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Pesticide Contamination in Central Kentucky Urban Honey: A Pilot Study


Pesticide residues in honey are becoming a growing concern because of both potential human health effects and negative impacts on beehives. Urban beehives from city apiaries can be subject to increased pesticide use from spraying of commercial, park, and residential locations. We tested honey and beeswax collected from urban hives in Central Kentucky for pyrethroid pesticide residues, organochlorine pesticides, and heavy metals. Although our results showed no detectable levels of pyrethroid pesticides, organochlorine pesticides such as DDT and endosulfan were present, both of which have persisted in the environment since being banned in 1972 (DDT) and 2010 (endosulfan). We found that 72% of honey samples tested in this study exhibited levels of pesticides exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tolerable daily intake levels. We also tested honey and honeycombs for toxic heavy metals. We found lead levels up to 5 ppm in these samples. Results indicate the need for regular monitoring programs to assess the potential risk to consumer health—along with bee health—while also giving information on the pesticide treatments that have been used in areas surrounding the hives.


  • Mary Sheldon, MPH, Eastern Kentucky University
  • Clint Pinion, Jr., DrPH, RS, Eastern Kentucky University
  • James Klyza, PhD, CIH, Eastern Kentucky University
  • Anne Marie Zimeri, PhD, University of Georgia, Athens
Volume#: 82.1
Page #: 8-13
Publication Month: July/August 2019

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