UPDATE 3/14/09 – The Greenwich Post newspaper reported in 2008 that McNitt’s honey testing “found no trace of another insecticide called Imidacloprid“… Jim McNitt commented on my first post, however, that Eliza just won again this year two top Life Science prizes at the 2009 Connecticut Science Fair for her continued research on pesticides in honey (read his blog). Most notably, he writes that she in fact did find imidacloprid in her testing. “This year, Eliza used HPLC to examine pollen, beeswax, beebread and dead bees gathered from the Arboretum hive for traces of imidacloprid… Her work confirmed the presence of high levels of imidacloprid both in the hive and on the extremities of the Arboretum honey bees.” So, what’s the story behind the story, here? Why did the newspaper report the contrary? Did last year’s research methods differ from this year’s? Was there a sudden spike in imidacloprid usage near the Arboretum study location in the past year? Stamford, CT is a place of wealth and immaculate lawns. It would be nice to see a survey of the gardeners and home owners about what products they put on the lawns. Do they use any of those recently banned in Canada? Would the local garden supply shops provide stats on sales of certain products for local research purposes? Mr. McNitt says’s he’ll send me the link to her research PDF for us to post here. I can’t wait. Thanks for keeping us posted. [his response and link is here : McNitt 2008 Research.pdf] (Photo by Frank LaBanca)
- What are the possibilities of other high school students around the country sending samples to Greenwich High School for testing?
- Could there be a continuing research program set up there?
- What are the costs to the school for conducting the tests?
- Is it complicated to test using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) technology?
Looks to me like future students at Greenwich High could expand on McNitt’s research and follow in her award-winning footsteps. They have a great research location, ability to survey properties within a 4 mile radius of the hives and perhaps even discover and map the places where the bees are picking up imidacloprid, down to the product name. The next test in the Greenwich High School CCD Research Program should be of the water supply, an often overlooked source of contamination – bees drink water and use it to cool the hive! Science teacher Andy Bramante may need some TA’s, too. – DNR
3/13/09 – Just yesterday I posted some 2008 news about this young woman, and today I see she’s more scientist researcher than film maker! If there’s any high school that would have its own advanced Spectroscopy and Chromatography technology, it would be Greenwich High School. Lucky girl. I’m waiting for Eliza to send me the link to her research (use comment)… Congratulations! You deserve a full ride to college. (Stick with the hard sciences ) -DNR
Mar 12, 2008
Greenwich High student wins science competition
Eliza McNitt, a Greenwich High School junior, captured top honors at the 45th Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium for an original research project that traced the migration of pesticides through the production of southwestern Connecticut honey.
In addition to a $1,000 scholarship and letter of recognition from Gov. M. Jodi Rell, McNitt will represent Connecticut at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at Orlando, FL, in May. The symposium program is sponsored by the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force in an effort to encourage original scientific research at the high school level. Courtney Fogwell, a GHS senior, was selected as a National Symposium alternate for her project analyzing the environmental impact of artificial-turf playing fields.
Eliza and Courtney were among 13 state finalists who made oral presentations before an audience of more than 300 fellow science students, parents, teachers, and jurors at the University of Connecticut in Storrs on March 10. Both students were mentored by GHS science teacher Andrew Bramante.
“While extensive work has been done on the presence of residual insecticides on fruits and vegetables, there has been little significant scientific research on residual pesticides in honey,” Mr. Bramante said in a release. “Eliza came to me with her project on the first day of class. I almost fell off my stool when I heard it.”
Eliza says that the topic was indirectly inspired by her grandfather, a chemical engineer, who is fastidious about washing and peeling fresh produce.
“If there are insecticides on an apple,” Eliza said. “It made me wonder if they could also be present in honey.”
She found an ideal controlled research environment at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, which maintains an apiary in the middle of its 30 acre property. James Kaechele, arboretum education director and beekeeping specialist Andrew Cote´ made honey samples available along with detailed records of pesticide applications.
Eliza tested the arboretum honey using advanced Spectroscopy and Chromatography technology that had been donated to the GHS science program.
“I was incredibly fortunate to able to perform my own analysis,” she says. “GHS has equipment that you can’t even find in most colleges.”
Her tests revealed the presence of a component of the pesticide Neem Oil — which is widely used in organic farming. Neem Oil is made from the fruits and seeds of Neem, an evergreen tree common in India, and is not thought to be harmful to mammals, birds or bees.
The fact that Eliza found no trace of another insecticide called Imidacloprid may have implications in the search for a cause of the mysterious syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in which worker bees abruptly disappear. CCD is considered a serious threat to the pollination of food crops in the United States and Europe.
“Imidacloprid is under investigation as a contributing factor in CCD,” she said. “The fact that it is not present in the Arboretum honey could suggest that it is killing or disorienting worker bees so they cannot return to the hive.”
The topic will be something she’ll tackle in her next GHS science project. [see McNitt's followup here]