Boron fertilizers in rape – a risk for honey bees?



Rape (Brassica napus L.) is foraged intensively by honey bees (Apis mellifera). Pesticide applications during bloom are sometimes combined with foliar boron fertilizer applications. Boron has insecticidal properties, and therefore, risk to honey bees cannot be excluded. This study was conducted to test whether foliar boron fertilizers could be hazardous for bees under real field conditions. Six colonies were transferred to a rape field in bloom which was treated with boron (1 kg/ha). Six control colonies were transferred to an untreated rape field approximately 7 km away. Performance parameters of the colonies were measured. Samples of honey and beebread were collected from all colonies before and after boron fertilizer application. The contents of boron and of Al, Cd, Cr, Fe, K, Mn, Ni, P, Pb, S and Zn were measured in honey by inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP MS) and by ICP–atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES). No significant differences were found in honey yield (P = 0.622), number of capped brood (P = 0.089), number of uncapped brood (P = 0.123) or number of bees (P = 0.87). Application of boron fertilizer did not affect the concentration of boron in honey (P = 0.656) or beebread (P = 0.665). The concentrations of other elements confirmed the suitability of rape nectar for bee nutrition. This study suggests that the application of foliar boron fertilizers in blooming rape is not hazardous for bee colonies.