In summer 2012, we initiated a large-scale field experiment in southern Ontario, Canada, to determine whether exposure to clothianidin seed-treated canola (oil seed rape) has any adverse impacts on honey bees. Colonies were placed in clothianidin seed-treated or control canola fields during bloom, and thereafter were moved to an apiary with no surrounding crops grown from seeds treated with neonicotinoids. Colony weight gain, honey production, pest incidence, bee mortality, number of adults, and amount of sealed brood were assessed in each colony throughout summer and autumn. Samples of honey, beeswax, pollen, and nectar were regularly collected, and samples were analyzed for clothianidin residues. Several of these endpoints were also measured in spring 2013. Overall, colonies were vigorous during and after the exposure period, and we found no effects of exposure to clothianidin seed-treated canola on any endpoint measures. Bees foraged heavily on the test fields during peak bloom and residue analysis indicated that honey bees were exposed to low levels (0.5-2 ppb) of clothianidin in pollen. Low levels of clothianidin were detected in a few pollen samples collected toward the end of the bloom from control hives, illustrating the difficulty of conducting a perfectly controlled field study with free-ranging honey bees in agricultural landscapes. Overwintering success did not differ significantly between treatment and control hives, and was similar to overwintering colony loss rates reported for the winter of 2012-2013 for beekeepers in Ontario and Canada. Our results suggest that exposure to canola grown from seed treated with clothianidin poses low risk to honey bees.
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