Determination, distribution, and environmental fate of Bacillus thuringiensis spores in various honeybee matrices after field application as plant protection product
The increasing use of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-based plant protection products (PPPs) has recently raised some concerns regarding their environmental accumulation and possible chronic exposure of non-target species, including pollinators, to higher than expected doses. The exposure level of such microbial PPPs in bee's matrices under field conditions has not yet been described. Therefore, the current study aims at evaluating the realistic exposure level and comparing the distributions and persistence of Bt spores under field conditions. A field trial with spray application in oilseed rape (Brassica napus) as a representative bee-attractive crop was conducted. During the experimental period, different matrices, including honeybee-collected and -stored matrices as well as bee larvae and dead bees, were collected and analyzed using newly established methods. The concentration of Bt spores in the various matrices was quantified. The results show high levels of Bt spores in honey sac and pollen pellets with reduction over time but no reduction of Bt spores in the stored matrices within the colony, i.e., nectar and bee bread, over time. Our results show for the first time the exposure level of bees to Bt spores under realistic field conditions and are fundamentally important for assessing potential exposure and risks for pollinators.