government and honey bee ecotoxicology.

He is an active member of the International Commission for Plant Pollinator Relations (ICPPR) - feeding into a number of working groups (one of which he co-chairs) – directly involved with the development and ring testing of new bee toxicity testing methods to be taken forward as new internationally recognised OECD test Guidelines. He also acts as a UK representative on the OECD Expert Panel on Development of Honey Bee Testing Methods and Guidelines.

 

Let us know how we can help



We work across:

  • Ecotoxicology
  • Fate & metabolism
  • Livestock metabolism and residue studies
  • Efficacy services
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Consultancy


Original thinking…applied to serve the agro-chem and veterinary medicines industries


Beekeepers

Beekeepers

As part of our role we provide support and advice to government running a wide variety of studies which investigate the effects of agro chemical (plant protection products) and new veterinary medicines (for beekeepers), nutrition and disease.

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Chemical Producers

Chemical Producers

Chemical companies developing plant protection products for growers need to ensure their pesticides provide effective protection against pests and diseases, at the same time as safeguarding essential pollinators, such as bees.

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Food, Retailers & Manufacturers

Food Retailers & Manufacturers

Responsible food retailers and manufacturers are committed to supporting sustainability throughout the food supply chain. This includes protecting pollinating insects as well as consumers from potentially harmful crop treatment products, such as neonicotinoids.

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General Public

General Public

There are over 250 species of bee in the UK, made up of 225 species of solitary bees, 25 bumble bees, and just one honey bee. Different species have different life cycles and are active at varying times throughout the year.

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General Public

Government, Research & Universities

With a wide range of expertise in the diagnosis of honey bee pests and diseases and our work in preserving the future of our pollinators, Fera are the perfect partner for your diagnostic and research requirements.

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Growers & Argonomists

Growers & Agronomists

Pollinators are able to increase the yield and the quality of insect dependant crops. This means by embracing pollinators it can lead to higher production levels of your crops.

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