To combat an increasing abundance of sucking insect pests, >40 pesticides are currently recommended and frequently used as foliar sprays on row crops, especially cotton. Foraging honey bees may be killed when they are directly exposed to foliar sprays, or they may take contaminated pollen back to hives that maybe toxic to other adult bees and larvae. To assess acute toxicity against the honey bee, we used a modified spray tower to simulate field spray conditions to include direct whole-body exposure, inhalation, and continuing tarsal contact and oral licking after a field spray. A total of 42 formulated pesticides, including one herbicide and one fungicide, were assayed for acute spray toxicity to 4-6-d-old workers. Results showed significantly variable toxicities among pesticides, with LC50s ranging from 25 to thousands of mg/liter. Further risk assessment using the field application concentration to LC1 or LC99 ratios revealed the risk potential of the 42 pesticides. Three pesticides killed less than 1% of the worker bees, including the herbicide, a miticide, and a neonicotinoid. Twenty-six insecticides killed more than 99% of the bees, including commonly used organophosphates and neonicotinoids. The remainder of the 13 chemicals killed from 1–99% of the bees at field application rates. This study reveals a realistic acute toxicity of 42 commonly used foliar pesticides. The information is valuable for guiding insecticide selection to minimize direct killing of foraging honey bees, while maintaining effective control of field crop pests.
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