Neonicotinoid pesticides in three-quarters of honey worldwide

Embargoed until: Publicly released:

Three-quarters of honey produced across the world, including Australia and New Zealand, contain traces of at least one kind of neonicotinoid pesticide, an international study finds. While the concentrations are at levels far too low to affect humans, it's less sunny for our buzzing friends. In 34 per cent of honey samples the pesticides were found at concentrations known to be detrimental to bees. Around 10 per cent of samples contained four or five different neonicotinoids, with multiple contaminations most common in North America, Asia, and Europe and least frequent in South America and Oceania.

Journal/conference: Science

Organisation/s: University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Media Release

From: AAAS

Honey Samples Worldwide Test Positive for Neonicotinoids

A global sampling of honey finds 75% to be contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides. Of note, the concentrations detected are below the amount authorized by the European Union for human consumption. The situation is more bleak for pollinators, however.

Widespread application of neonicotinoids has been identified as a key factor responsible for the global decline in pollinators, particularly bees. Edward A.D. Mitchell et al. sought to explore the extent of exposure by testing 192 honey samples for five commonly used neonicotinoids: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam. Samples were taken across all continents (except Antarctica), as well as numerous isolated islands.

Overall, 75% of all honey samples contained at least one neonicotinoid; of these contaminated samples, 30% of contained a single neonicotinoid, 45% contained two or more, and 10% contained four or five. Concentrations were highest in European, North American, and Asian samples.

While the authors emphasize that the concentrations of neonicotinoids were below levels that the EU authorizes in food and feed products, they do cite some emerging studies on the effects of neonicotinoids in vertebrates, such as impaired immune functioning and reduced growth, which may result in a re-evaluation of these restrictions.

As for the effects on bees, 34% of honey samples were found to have concentrations of neonicotinoids that are known to be detrimental. These results suggest that a substantial proportion of world pollinators are probably affected by neonicotinoids.


  • AAAS
    Web page
    The paper is open access and available at this URL
  • UK SMC
    Web page
    The UK SMC gathered expert comments on the study - free to use

News for:


Media contact details for this story are only visible to registered journalists.