Dust drift during sowing of maize - effects on honey bees

  • Pablo Th. Georgiadis
  • Jens Pistorius
  • Udo Heimbach
  • Matthias Stähler
  • Kristin Schwabe


Background: Bee poisoning incidents in southern Germany in 2008 revealed drift of insecticidal dusts of treated maize seed during sowing on adjacent areas with flowering bee forage plants as a considerable route of exposure. Consequently, improvements have been proposed for seed dressing quality regarding dust abrasion taking into account residue content of dust and for the sowing techniques as possible risk mitigation measures. To assess potential effects on honey bee colonies following insecticidal dust drift on adjacent non-target areas, in 2010 and 2011 two large-scale drift experiments were carried out during maize sowing using seed batches from two different years (2010: seed batch from 2008; 2011: seed batch from 2011).

Results: Despite improvements of seed dressing quality regarding dust abrasion comparing the two seed batches (Heubach value 0.86 in 2010 and 0.45 in 2011) and the use of a precision air seeder with drift reducing deflector, in both experiments bee mortality was clearly increased, especially in semifield conditions.

Conclusions: Drift of insecticidal dusts during sowing of maize may result in a risk for honey bees in field conditions. To exclude adverse effects on bees, especially during sowing of maize further improvements of seed treatment quality and machinery is needed.

Keywords: maize, seed treatment, clothianidin, dust drift, honey bee poisoning