Bees and the One Health Approach to Understand the Risks of Veterinary Products and Biocides
Updated: Apr 2
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Since 2018, the National Union of French Beekeepers (UNAF), the French Federation of Professional Beekeepers (FFAP) and BeeLife have been denouncing the risks pesticides used in livestock have on bees . In 2021, a new scientific publication associates livestock management and bees with a One Health approach, directly linking human health with animal and environmental health . More specifically, the article reveals how bees illustrate One Health's use of animals as sentinels to monitor overall ecological conditions. Observed intoxications of bee colonies surrounding sheep and cattle farms indicate how bees help us understand conditions that affect biodiversity, animal health and human health.
It is well proved that veterinary medicinal products used in livestock to combat vectors such as Bluetongue or ticks affect the health of beneficial insects. Being exposed to such veterinary products, bees and other pollinating insects and other insects that recycle organic matter are negatively affected. The situation is particularly troubling since these insects are essential in maintaining healthy ecosystems that sustain livestock management, biodiversity and human health. Due to intoxications, pollinating insects may be unable to provide critical pollination services for our food production, thus jeopardizing food safety and our balanced diet.
Graphical Abstract One Health Approach, Bees as Sentinels. Recovered from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352771421000276
Bee intoxication reveals the varied ways of exposure and the difficulties in containing veterinary medicinal products and biocides in stables and farms. Once animals are treated, products remain in excrement and urine, contaminating the soil and/or being transported by wind or water beyond the farm. Additionally, biocides used in manure and slurry present the same problem. Therefore, used veterinary products and biocides affect non-target species such as pollinators with little control of collateral effects after their use.
Veterinary products and biocides reach nature and directly impact the health of pollinators, thus influencing general environmental conditions and the health of those who depend on them (humans, wildlife, livestock). The problem calls for regulation to acknowledge that these products are not effectively contained where they are used. Veterinary products and biocides reach nature, thus having undesired effects on non-target species, also putting at risk essential ecosystem services like pollination.
Environmental fate of veterinary medicinal products and biocides. Recovered from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352771421000276
Furthermore, these same chemicals can reach the environment through different routes: as veterinary products, biocides and / or pesticides regulated by different regulations. This versatility of use results in a mixture of several agents which act together and produce acute or chronic poisonings on bees and other insects. Regulations should take into account these multiple uses, the dangerous cocktail thus created and the impact it has on non-target species. More importantly, regulation should recognize, through a "One Health" approach, that adverse effects on insects are a major concern for the overall balance between the environment, the biodiversity it supports, animals and humans.
While applying the One Health approach, the central role of bees reveals significant deficiencies in regulation for veterinary products and biocides. It also establishes new general guidelines to improve regulation, particularly acknowledging the undesired effects of these products and their lack of containment in stables and farms. Finally, a more general One Health approach would enable us to tackle the aggregative risks from the same products arriving in the environment through different regulatory frameworks, the different types of products and their dire effects on non-target species and the linked health of humans, animals and biodiversity.
 UNAF. 2018. How Pesticides Used in Livestock Farming Threaten Bees. https://www.bee-life.eu/post/2019/01/15/how-pesticides-used-in-livestock-threaten-bees-calling-for-a-real-consideration-of-risks
 Mahefarisoa, K.L., Simon Delso, N., Zaninottoc. V., Colind M.E. Bonmatin, J.M. 2021. The threat of veterinary medicinal products and biocides on pollinators: A One Health perspective. In One Health (12). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352771421000276