NEWS ITEM: Pesticide residue analysis and 2021 sample packs

News Item:

Potential pesticide residue analysis of NHMS samples requires changes to future sample packs


Honeybees are key biological indicators for field exposure to pesticides (see Refs below). Their wide foraging range (typically up to 4 km from nests) means that they can integrate information on exposure risk to agrochemicals at a semi-landscape scale. Excitingly, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) have provided funding for a pilot study which aims to evaluate the potential of the National Honey Monitoring Scheme to: i) quantify exposure risk of honeybees to pesticides, and ii) identify likely exposure pathways.

In this study, 100 NHMS honey samples collected from England in 2019 were chosen across a gradient of agricultural land use intensity and are currently being analysed by colleagues at UKCEH Lancaster. However, it is anticipated that funding will be extended to cover more samples and over a number of years. Consequently, we would like to start collecting honey for possible pesticide residue analysis this year.  Even if we don’t get funding beyond this existing DEFRA grant, it is likely that this will be available in the future so having the extra honey for these analyses is crucial to maximising the importance of the NHMS archive.

As we want to quantify >60 of the most widely used pesticide active ingredients in honey, not just neonicotinoid residues, we will require more honey from participants.

Sample packs will now contain 3 sample collection tubes. One for plant DNA barcoding, one for inclusion in the National Honey Archive, and one for pesticide residue analysis. Further details on sample collection are included in the letter accompanying each sample pack however, it is important to note that resource availability means that we cannot guarantee all samples will be included for barcoding or pesticide residue analysis.

Confidential reports from pesticide analysis will be passed onto participating beekeepers. Individual results from samples used in the pilot study will be sent via email. If additional funding is secured results will be made available via your Taking Part page, alongside other NHMS outputs. More information will be provided at a later date.



Woodcock, B.A., Ridding, L., Freeman, S.N., Pereira, M.G., Sleep, D., Redhead, J., Aston, D., Carreck, N.L., Shore, R.F., Bullock, J.M., Heard, M.S., Pywell, R.F. (2018) Neonicotinoid residues in UK honey despite European Union moratorium. PLOS ONE 13(1):

Ben A. Woodcock, Lucy Ridding, M. Gloria Pereira, Darren Sleep, Lindsay Newbold, Anna Oliver, Richard F. Shore, James M. Bullock, Matthew S. Heard, Hyun S. Gweon, Richard F. Pywell (2021) Neonicotinoid use on cereals and sugar beet is linked to continued low exposure risk in honeybees. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 308: