The research, conducted in Ontario and Quebec, found that 99.5 er cent of the pollen collected had traces of neonicotinoids from seed treatments applied to corn and soybeans.
The pollen included plants such as maple trees, dandelions and clover.
"At the current level of agricultural practices, what we're doing now generates a byproduct of neonicotinoids in environments around corn fields that is most likely going to cause reduction of honeybee health and the health of other pollinators," said Amro Zayed, the lead author of the study published Thursday in Science.
Because neonicitinoids are water soluble, they are mobile, said Zayed, who is an associate professor of biology at York University.
Zayed said once his team established the real-world levels of neonicotinoids found in the field, he replicated that in a research apiary at York, treating some "pollen patties" with neonicotinoids and tracking the comings and goings of honeybees.
"Honeybees treated with neonicotinoids suffered a range of negative effects including a 23-per-cent shorter lifespan and differences in behaviour," he said.
"Those bees also took progressively longer foraging trips as they aged, suggesting they are either unhealthy, can't fly as fast or are having a hard time remembering how to fly back to their colony."
The treated colonies also tended to lose their queens and were unable to replace their queens, meaning certain death for the hives, unlike the untreated colonies in the study, he said.
Ontario has moved to greatly reduce the application of neonicitinoids as seed treatment chemicals to ward off crop-destroying insects.