Improved surveillance of plant protection products to help bee death investigations

28/01/2016

 

The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) and the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira have completed their investigation into potential links between plant protection products and bee deaths in summer 2015. Laboratory analyses revealed that dimethoate is likely to have contributed to the bee deaths. Tukes attaches special importance to the need to protect pollinators when using plant protection products and will re-evaluate the bee warnings that are a condition for the safe use of plant protection products. Based on the lessons learnt from this case, Tukes intends to step up surveillance to be more equipped to determine any links between the use of plant protection products and bee deaths.

 

A number of bee deaths occurred in Loimaa last summer,  believed to be linked to plant protection products. Tukes instructed the Southwest Finland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) to inspect local farmers’ records of their use of plant protection products in the fields closest to the beehives. The inspections covered a radius of two kilometres from the beehives.  The inspected farms were found to have complied with the regulations on the use of plant protection products. The ELY Centre inspectors also interviewed the bee-keepers to gauge their views on what had happened.

 

Samples were taken of the dead bees, and laboratory analyses of the samples were completed towards the end of the year. The bee samples from Loimaa were found to contain dimethoate in concentrations that probably explain the death of the bees. Dimethoate is a sprayable plant protection product which has been approved for use as a pesticide. The concentrations of other plant protection products that were measured from the dead bees were too small to have been the sole cause of deaths. 

 

However, the dimethoate had not originated from the fields closest to the beehives where the losses had occurred, and its origins could not be ascertained in the course of the inspections carried out by the local ELY Centre. Tracking the movements of bees is challenging, because they can forage over an area of several square kilometres.

 

Several authorities involved in investigating bee deaths


Tukes is responsible for the approval and surveillance of plant protection products. In practice, surveillance is delegated to the ELY Centres, which inspect that plant protection products are used appropriately. The bee sample analyses of 2015 were the first analyses of plant protection products in bee samples that Tukes has ever commissioned, and the laboratory analyses were performed by Evira. Tukes intends to improve the surveillance of plant protection products in cooperation with other authorities and operators, in order to be able to investigate links between bee deaths and the use of plant protection products more efficiently in the future. It appears that, in cases of suspected bee losses, inspections on the use of plant protection products should be extended to cover a larger radius from beehives.

 

Tukes evaluates the risks associated with individual plant protection products before they are placed on the market. Only products that are found to be safe are approved for use. Tukes attaches special importance to the appropriateness of the bee warnings on plant protection products that have been approved for use as pesticides and disseminates information about the safe use of plant protection products.  Plant protection products must be used in accordance with the instructions and restrictions stated on product labels. Responsibility for strict compliance with the instructions and restrictions rests with product users.  


For more information:

  • Surveillance of the use of PPPs:
    Senior Officer Lotta Kaila, Tukes, Market Surveillance of Chemicals
    Tel. +358 29 505 2084
  • Environmental impacts of PPPs:
    Senior Officer Sari Autio, Tukes, Plant Protection Products
    Tel. +358 29 505 2026
  • PPP trace analyses:
    Senior Researcher Kati Hakala, Evira
    Tel. +358 29 530 4430

The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) endorses the safety and reliability of products, services and industrial activities. Our goal is a trustworthy, safe and competitive Finland.

 

We want to be a provider of protection – to improve and facilitate safe practices across the society.