Beguiling Flowers: Exploring the Role Flowers Play in Pollinator Exposure to Pesticides

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2020: $14,871.00
Projected End Date: 10/21/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Alison Brody
University of Vermont


  • Additional Plants: native plants, ornamentals, other
  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health
  • Crop Production: pollination, pollinator habitat, pollinator health
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, participatory research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife
  • Pest Management: botanical pesticides, chemical control
  • Soil Management: soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    Bees are essential to the global food system and perform valuable ecosystem services that  contribute between 235 to 577 billion dollars to the economy each year 1,2.  Within the last decade, Europe and North America have begun to experience high overwintering losses of honeybee colonies and declines in populations of other wild bee species 3. Part of this decline is due to exposure to pesticides which are acutely toxic to pollinators, can reduce brood survival, foraging success and lead to Colony Collapse disorder 4–6. Non-agricultural areas and flowers are increasingly recognized as a significant additional source of exposure yet this is poorly understood outside of agricultural crops 4,7–9.  Filling these knowledge gaps are essential to verify the credibility of pollinator conservation techniques. Therefore, my research will investigate the role pollinator friendly flowers play in exposing pollinator species to pesticides. I will use field surveys and greenhouse experiments to 1) test if pollinator friendly flowers translocate pesticides from the soil into floral rewards, and 2) determine the exposure risk posed by each floral species based on their pesticide expression rates and floral traits.  Results will inform pollinator conservation practices and agricultural management recommendations to decrease pollinator exposure to pesticides. that aim to increase floral resources to pollinators.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The main goal of my research is to investigate the role pollinator friendly flowers play in exposing pollinators to pesticides and to inform practices used by farmers, researchers and citizens to increase benefits to pollinators. Using greenhouse experiments and observational field surveys, my research will address three objectives:


    Objective 1. Determine if different flowers express different quantities of pesticides in pollen and nectar.

    Objective 2. Determine which species are those most heavily used by bees.

    Objective 3. By combining results obtained under objective 1 and 2, I will build a quantitative model that will predict which species provide the greatest benefit and pose the least risk to pollinators.

    My work will benefit management practices of pollinator conservation (farmers, academics, citizens, etc.) by providing crucial information for beneficial flower species and decrease the risk of pesticide exposure to bees. My results will inform policy regarding pollinator conservation techniques and identify floral species that pose the least risk.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.