In 2002, a field survey was initiated on French apiaries to monitor weakness of honey bee, Apis mellifera L., colonies. Apiaries were evenly distributed in five sites located on continental France. Five colonies were randomly selected in each apiary, leading to a total of 125 studied honey bee colonies. For 3 yr (starting in autumn 2002), colonies were visited four times per year: after winter, before summer, during summer, and before winter. Pollen loads from traps were collected at each visit. Multiresidue analyses were performed in pollen to search residues of 36 different molecules. Specific analyses were conducted to search fipronil and metabolites and also imidacloprid and metabolites. Residues of 19 searched compounds were found in samples. Contamination by pesticides ranged from 50 to 0%. Coumaphos and tau-fluvalinate residues were the most concentrated of all residues (mean concentrations were 925.0 and 487.2 μg/kg, respectively). Fipronil and metabolite contents were superior to the limit of detection in 16 samples. Residues of fipronil were found in 10 samples. Nine samples contained the sulfone compound, and three samples contained the desulfinyl compound. Residues of imidacloprid and 6-chloronicotinic acid were found in 69% of samples. Imidacloprid contents were quantified in 11 samples with values ranging from 1.1 to 5.7 μg/kg. 6-Chloronicotinic acid content was superior to the limit of quantification in 28 samples with values ranging from 0.6 to 9.3 μg/kg. Statistical tests showed no difference between places of sampling with the exception of fipronil. Possible origins of these contaminations, concentration and toxicity of pesticides, and the possible consequences for bees are discussed.
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