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Pest Manag Sci. 2010 Nov;66(11):1171-80. doi: 10.1002/ps.2001.

Is Apis mellifera more sensitive to insecticides than other insects?

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  • 1Department of Entomology, Comstock Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-0901, USA.



Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) are among the most important pollinators in natural and agricultural settings. They commonly encounter insecticides, and the effects of insecticides on honey bees have been frequently noted. It has been suggested that honey bees may be (as a species) uniquely sensitive to insecticides, although no comparative toxicology study has been undertaken to examine this claim. An extensive literature review was conducted, using data in which adult insects were topically treated with insecticides. The goal of this review was to summarize insecticide toxicity data between A. mellifera and other insects to determine the relative sensitivity of honey bees to insecticides.


It was found that, in general, honey bees were no more sensitive than other insect species across the 62 insecticides examined. In addition, honey bees were not more sensitive to any of the six classes of insecticides (carbamates, nicotinoids, organochlorines, organophosphates, pyrethroids and miscellaneous) examined.


While honey bees can be sensitive to individual insecticides, they are not a highly sensitive species to insecticides overall, or even to specific classes of insecticides. However, all pesticides should be used in a way that minimizes honey bee exposure, so as to minimize possible declines in the number of bees and/or honey contamination.

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